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Diploma Exams: What You Need To Know And Have To Pass



Diploma exams (aka. departamental exams) are the final tests written for all of the core subjects at the end of Grade 12. There are exams for English Language Arts, Mathematics, Social Studies, and Science(s), and the exams must be written either in a school or at the Edmonton Public School Board's Centre For Education; where you are supervised during the exam. The exams are offered at four different times of the year: January, April, June, and August. Here is the link to Alberta Education's guidelines to diploma exam writing.


Please note that for the 2021 school year, diploma exams have become optional for Grade 12 students as a result of the stress induced during the pandemic and drastic learning changes. Diploma exams account for 30% of your total grade for a course (which is plenty stressful), and is written on a computer; consisting of approximately 44 questions varying in multiple choice, and written response.


For reference, here is a calendar of the 2020/2021 Alberta Diploma exam calendar: https://www.alberta.ca/assets/documents/edc-diploma-exam-schedule.pdf


The diploma exams for ELA 30-1 and Social Studies 30-1 are divided into two parts (A & B), and there are exams for Science 30 or alternatively Chemistry 30, Biology 30, and Physics 30. The exams are three hours long, but you are allotted up to six hours per exam. The materials that you are allowed to being include: a pencil, lined paper, an eraser, and a graphing calculator.


You also must have an Alberta MyPass account. This is where you access your test results, and keep digital records of your transcripts. For instructions on how to set up a MyPass account, see this article.


For diploma exam studying tips, make sure that you are following the Alberta curriculum closely, you can access study resources and curricular outcomes from Alberta Education in my website resources article. I also recommend that high school students use the Key diploma exam workbooks. These workbooks consist of old diploma exam questions surrounding the context of the Alberta curriculum for all core subjects: English Language Arts, Math, Social Studies, and Science(s). The Key books can be purchased directly from Solaro, or Indigo.


Here are the links to the most recent diploma exam released information from the 2019 and 2020 exams for all core subjects:


- ELA 30-1 (2019): https://education.alberta.ca/media/3704469/04-ela30-1-sosw-jan2017_20171221.pdf


- Writing Tips For The ELA 30- Exam: https://open.alberta.ca/dataset/0dc5f30b-e130-426b-85eb-747543a76b28/resource/7003b83f-fecb-4829-80bb-7f79ddf5dd44/download/02-ela30-1-student-guide-2018-19-20180829.pdf


- Math 30-1 (2019): https://www.alberta.ca/assets/documents/ed-diploma-exam-math-30-1-released-items-2019.pdf


- Social Studies 30-1 (2019): https://www.alberta.ca/assets/documents/edc-released-items-social-30-1-2020-2021.pdf


- Science 30: https://www.alberta.ca/assets/documents/ed-science-30-released-items-2019.pdf


- Biology 30: https://www.alberta.ca/assets/documents/ed-diploma-exam-biology30-released-materials-2019.pdf


- Chemistry 30: https://www.alberta.ca/assets/documents/ed-chemistry-30-released-items-2019.pdf


- Physics 30: https://education.alberta.ca/media/1224585/06-p30_2009diploma-a-b-released-2013-14-20130909.pdf


Also know that if you are a homeschooled student, writing diploma exams will not qualify you for a diploma of graduation (thanks Alberta Education); in fact, if you are looking for a diploma as a homeschooled student, well let's just say that you'd have more luck picking apples from an orange tree in January. But do not let this in any way discourage you! A majority of universities are flexible in admissions requirements and require less stringent regulations. You don't necessarily have to have a diploma just to get into college or university, in fact, many programs just require that you have passed the following programs:


- English Language Arts 30

- Mathematics 30

- Social Studies 30

- Science 30 (or Chemistry, Biology & Physics 30)


Nonetheless, here are the requirements of getting a diploma in Alberta: https://www.learnalberta.ca/content/mychildslearning/alberta_high_school_diploma.html


If you are interested in challenging your courses for credits, you can read about my course challenge journey here.


Some universities don't even require that! Athabasca University for example only requires that you are 16 years of age or older and have passed ELA 20 (30 level subjects depending on your major). The University of Alberta is also becoming more flexible in its admissions rules following the pandemic. The admissions requirements are dependent on the program that you want to go into, so make sure that you have looked into requirements ahead of time. If you are looking for more ways to increase your chances of getting into your dream university, here are some tips:


  1. Study! The number one thing that will get you ahead in life. Maintain a healthy appetite for knowledge, and a good system for learning, note taking, and exam writing.

  2. Maintain a healthy schedule & lifestyle.

  3. Volunteer work, and work experience go a long way on application forms.

  4. Sign up for and participate in as many extracurriculars, contests, and work as possible.

  5. Write a resume. List all of your achievements to date. If you need help, here is a resume template; and here is a instructional site on how to perfect your curriculum vitae.

  6. Sign up for individual university courses. Getting experience in different fields is a sure way to increase your expectancy of acceptance. Most Canadian universities offer individual courses to enroll in in a wide variety of studies, here an example of individual programs consisting of individual courses from Athabasca University. If you're thinking bigger, Harvard University also offers individual courses in business, law, tech, history, humanities, linguistics, data science, math, programming, art & design, and more. Course websites like Coursera, Udemy, and The Great Courses offer individual training that will work well towards credentials for post-secondary, trades education, and work training.



Good luck students. 👩‍🎓 👨‍🎓

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