The OSSLT, or Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test, has become one of the rites of passage Ontario students must go through in school. Without a passing score, they simply cannot graduate high school.

While that may sound harsh, the OSSLT is actually not a test to be feared but one that can be passed with flying colours with some organized preparation. The OSSLT measures the acquisition of students’ literacy skills up to the end of grade 9, meaning that by the time a student takes it, they have probably acquired all of the literacy skills they need to be successful. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should throw caution to the wind and just take the test without doing a bit of work - we want to make sure that we actually have those skills, and that we are in the best position possible to show them in a limited time frame.

So yes, we should take some time to prepare for the OSSLT, but there’s no need to panic as we are probably already well equipped to succeed. In fact, Ontario students that spent their elementary school years here in Ontario will likely already be familiar with other versions of the test they took in grades 3 and 6, known as the EQAO. The EQAO, or Education Quality and Accountability Office, is the organization that creates, distributes, and assesses the EQAO and OSSLT tests. The organization has been set up by the government to ensure that the Ontario Education System is performing: through a series of tests, they check to see that Ontario students are learning exactly what they should be in terms of numeracy and literacy, and how successful they are in using those skills. 

The OSSLT has garnered its share of controversy, especially among teachers who think it is an unfair assessment, particularly after the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it remains that the test is here to stay, so you may as well be prepared to take it.

Let’s take a quick look at the tests provided for K-12 students by the EQAO:

AssessmentsGrade Assessment is TakenAreas of Learning Assessed
EQAO, Grade 3End of Grade 3Reading, Writing, Math
EQAO, Grade 6End of Grade 6Reading, Writing, Math
Grade 9 Assessment of MathematicsEnd of Grade 9Math
OSSLTGrade 10Reading, Writing

As you can see, tests are typically taken in 3 year increments starting in grade 3. The OSSLT assesses language curriculum expectations acquired across subjects up to the end of grade 9, and the grade 9 assessment of mathematics assesses math skills learned up to the end of grade 9 as well. 

Preparing for the OSSLT is no small task. Learn more about the OSSLT and what you can do to be ready for the big day.

eqao grade 6
Remember the EQAO? The OSSLT may bring back some memories. Source: Unsplash.
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Will My EQAO Scores Be Considered?

No, your EQAO scores are not considered when your OSSLT is scored, though it can be a handy reference point for yourself, your parents, and teachers. Most of your elementary teachers from grades 3-8 probably looked at your EQAO scores to get a sense of how you are doing for school, and determine what they can do to plan better for the school year. For example, if they noticed you received a lower score in math, like a level 1, they might closely monitor your math learning and focus on building foundational skills. If there is a trend in a cohort of students - say, for example, the majority of students received a level 2 - it’s a good indicator that they should focus extra energy on teaching writing instruction in grade 4.

You and your family can look at your previous EQAO scores to see if there is a trend in your performance, to assess the likelihood of success on the OSSLT so you can prepare accordingly. Of course, you shouldn’t use the EQAO scores as a raw measure, but consider them in light of how you performed in other subjects, particularly Language Arts, over the years. Your grade 6 score will be the most handy here, as it was taken relatively recently. How well did you score in the reading and writing components? Do those scores align with your actual report card grades?

If you did relatively well, and got at least a level 3 and above in grade 6 reading and writing, you probably had a solid base to build more advanced literacy skills in grades 7, 8 and 9. You should probably still do some preparation, and you will likely pass with a good result depending on your readiness for that day. If your reading and writing scores were at 2 or below in grade 6, and your report cards told a similar story, you might want to start preparing extra early and really focus on building your core literacy skills. Don’t think of the preparation as merely being for the OSSLT: remember, literacy skills are life skills and you will need those skills not only in school but in your working life.

Get your OSSLT preparation kickstarted with our latest study tips.

Practice Literacy Test
Being a good reader will pay off on the OSSLT. Source: Unsplash.

Is EQAO Grade 6 Similar to the OSSLT?

There are some main differences between the grade 6 EQAO test and the OSSLT. For starters, your grade 6 EQAO assesses the literacy skills acquired between grades 4-6, and the OSSLT measures literacy skills from grades 7-9. The EQAO is a test taken over a single, multi-day time period that covers the areas of reading, writing and math. The OSSLT is just a literacy test - there is another test at the end of grade 9 that assesses your math skills. Both tests can be taken either through pen and paper or a computer depending on the guidelines for that school year. Students who have an IEP or are English language learners can receive specific accommodations and possibly even exemptions, depending on the student’s individual backgrounds.

Both the EQAO and OSSLT will ask questions using methods like multiple select and open answer writing. The readings are designed specifically for the test, and students are expected to reference areas from the text from which their inferences are based. Writing questions will check to see that you understand the structure of common text forms, like news articles or essays. 

It’s important to notice that any test administered by the EQAO is not a defining measure of your academic performance. The scores should be considered in the context of the other work you do in school: universities and colleges do not consider the scores of individuals when determining who to accept in their programs.

Unlike the EQAO, the OSSLT will be a determining factor into whether or not you graduate. Students that are unsuccessful on the OSSLT may take it again, and a specific course offering is designed for students that do not pass the test multiple times.

What are the best resources you can use to prepare for the OSSLT this year? Find out what you can do to be ready for the literacy test.

OSSLT Practice
There are plenty of OSSLT practice tests you can print and use to practice. Source: Pixabay.
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Where Can I Find a Practice Literacy Test?

Practice literacy tests are indispensable resources you can use for your study. You will find dozens of them online, using the EQAO site and many school board websites that post tests from years back.

Focus on utilizing tests administered in the last few years, so you can see what the latest practices are. You can also find answer examples online, which assessors use to score tests. You can see what a answer looks like from someone who got a high score, and what answers look like at the lowest levels so you know what to avoid.

Understanding what to expect on the OSSLT is the most important steps you can do to prepare for it. Read our guide for more information.

What are the Best Strategies for Passing the OSSLT?

There are a number of strategies you can use to pass the OSSLT, whether you have strong writing and reading skills or need a lot of work. Let’s take a look at some of the best strategies you can use to pass.

Get to Know the Test

Previewing the test and understanding its components will do wonders for your confidence and performance. When we know exactly what a test will look like, and how the questions are designed, we can approach the test with confidence because we are aware of what to expect. 

You can preview the test and learn its components by looking at your school board’s website pages on the OSSLT, or simply by going to the EQAO website itself. The EQAO website contains an entire section devoted to explaining the OSSLT and its components. 

Currently, the OSSLT is computer based and comprises two sessions (A and B), with a total of 33 questions: 31 are multiple select (multiple choice, drag and drop, checklist), a text selection, and 2 open response questions. Each session should take about 60 minutes for you to complete, and can be attempted back to back or over two different days. At the end of the session, you will answer a questionnaire that asks your attitudes and perceptions about literacy, similar to what you did in grade 6.

Questions fall under the following categories or types:

  • Real-life Narrative
  • Information Paragraph
  • News Report
  • Dialogue
  • Written Multiple Select
  • Opinion Essay

You’ll find plenty of information on the EQAO site, so be sure to check it out before the test.

Make Time for Practice

Making time for EQAO practice can be tough as you need to stay motivated to do the work on top of your existing school work. Get ahead by starting early, possibly as soon as you finish your grade 9 coursework or even during grade 9, making a habit of studying practice questions and answering them. 

You can even find workbooks that are convenient to tote around to a library or cafe, where space is provided to pen out your answers and thoughts. Set a goal of completing a specific amount of pages a day or week, and you will be surprised at how much your commitment will pay off. Writing is largely a skill we get better at with practice, so the repetition will manifest itself when you can feel the writing process come easier every time.

Make sure you know all about the OSSLT so you can be ready when it’s your turn to take the test.

Read in Your Free Time

Also, make sure you are reading in your free time. Even reading novels or articles that you simply enjoy can do the work of improving your literacy skills, especially if you choose texts that are progressively harder. Get recommendations from librarians in your community, or browse your local bookstore. Look for books that challenge you just enough, but are still enjoyable so you will finish the book.

Make the Most of Your Classes

Your teachers have a wealth of knowledge about writing and read your work on a regular basis, so why not maximize your classes by getting more feedback on your reading and writing?

Whenever you submit an assignment, it’s typical that you are applying reading and writing skills. Whether you get a great grade or a low grade, find out exactly why so you can improve your work or take note of what is successful. When you get a rubric back, make an appointment to conference with your teacher to discuss your result. They will likely be impressed by your self-awareness as a learner and will be more than happy to share their expertise as educators with you.

Hire a Tutor on Superprof to Practice OSSLT

To get the most through preparation for the OSSLT, you may want to consider hiring a tutor from Superprof to help.

What is Superprof? Superprof.ca is a site where Canadian educators and tutors post their profiles and connect with students looking for help. You can easily and quickly navigate the site by searching for OSSLT tutors near you. The site contains pictures of tutors, descriptive profiles that share their educational and teaching backgrounds, their subjects of specialty, and rates of pay. It’s the perfect one-stop shop to compare all the best tutors in Ontario, and schedule a time to meet with tutors to see if they will be a good fit. Superprof tutors charge competitive rates and will often offer the first hour for free to allow for extra orientation.

Tutors from Superprof.ca are the best for OSSLT preparation because they can help you in your greatest areas of need, provide feedback on your answer writing, and hold you accountable for getting practice time in. In many cases, they have also taken the test and can share their personal experiences with you. If you need help in other subjects, they may be able to support you beyond the OSSLT, which can be a lifesaver for any course you have trouble with.

Speak with your family and find a tutor on Superprof.ca today!

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Colleen

Colleen is a Toronto-based educator, mom and freelance writer who believes in lifelong learning and strong coffee.