The Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test, often known as the OSSLT, can feel like a tough test to study for. Unlike content or math based exams, literacy skills are not content areas you can memorize or algorithms you can master. Literacy skills encompass the way we decode, analyze and interpret texts, the techniques and genres we use to guide our writing, and the methods we use to construct and deconstruct media. 

On the OSSLT, you won’t be asked for your knowledge of characters from certain novels or to summarize the plot from a curriculum text. Rather, you will be provided with texts and articles developed specifically for the test that assess the literacy skills you should have developed through Language Arts and other content areas up to the end of grade 9. 

Because Ontario students will require the OSSLT to graduate from high school, it can feel like a pretty high stakes test. Students that don’t pass the test will have to take it over, and possibly take a class specifically made for OSSLT preparation. Of course, you will want to pass it the first time, and get good scores that truly reflect your abilities as a learner.

Before we delve into resources, it’s important to keep in mind that your preparation for the OSSLT started long ago in elementary school. The Ontario curriculum in elementary school taught literacy through the strands of Oral Communication, Reading, Writing and Media Literacy from grades 1-8. The skills that you developed in elementary school, especially in grades 7 and 8, are the ones that will support you as you take the OSSLT. Basically, you already have a strong foundation of skills that you will use to take the test, so you can feel assured that you have already been preparing for the test.

However, if Language Arts and reading and writing tasks are not your strong suit, you will probably want to take some extra time to engage in preparation for the OSSLT. A lot of the test will require you to read carefully and critically, and construct answers that follow a specific format and genre, so familiarizing yourself with text forms and genres will be critical to your success.

Even Language Arts enthusiasts will find that some preparation can go a long way in alleviating any nerves going into the OSSLT and adding a level of confidence for answering the questions and tackling the readings.

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

how to pass the osslt
Practice using tests from years prior. Source: Unsplash.
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Are OSSLT and EQAO Test Scores Important?

This is a common question that there isn’t exactly a straight answer for. On one hand, yes, the scores you got on the EQAO and the score you will get on the OSSLT are important as they tell the Ministry of Education a lot about the state of numeracy and literacy in the province. With the data gathered from this test, they can get a sense of how successful our education system is in imparting the mathematical and literacy skills essential for success in the working world.

The test scores also offer a window into how you are also doing in school as an individual. Your EQAO test scores likely gave your teachers a good sense of your strengths and weaknesses as a student, and is an assessment for learning: they can plan based on the general data they get from the test about your class and school. For example, if the majority of students are getting a level 2 or C in writing, it’s a good sign that teachers need to focus on building writing skills.

The OSSLT scores provide schools with a similar window into the academic strengths and weaknesses of a cohort of students. With the data, the school can set goals for staff and establish areas of focus.

In other ways, however, it’s important to understand that tests like the EQAO and OSSLT provide a limited window into your abilities as a student. To get a true assessment of your learning your teachers will actually collect data from different assessments, conversations, and learning products over time. 

Should you receive a less than ideal score on your OSSLT, remember that the test doesn’t truly capture the scope of your abilities as a student. However, you will want to put your best foot forward on the test and show your best work.

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.

So what resources can we draw on to prepare for the OSSLT?

This article will explore some of the best resources and methods you can use to prepare for the OSSLT. If you are a parent, you can use this information to help prepare your child for the test!

The first resource you should consult about passing the OSSLT is the EQAO website. This site is a great place to start learning about what you can expect to see on the test, from the types of questions asked, the manner of distribution, and the ways you will be assessed. By examining the site and learning the details of the OSSLT, you will be in a much better position to prepare and later pass the test with a good score.

osslt practice
Find online resources for the OSSLT. Source: Unsplash.

As the EQAO site explains, the OSSLT consists of two components: reading and writing. 

In the reading section of the test, you will use strategies to engage with different reading selections through questions like multiple select and open response. The readings will focus on assessing your ability to understand explicit information and ideas, making inferences, and making connections with the text and your personal knowledge and experiences. 

In the writing section, you will respond to multiple select questions and write an essay where you communicate an opinion. You will be assessed on your ability to develop a main idea with sufficient supporting details, to organize your ideas and content in a coherent manner, and to use writing conventions like spelling, grammar, and punctuation effectively. You will not have time to revise and rewrite, and will be submitting a piece of unpolished writing, so make sure you are planning your ideas prior to writing carefully.

The site also explains how the test is organized over two days, and what the online administration will look like if done virtually. In years past, the test was often done by pen and paper, but thanks to technological advances it can be done using a school computer. 

The EQAO site also contains some links to practice tests and questions you can use to prepare, and what kinds of accommodations you can access if you have special needs or are an English language learner. Of course, your teachers should make you aware of these things, but it never hurts to know for yourself in case you need to self-advocate.

If you are nervous about taking the OSSLT you are not alone. Find out the best strategies for taking and passing the OSSLT with flying colours.

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Where Else Can I Find Resources to Study for the OSSLT?

There are plenty of other resources to look for if you want to spend time preparing for the OSSLT. A quick search using Google will lead you to plenty of school board websites that contain links and information for the OSSLT. Don’t worry if it’s not your board - in fact, you may find that other boards may have better links to information, practice tests, and explanations of the test. Toronto, Peel, Simcoe, Niagara, Windsor-Essex, London and Ottawa are just a handful of public school boards with a wealth of information.

If you are looking to organize your practice, why not purchase a printed workbook from a a bookstore or Amazon? Book resources for the OSSLT are great for carrying around, getting your eyes off the screen, or occupying yourself when you are waiting between classes or at appointments. Workbooks also save you the trouble of printing out pages of resources, and ensures all of your study  materials are in a single place.

Another great resource of information about the OSSLT are friends and family that have taken the test recently. Hearing first hand about what the test was actually like to write and what strategies helped them is one of the best ways to feel more knowledgeable about the test. What was it like to use the school computer for OSSLT? Did they run into any technical glitches? Which strategies were good, and which ones did they find counterproductive? Which sections of the booklet did they start with first?

Getting answers about the OSSLT from people who have actually experienced it can be one of your most useful resources!

eqao scores
Seek advice from friends or family that have already taken the test. Source: Unsplash.

Will My Teachers Help Me With Ontario Literacy Test Practice?

Just as it was with your EQAO test, your teachers in English should be able to support your preparation for the OSSLT. Some of them may spend time during class to address the OSSLT, while others may help you enrol in virtual modules that will help you get ready for the test. Don’t be afraid to ask them questions, and they can give you all the information they have access to.

You can also maximize teacher support by making the most of your courses in grade 9, especially on assessment tasks that involve reading and writing. When you hand in an essay, request a conference so they can tell you in more detail what you can improve in your writing. When you do a reading assignment, look closely at their comments and seek clarification. Your teachers are a valuable resource of information and feedback, and they will most likely welcome your interest in their feedback.

Get your OSSLT preparation kickstarted with our latest study tips.

Can I Get a Tutor for OSSLT Practice?

A tutor is perhaps one of the best resources you can get for the OSSLT. Of course, you will want to discuss it with your family to finance it, but it can be a great investment that could result in a great test score.

Superprof is one of the best places you can find a tutor for OSSLT practice. Superprof tutors have a wide range of experiences, can be educators, English majors, have scored the test themselves, or have even taken it and can provide that first hand experience. OSSLT tutors come from all over Ontario, and can meet you virtually or possibly even in-person to help you with the test.

Superprof is the best site to use to find an OSSLT tutor because it is streamlined, easy-to-use, and enables you to compare different tutors and their rates. Do you need help beyond the OSSLT? Superprof.ca has listings for tutors in every subject you take in secondary school, and can help you learn and study all the subjects you want to excel in. The site also contains hundreds of great articles that can help you understand different academic and extracurricular topics.

Many Superprof tutors will offer the first hour for free, so you can have extra time to get to know them and most importantly, see if they are right for you.

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.

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Colleen

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