Illinois High School Diploma Requirements

Learn what is expected of high school students in Illinois to earn a diploma. Find out about the units of study needed, particular courses required, the exams that must be taken, and the special awards that can be earned.

What Does Illinois Require of Students to Graduate High School with a Diploma?

The state of Illinois requires that students complete 12 units of coursework in order to graduate, where a unit is equivalent to 1 year of study. These units must consist of math, language arts, social science, science, and either arts, foreign language, or vocational education. A writing requirement also exists, but is fulfilled concurrently with language arts or other 'writing intensive' courses, as well as a physical education requirement met by daily activity during school hours. It is also mandatory that all students take the SAT, which is offered for free during a student's junior year, and a science assessment. Roughly 16 units are offered across the four years of high school, leaving 4 units for electives. Certain special awards are available for students to earn alongside their diploma, such as the Illinois seal of biliteracy, the distinguished scholar award, and the college and career readiness award.

Illinois High School Diploma 12 units of core, 16 units taken total
Language Arts and Social Sciences Requirements 4 units of language arts, 2 units of writing intensive (may overlap), 2 units of social sciences
Math and Science Requirements 3 units of math, 2 units of science, ISA exam in biology
Other Requirements 1 unit of arts, foreign language, or vocational education; PSAT in grade 9/10, SAT in grade 11; 18 weeks of health education; 9 weeks of consumer education
Special Awards Illinois state seal of biliteracy, distinguished scholar award, college and career readiness award

What Language Arts and Social Science Units Does Illinois Require to Graduate with a Diploma?

4 units of English language arts are required of all students in Illinois, 1 unit of which must be considered writing intensive. 2 units of writing intensive courses are required, with at least 1 unit being a language arts course. 2 units of social sciences are required, which should include 1 unit of US history, or a combination of US history and US government, and half a unit of civics. The remaining half unit may be up to local district determination or up to student choice.

What Math and Science Units Does Illinois Require to Graduate with a Diploma?

3 units of math are required in Illinois, with 1 unit consisting of algebra I and 1 unit containing geometry content, such as geometry and trigonometry. The remaining unit may be up to local district determination or student choice. If Advanced Placement (AP) computer science is offered, it can count towards math requirements. 2 units of science education are required, with no further specification at the state level. An Illinois Science Assessment (ISA) in high school biology is required, however, so 1 unit of biology is effectively needed to graduate.

What Other Requirements Are There to Graduate with a Diploma in Illinois?

Illinois requires 1 unit of arts, music, a foreign language, or vocational education, which can be chosen by the student. 16 units total must be taken in order to graduate on time, so 4 units are generally available for electives, although local districts may use them for other requirements. Students in grades 9 and 10 are required to take the PSAT, and students in grade 11 the SAT, unless they take a designated alternative assessment instead. Physical fitness and health education are required, but physical education must take place every day throughout a student's high school career. Health education must take place for at least 18 weeks, or roughly half a unit, at some point during high school, while 9 weeks of consumer education are also required. Both of these may be rolled into other courses so long as the educational requirements are still met.

What Special Awards Can Be Earned with a Diploma in Illinois?

Illinois offers the seal of biliteracy as a special honor to students who have achieved a certain high level of proficiency in both English and a language other than English. Different assessments are available for different languages, including American Sign Language, while the SAT serves as the primary demonstrative vehicle for English competency. An alternative packet of evidence may also be supplied, provided it meets very specific criteria. The distinguished scholar award requires a GPA of 3.75, a composite score of 30 on the ACT or combined 1400 on the math/reading SAT, at least 1 academic indicator in language arts and math in the senior year, 3 career readiness indicators in the junior or senior year, and a 95% attendance rate in those two final years. New for the class of 2020 is the college and career readiness award, which requires a 2.8 GPA, a 95% attendance rate in the junior and senior years, either an endorsement or career of interest chosen by the end of sophomore year, at least 1 academic indicator in both English and math in the junior and senior years, and 3 career readiness indicators in the junior or senior years. Academic indicators are scores that meet or exceed a baseline on exams in those subjects, while career indicators could consist of dual credit courses, industry credentials, community service, or year-long employment, among others.

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