Graduation Requirements

Each student is required to successfully complete a required number of mandatory credits in specific subject areas and there are provisions for students to take optional credits to follow specific educational goals or pursue individual interests. After completing all of the requirements, upon graduation students receive the Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD).  

The Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD)

In order to graduate from secondary school a student must successfully complete 30 credits, 18 of which are compulsory and 12 optional. In addition, students are required to successfully complete a literacy assessment and complete 40 hours of community service.

Most secondary school students complete 8 credits per year, with the exception of Grade 12 where students take a minimum of 6 credits.  

The overall requirements are the same for French or English school districts withthe only exception being the number of credits one student must or may obtain in French and in English.  

In English school districts, there are four compulsory English courses and one compulsory French course, plus the possibility of an extra credit in French. 

In French school districrts, there are four compulsory French courses, one compulsory English course, plus the possibility of one or more credits in English. The English courses are not ESL, but core English, (i.e. the same courses taught in English school districts).

Course Pathway Planner 

 (adapted from Ontario Ministry of Education )

Subjects Grade 9 Grade 10 Grade 11 Grade 12 Other
1 English/French English/French English/French English/French  
2 Mathematics Mathematics Mathematics    
3 Science Science      
4 Canadian Geography Canadian History      
5 French Civics/Careers      
6 *Physical Education        
7 *Arts        
8          

18 compulsory credits  

Students must learn the following compulsory credits to obtain the Ontario Secondary School Diploma:

  • 4 credits in English/French (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 and physical education
  • 1 credit in French as a second language
  • 0.5 credit in career studies
  • 0.5 credit in civics

Plus ONE credit from each of the following groups:

Group 1 Group 2 Group 3
  • 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***
  • health and physical education
  • the arts
  • business studies
  • French as a second language**
  • cooperative education***
  • science (Grade 11 or 12)
  • technological education
  • French as a second language**
  • computer studies
  • cooperative education***

In addition to the compulsory credits, students must complete:

  • 12 optional credits†
  • 40 hours of community involvement activities
  • the provincial literacy requirement (OSSLT) 

*A maximum of 3 credits in English as a second language (ESL) or English literacy development (ELD) may be counted towards the 4 compulsory credits in English, but the fourth must be a credit earned for a Grade 12 compulsory English course.

**In Groups 1, 2, and 3, a maximum of 2 credits in French as a second language can count as compulsory credits, one from group 1 and one from either group 2 or group 3.

***A maximum of 2 credits in cooperative education can count as compulsory credits.

†The 12 optional credits may include up to 4 credits earned through approved dual credit courses.  In Catholic schools, one credit per year must be completed from a list of designated religion credits. 

◊ Instead of 4 English language credits, in French language public schools, students must successfully complete 4 French language credits.

The Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT) 

The OSSLT is a graduation requirement. The assessment is generally administered to Grade 10 students every March and is based on the curriculum expectations up to the end of Grade 9.  It is important to note that the OSSLT is designed as a  ”minimum-competency assessment” and achievement is reported as “successful” or “unsuccessful.”  There are special accommodations for English Language Learners and the test may be attempted more than once and deferred to a later year based on circumstances. A student who fails the OSSLT may opt to enrol in the OSSLC course (OLC3O or OLC4O) and upon passing this course will meet the OSSLT requirement.   Schools offer many supports to assist students in being successful on the OSSLT.  A detailed guide with sample assessments and an extensive FAQ section can be found at: www.eqao.com/en/assessments/OSSLT/parents/Pages/About.aspx

*Instead of successfully completing the OSSLT (English Literacy Test) or equivalent, in French language public schools, the students must successfully complete the TPCL (French Literacy Test) or equivalent.

Community Service

Completion of 40 hours of community service is necessary in order to graduate with an OSSD.  The aim of this requirement is to encourage students to recognize the value of community involvement, develop self-confidence, learn new skills, and explore possible career paths.  Students may start to accumulate their hours at any time from the summer before the student enters Grade 9 to the end of Grade 12. Students are strongly encouraged to complete their hours as soon as possible. Many students find community service to be personally rewarding and complete far more than the minimum number of required hours.

Each school district publishes a list of activities that are acceptable and other activities that are not eligible for the 40 hours of community service.  Community services hours are usually completed outside of the regular school day.  For example, a student may volunteer at a community picnic event, help coach a sports team, or assist at a library, but not in a role that involves work that would be normally performed for wages, or as part of a student’s expected chores in the home.  Students may accumulate their community service hours at many different organizations.  Guidance Counsellors at each secondary school can assist in providing suggestions for completion of community service hours and each school has forms that are used to document completion of hours.  More information is available at: www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/students/curriculum.html

Educational Pathways in Secondary School 

Understanding Course Codes:

Exmaple: MAT2D

MAT: Each subject area has a designated 3 letter code. This example is for a Mathematics course.

2: The number refers to the year in the secondary school program. This example indicates a grade 10 course.

D: The letter at the end of each course code indicates the level. This example indicates an Academic level course.

Grades 9 & 10 

In Grades 9 and 10, students may complete credits at either the Academic or Applied, including Open level credits.

Academic Applied
  • Learning is focussed on theoretical concepts
  • Learning is focussed on practical applications
  • Essential knowledge combined with extended study
  • Essential knowledge
  • More emphasis on reading and writing skills
  • More emphasis on “hands on” experiential learning
  • Pathway for students planning to complete university or college level courses in Grades 11 and 12
  • Pathway for students planning to complete  college or workplace level courses in Grades 11 and 12

Course Codes Explained

  • Grade 9 and 10 Academic course codes end with a “D” (ex. ENG1D )
  • Grade 9 and 10 Applied course codes end with a “P” (ex. ENG1P)
  • Grade 9 and 10 Open course codes end with an “O” (ex. CHV2O)

Students may take courses at different levels (e.g., Grade 9 Math at the Applied level and Grade 9 English at the Academic level), but note that certain pre-requisites are required for some courses in later grades. 

Open courses are available to all students and are not designed to lead to a specific post-secondary educational pathway, but rather aim to broaden students’ knowledge base or address particular interests. Some open courses are compulsory, such as Grade 10 Careers and Grade 10 Civics.

Grades 11 and 12

In Grades 11 and 12, students select courses based on pathways to post-secondary learning and the workplace, including Open level credits.

University Mixed
(University/College)
College Workplace
  • “U” level  credits meet the entrance requirements for  most university programs
  • focus on academics
  • may also be used for college, apprenticeships, and the workplace
  • “M” level credits meet the entrance requirements for some university and most college programs
  • focus on a mix of  academics and application of knowledge
  • may also be used for some apprenticeships, and the workplace
  • “C” level credits meet the entrance requirements for most college programs
  • focus on practical application of knowledge
  • may also be used for some apprenticeships and the workplace
  • “E” level credits aim to prepare students for the workplace
  • focus on employment skills
  • may also be used for some apprenticeships and many training programs

Students may take courses at different levels (e.g., Grade 11 Math at the College level and Grade 11 English at the University level), but note that certain pre-requisites are required for some courses and post-secondary choices may be restricted based on courses selected. 

Course Codes Explained

  • Grade 11 and 12 University course codes end with a “U” (ex. ENG3U)
  • Grade 11 and 12 University/College Mixed course codes end with a "M" (ex. HRT3M)
  • Grade 11 and 12 College course codes end with a “C” (ex. ENG3U)
  • Grade 11 and 12 Workplace course codes end with an “E” (ex. ENG3U)
  • Grade 11 and 12 Open course codes end with an “O” (ex.EMS3O)

Listing of common course codes, prerequisites for courses, and course descriptions:
www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/document/curricul/secondary/descript/descri9e.pdf

Need more information about Graduation Requirements? 

See FAQ question and responseHow do I get an evaluation of elementary or secondary education documents from outside Ontario?:

Ontario Schools: Kindergarten to Grade 12, Policy and Program Requirements (2011)