What do I need to do to graduate high school?

To obtain the Ontario Secondary School Diploma, students must earn 30 credits, do 40 hours of community service, and pass the OSSLT.

Compulsory Credits

Students must earn the following 15 compulsory credits:

  • 4 credits in English (1 credit per grade)
  • 3 credits in mathematics (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
  • 0.5 credit in career studies
  • 0.5 credit in civics

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

Group 1:

  • English or French as a second language
  • a Native language
  • a classical or an international language
  • social sciences and the humanities
  • Canadian and world studies
  • guidance and career education
  • cooperative education

Group 2:

  • health and physical education
  • the arts
  • business studies
  • French as a second language
  • cooperative education

Group 3:

  • science (grade 11 or 12)
  • technological education
  • French as a second language
  • computer studies
  • cooperative education

Optional Credits

In addition to the 18 compulsory credits noted above, students must also complete 12 optional credits.

Your school will give you a course calendar that will list all the available courses and their prerequisites (courses you have to take first). 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 your career will be.

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 have your future figured out, you should still schedule an appointment with your school’s guidance counsellor and meet with them regularly to talk about your progress and struggles. They'll be able to help you to figure out which 12 optional courses to sign up for according to your skills, passions, and plans for after high school. 

Community Service

Every high school student in Ontario must participate in 40 hours of community involvement (i.e., 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. If you want to do an activity that isn’t on the list, you can 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 should ask your teacher, guidance counselor, and parents to help you choose where to volunteer. 

The Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test

The Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT) measures whether students meet the minimum standard in Ontario for literacy across all subjects up to the end of 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.