The Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test, otherwise known as the OSSLT, has become one of the most significant events in secondary school for Ontarians in secondary school, largely because students need to pass it in order to graduate high school. While many students will have no problem preparing for the test and walking away with a fantastic score, there are plenty of students that will struggle with anxiety of taking the test, experience difficulty writing it, worry about getting a low grade or even have to take it multiple times to pass.

There are many reasons that students will have varied experiences when it’s their turn to take the test. First of all, many kids have anxiety before taking tests, and the OSSLT is certainly no exception. At first glance, there is a lot on the line - your graduation from high school - so feeling anxious about the test should be no surprise. When that understanding of such high stakes is coupled with real test anxiety, the result can be overwhelming when test taking time comes. Students who have test anxiety will definitely want to prepare in a specific way that will alleviate that anxiety when it comes.

Some students do not possess strong writing skills so the OSSLT can feel like a major undertaking. Let’s face it - we don’t have to love all subjects, and English is one subject that can be easier for students that enjoy the writing process and love reading. If you are an English language learner, or have had an Individual Education Plan (IEP), the challenge of taking the OSSLT can feel greater. If you are an ESL or IEP student, make sure you check to find out if you can receive any accommodations or exemptions from the test.

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.

osslt practice
Make sure you study in a quiet, focused space. Source: Unsplash.
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Why Do I Need to Take the OSSLT?

The OSSLT is required to graduate from secondary school in Ontario. So why did they make this test a requirement? Isn’t getting the required course credits enough?

The test will measure whether or not students are meeting the minimum standard for literacy across all subjects up to the end of grade 9. In a sense, the OSSLT is actually an assessment of the skills you acquired in elementary school, and is a check to see if the education system has been doing its job of teaching students those literacy skills, and if students have done their part to acquire them. The OSSLT is for all students in Ontario, so it checks to see that there is consistency across the entire system.

Literacy is a life skill: we use our reading, writing, listening, and communication skills to function in our society and be successful in the workplace. Strong literacy skills also bring a lot of personal rewards, as we can appreciate literature and share ideas with others effectively. It’s hard to picture a world without being able to read, especially when we consider the impact the internet has on our lives on a daily basis.

The EQAO enables the provincial government to ensure that Ontarians have a baseline level of literacy to keep the society flourishing. It also helps to hold education staff accountable: a significant proportion of low scores in a board, for example, might justify providing more funding or training in literacy instruction.

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.

Is the OSSLT Similar to Grade 3 EQAO or EQAO Grade 6?

If the OSSLT sounds eerily similar to the EQAO tests you took in grade 3 and grade 6 - it is because it is. The EQAO tests in elementary school served a similar purpose as the OSSLT. Essentially, these tests check your knowledge of the Ontario curriculum in the areas of numeracy and literacy every 3 years of formal instruction. The main difference is, you would definitely graduate elementary school no matter what your result was on the test. But the government funded organization developing and distributing the tests, the Education Quality and Accountability of Office, is the same one for the EQAO and the OSSLT.

When you are in grade 3, the EQAO checks to see that you are developing literacy and numeracy skills in the early years of your life. While it may seem early to do such an assessment, it’s important to note that the early years are an important time for building your foundational learning skills. Those scores check to see if you are on track, or may need additional help or support in your learning.

When the EQAO test happens again in grade 6, the rationale is quite similar. Your knowledge up to the end of that school year is focused on to ensure that you have built the base you need to learn math and language skills in grades 7, 8 and 9.

By the time you finish grade 9, the OSSLT rolls around to check your literacy skills again. Math will be checked during the Grade 9 Assessment of Mathematics, also created by the EQAO.

eqao grade 6 practice
Pair up with a classmate to make studying fun. Source: Unsplash.

What are the Top OSSLT Tips?

There are a number of ways you can get yourself ready for the OSSLT. Here are our top tips for taking the test.

1.     Focus on Mental and Physical Health

When it comes to anything in life, focusing on your mental and physical health is important, especially if you have a history of getting test anxiety and ‘blanking’ right when a big test or assessment begins.

Learn different ways you can cope with your anxiety when you are actually test writing. This may include deep breathing, visualizing, or simply taking a quick break when you need to. Consider having a stress ball or other ‘toy’ on hand you can play with to calm your nerves or de-stress in the moment. Have a bottle of water on hand and some healthy snacks nearby so you have instant fuel should you get hungry during the OSSLT - you want to make sure your body is equipped to handle any other factors that could impact your performance on the test.

Ensure that you are engaging in regular physical activity before your test so your body and mind will be strong and healthy. Getting oxygen in your blood and to the brain ensures you are performing at your best. So be in a habit of running, yoga, sports, or whatever activities keep you moving. This is a good lifestyle habit to have at any point of your life!

Of course, being prepared for the test is one way you can proactively avoid feeling anxious on the day of the test. When you arrive at the test prepared, you will add a layer of confidence to your mental state which will aid you in taking the test.

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.

osslt tips
Take plenty of breaks for fitness and rest. Source: Unsplash.

2. Look at the Test Beforehand

Previewing the test and its format beforehand will definitely get you ready for the OSSLT. Your teachers will likely give you a sense of this during your English classes, but take extra time to look closely at tests from years past so you can fully understand how questions are asked and what kinds of readings are given on the test. 

You can easily find lots of previous OSSLT tests on the internet, but you’ll really want to focus on tests administered in more recent years for the most updated version. You should also take a close look at exemplars, which teachers also use to score the test. Exemplars are real answers that were written by students in years past, and show what answers look like at different scores or levels. These exemplars can be incredibly helpful for you so you can see what a level 4 or A level looks like, and perhaps what you want to avoid in your answer writing.

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.

3. Practice Writing Your Answers

Once you look at the test and some exemplar answers, you can start practicing your own by taking mock OSSLTs. In many schools, you will get to do this in your classes, just as you did during EQAO in elementary school. Take advantage of those mock tests so you can receive teacher feedback and get a sense of what it takes to actually complete the test on time.

Develop strategies for answer writing, such as using brainstorming methods you like for formulating your answers. Some great and easy to use strategies include:

  • T-Charts
  • Jot Notes
  • Free Writing
  • Venn Diagrams
  • Outlines 
  • Listing key words and transition words you want to include
  • Planning sentence stems

When you have good strategies in place for writing, you will find that you can be more efficient so you can take some time to look over your work.

4. Get a Tutor to Support

Getting a tutor to support your OSSLT practice is one of the best ways to be successful on the test. You can find great tutors on Superprof.ca that can ensure you are as prepared as possible for the OSSLT.

Finding a tutor on Superprof can be one of the best investments you and your family make in your education, especially when it comes to the OSSLT. Superprof OSSLT tutors understand the test, and will use exemplars and their knowledge as educators to provide you with valuable feedback on your answers. They can give you great strategies for writing the test, insights for test taking strategically, and can hold you accountable for practicing on a regular basis. Parents will love that tutoring can support their kids while also giving them time to take care of other household priorities.

The Superprof site is easy to navigate and well organized. You can simply type OSSLT in the search tool, and find a whole roster of tutors that may be able to help you or your child. You can easily and quickly compare tutor profiles and rates, so you can make the very best decision. Many Superprof tutors will offer the first hour for free, so you’ll have some extra time to get to know your tutor and know that they are the best fit for you.

Find your OSSLT tutor on Superprof today!

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

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Colleen

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