Your Checklist for Successfully Finishing High School in Ontario

Graduating from high school is a big accomplishment, not to mention a vital step if you want to go on to university or college. To graduate from high school in Ontario, you need to complete 30 credits (18 compulsory credits and 12 optional credits), 40 community service hours and pass a literacy test. It sounds like a lot of work—and it is!—but if you take it step-by-step, you’ll be holding your diploma before you know it.

Check the list below to find out what to expect (if you haven’t started high school yet) or to check your progress if you have, then read on for more information.

Compulsory Credits:

To graduate from high school in Ontario, you’ll need:

  • 4 credits in English (1 credit per grade)
  • 3 credits in mathematics (including 1 credit in grade 11 or 12)
  • 2 credits in science
  • 1 credit in Canadian history
  • 1 credit in Canadian geography
  • 1 credit in the arts
  • 1 credit in health & physical education
  • 1 credit in French as a second language
  • Half a credit in career studies
  • Half a credit in civics

You will also need 1 credit from each of the following groups:

  • Group 1: 1 additional credit in English, French as a second language, a Native language, a classical or an international language, social sciences & the humanities, Canadian & world studies, guidance & career education or cooperative education.
  • Group 2: 1 additional credit in health & physical education, the arts, business studies, French as a second language or cooperative education.
  • Group 3: 1 additional credit in science (grade 11 or 12), technological education, French as a second language, computer studies or cooperative education.

Optional Credits:

  • 12 optional credits (see “Choosing your Optional Courses” below)

Other Requirements:

  • 40 hours of community service activities (see “Community Service” below)
  • Pass a literacy test (see “The Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test” below)

Choosing your Optional Courses:

Your school will give you a course calendar that will list all the available courses and their prerequisites (courses you have to take first). But even though it’s nice to have options, it can also be a little confusing, especially if you’re still figuring out what your interests are and what you might like to do for a job in the future.

If you definitely know you want to be a doctor, the university programs you’ll be applying to will require certain science and math courses. Meanwhile future artists would be wise to choose things like music classes and visual arts.

Whether or not you can guess what your future might hold, your best bet is to schedule an appointment with your school’s guidance counsellor. He or she can help you to figure out which 12 optional courses to sign up for if you think you might want to go on to a specific university or college program, and which you might consider if you’re just not sure yet and want to keep your options open.

Community Service:

Every high school student in Ontario must participate in 40 hours of community involvement (or volunteer work) before graduating. This volunteer work could take place in a business, with a not-for-profit organization, in a public sector institution (like a hospital or daycare centre) or elsewhere. Your school will give you a list of acceptable activities (look for it in your course calendar). If you want to do an activity that isn’t on the list, you can also make a special request to the principal.

Community service activities can take place at any time during your years in high school, but they must be done outside of regular school hours. If you’re under the age of 18, you’ll need to choose your community involvement activities with help from your parents.

The Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test

The Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT) is based on Ontario curriculum expectations for language and communication, especially reading and writing, up to and including grade 9. Students normally take the test in grade 10. A student who doesn’t pass must re-take and pass the test before they can graduate. There is no limit to the number of times you can re-take the test, and help is available (for more information, see “I Failed my Literacy Test! Now What?!”).

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<p>Graduating from high school is a big accomplishment, not to mention a vital step if you want to go on to university or college. To graduate from high school in Ontario, you need to complete 30 credits (18 compulsory credits and 12 optional credits), 40 community service hours and pass a literacy test. It sounds like a lot of work—and it is!—but if you take it step-by-step, you’ll be holding your diploma before you know it.</p>