The Top Six Average in Ontario

What does the phrase “Top Six” mean for Ontario university admissions?

“Top Six” refers to the six senior (12U and sometimes 12M) Ontario high school courses that are averaged (with equal weighting) to determine your “university admission average” (like a GPA) by Ontario universities.

Which courses/grades are included in the Top Six?

Your Top Six average is calculated based on a combination of required and elective courses and your individual admission average varies from school to school, and even from program to program!

When you apply to an Ontario university, the admissions department will receive a list of your grades for all courses at the 11 and 12 level, but they don’t initially see all of those grades. Your academic transcript is reduced to a single admissions average by a computer calculation that takes into account only six of your Grade 12 courses at the “U” or “M” level.

All university programs require a total of six Grade 12 courses, but they generally don’t dictate exactly which six courses you must have. Typically, an arts program will have only 1 or 2 specific requirements, and the remaining courses can be any 12U courses, as long as there are six in total. Science programs, however, may specifically list four, five or even all six requirements, thereby limiting your ability to “fill up” your six credits with electives.

All the required 12U courses for your program will be automatically included in the Top Six. If your program requires 12U English, for example, then your English grade will be used in your “Top Six” (university admissions average). After all the program’s required courses have been included, then the university will take your highest remaining elective grades until six grades have been included. So, when it comes to required courses, you have no choice but to use those marks. As for electives, they will give you the benefit of the doubt and use the highest grades available to fill out your Top Six. Of course, if you only take six credits, all six will be used. It is only in the event that you take more than six credits that you have the pick of your highest elective marks.

Not all of your courses have to be 12U courses. Most universities will allow you to apply with some number of 12M courses in your top six. But, many schools or programs limit the number of 12M courses that can be used. This usually doesn’t affect many applicants, but if you have taken several 12M courses and are applying to a program with very few required 12U courses, you could be affected by this limit.

Let’s see this in action . . .

Assume a student earns the following marks in the following 12U/M courses:

English 82%
Calculus 79%
History 93%
Art 87%
French 88%
Data Management 81%
Chemistry 92%
Biology 62%

Here’s how his Top Six average would be calculated for different universities/programs:

Life Sciences (Required courses: English, 2 sciences, 1 math)

83% average based on:
English (required)
Chemistry (required as 1 of 2 sciences)
Biology (required as 2 of 2 sciences)
Data Management (required as 1 math — this is the higher mark so this one will be used as the requirement)
History (highest remaining mark after requirements are included)
French (next highest remaining mark after requirements are included)

Business (Required courses: English, Calculus, Data Management, 1 social science)

85.8% average based on:
English (required)
Calculus (required)
Data Management (required)
History (required as a social science)
Chemistry (highest remaining mark after requirements are included)
French (next highest remaining mark after requirements are included)

English (Required courses: English)

87.1% average based on:
English (required)
History (highest remaining mark after requirements are included)
Chemistry (next highest remaining mark after requirements are included)
French (next highest remaining mark after requirements are included)
Art (next highest remaining mark after requirements are included)
Data Management (next highest remaining mark after requirements are included)

As you can see, the courses included in your Top Six will vary from program to program. Therefore, knowing which programs you’re applying to and what pre-requisites are required is key to creating the highest Top Six score possible.

To maximize your Top Six:

  • Put your greatest effort into earning high marks in your program’s pre-requisites. These marks will count.  Note that 12U English is a requirement for just about every program at every school. You should assume that this course will factor into your Top Six, even if you will be applying to a science, math or business program.
  • Take more than six 12U courses so that you will have electives to choose from. You may wish to spread these courses out over your Gr. 11 and 12 year, and/or use summer school, night school or distance courses. Consider taking fewer 11U courses, which can’t be used towards your admissions average and take 12U courses instead.
  • Don’t forget that some schools offer credit for extra-curricular involvement (music ensembles, student newspaper) and sometimes these credits are at the 12U level. These courses can not only give you extra electives to choose from (or reduce your class load so that you can focus on fewer classes) but also give you experiences that will benefit you far beyond university admissions.

Remember the above tips are for maximizing your Top Six average (and consequently your chances for university admission), not for maximizing your overall educational experience!  Above all, make reasonable and responsible choices, consider your short-term and long-term goals and play to your interests and strengths when making your course selections.

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