How do I earn the credits I need to graduate from high school?

To graduate, all Ontario high school students must take many kinds of courses . When you pass a course, you earn credits.

What are the requirements to graduate high school in Ontario?

To earn a high school diploma, all students in Ontario must:

Compulsory credits include:

  • 4 credits in English (1 credit per grade)
  • 3 credits in math
  • 2 credits in science
  • 1 credit in Canadian history (Grade 10)
  • 1 credit in Canadian geography (Grade 9)
  • 1 credit in the arts
  • 1 credit in health and physical education
  • 1 credit in French as a second language
  • 1 credit in one of the courses in Group 1
  • 1 credit in one of the courses in Group 2
  • 1 credit in one of the courses in Group 3
  • 0.5 credit in career studies
  • 0.5 credit in civics and citizenship 

You earn one credit by completing and passing one course. If a course is only 0.5 credit, it will most likely be in session for half the time as a regular course.

Keep in mind that in addition to earning compulsory, optional, and online credits, you must also pass the literacy test and complete at least 40 hours of community service to graduate. 

What is a prerequisite?

A prerequisite is a specific course or subject you must complete before taking another course in the same or a related subject at the next grade level. To earn multiple credits in a particular subject, you will need to take the course one after another at different grade levels.

Sometimes, prerequisites are used to qualify you to take the same course at a higher grade level. For example, to earn the four English credits, you must:

  1. Take English at the grade 9 level first.
  2. If you pass, the grade 9 English credit will serve as the prerequisite for taking English at the grade 10 level.
  3. You must complete and pass an English course every year of high school (grades 9 to 12) to earn all four credits you need to graduate.

Prerequisites can also qualify you to take courses in a related subject. For example, to earn the two science credits, you must:

  1. Take science at the grade 9 level first.
  2. If you pass, the grade 9 science credit will serve as the prerequisite for taking science at the grade 10 level.
  3. If you want to explore a career in science, your grade 10 science credit can serve as a prerequisite for grade 11 biology, chemistry, physics, environmental science, or even grade 12 earth and space science. Keep in mind that these grade 11 and 12 science courses are not mandatory.   

Prerequisites are a way of making sure that students enter into a course or subject with some prior knowledge. This not only helps the professor to teach at a certain academic level, but it also helps you to feel more comfortable and confident with the subject matter.

The Ministry of Education has a list of all course descriptions and prerequisites offered in high schools in Ontario. 

What if I'm new to Canada and English isn't my first language?

When you register at your local high school, they will review the transcripts you bring from any school you attended outside of Ontario to determine what courses can be transferred, and which credits you'll need to earn by taking courses at a high school in Ontario.

Your school board may also send you to an assessment centre to get a snapshot of your current skills in English and math to help figure out what courses are the best fit for you. 

For example, if you want to attend a school in Toronto, you may be sent to a Toronto District School Board Assessment Centre (TSAC) if you are:

  • New to Canada
  • New to Ontario from another Canadian province or territory
  • Returning to Ontario after six months or more 
  • Previously homeschooled

After you take the test, your school may recommend that you take English as a Second Language (ESL) or English Literacy Development (ELD) courses. These courses are designed for those whose first or preferred language is not English to help them with the skills they need to study and work in Ontario. 

If you end up taking ESL or ELD courses, you can use up to three credits to count toward the compulsory English credits you need to graduate. The fourth credit, however, must be in an English course at the grade 12 level. 

Where can I earn credits outside of high school?

Many students take courses outside of high school to:

  • Upgrade a mark
  • Retake a failed course
  • Get ahead and earn credits they’ll need in the future
  • Earn a credit not available in their local high school 
  • Start earning credits before they begin high school through the Reach Ahead program

You can earn credits by attending night school or summer school in person, for example through:

Check out Peel District School Board’s frequently asked questions about summer school to learn more. 

You can also go to summer school virtually, for example through:

You may be eligible for co-op or enrichment programs that earn you high school credits, for example through: