Like many other events in high school, the OSSLT has become somewhat of a ritual. Sure, it’s nowhere near as momentous or fun as a prom or graduation or even sports tryouts, but because Ontario secondary students need it to graduate, it’s become a rite of passage that can be expected nearly every year - not including, of course, years where there is a pandemic.

Major assessments and tests have the unfortunate impact of making learners feel nervous, and the OSSLT is no exception. After all, who wants to be taking it again? Most students would probably love the idea of having the test out of the way so they can simply move on with their lives and focus on the more fun aspects of being a teenager.

So what can grade 10 students do to secure their success on the OSSLT? How do you prepare for a skills based test? What kinds of practice can you engage in so you aren’t terribly nervous before test time?

Perhaps most importantly, what is the OSSLT and why does the government want students to take it anyway? Let’s explore what the OSSLT is and why it's so important. We will explain why it is so important for students to take the test, and discuss its connection to the EQAO.

OSSLT
What are the steps to a successful OSSLT? Source: Unsplash.
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What is the OSSLT?

The Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test, or OSSLT, is exactly what it sounds like - a test to gauge your skills in reading and writing. The test essentially checks to see if you have achieved literacy expectations across the curriculum you should have learned by the end of grade 9, and will need to be successful not only in the later years of high school but the workforce and everyday life in Ontario.

Literacy skills are life skills: it’s hard to imagine functioning in a world where you can’t deconstruct and identify big ideas in media texts, navigate the internet, or have the basic literacy skills to complete tasks at work. In fact, with so much online these days, being able to read and write is essential to participating in a digital economy.

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

The OSSLT is a test that all grade 10 Ontarians take, with some exceptions for special education students and English language learners, who may be exempt or receive specific accommodations during the test. It provides your teachers and the ministry of education with a snapshot not only of your ability but for the entire generation of students you are part of. With this information, your school teams can plan learning that addresses the needs of students, and detect any issues or concerns with instruction.

The OSSLT is also useful to you as it can give you and your family about where your literacy skills are as an individual so you can focus your work on your needs. It will not be the only provincial test you take in high school - you will also take a math assessment that checks your knowledge of mathematics up to grade 9.

If all of this sounds familiar - it is - you took very similar tests in your grade 3 and 6 EQAO. So what is the connection between the OSSLT and the EQAO?

literacy test
Being a good reader will help you succeed on the OSSLT. Source: Unsplash.

The Grade 3 and Grade 6 EQAO and OSSLT assessments are all administered by the Education Quality and Accountability Office, which is appointed by the provincial government. The EQAO assesses the literacy and math skills of students in a multi-day test. The test takes place in a classroom, typically using pencil and paper, following specific guidelines for administration. Grade 3, Grade 6, and other support staff and administrators are responsible for administering the tests.

Your OSSLT score, as well as your EQAO score will be shared with your school electronically the following year. They are assessed by teachers that apply directly to the EQAO, and are marked according to standards and exemplars.

Your EQAO scores are not considered when you write your OSSLT, and are not used to write a report card grade. They can, however, be used to give you a sense of your literacy and numeracy foundations at a certain age. Ultimately, the scores from all of these tests create valuable data for the education system to identify areas of need for school communities and inform planning for many teachers.

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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What is the Ministry of Education Ontario?

The Ministry of Education Ontario is a governing body for education in Ontario. This ministry is led by the Minister of Education, who is appointed by the Premier of Ontario. The Ministry of Ontario provides guidance and leadership for schools, publishes curriculum documents that are used by teachers, and monitors international schools that teach the Ontario curriculum. The ministry works with the provincial government to allocate funding to school boards, sets policy and protocols, and publishes other documents for the public relating to education. To learn more about what the Ministry of Education does, check out their website here.

Why Do Secondary Students Need a Literacy Test?

This is a great question that a lot of students and families want to know the answer to. People who are curious about why the OSSLT should even happen in the first place aren’t alone, and for good reason, especially given the media controversy that sometimes arises from provincial literacy and mathematics testing. Why aren’t regular English courses enough to check literacy? Why should you take a test that has no bearing on your grades? Why is the OSSLT tied to graduating high school?

The truth is, the OSSLT provides an incredibly useful metric for the Ministry of Education, Boards, and Educators to gauge the status of learning in the province, and to ensure there is consistency across classrooms and schools. Ontario is a vast and highly populated province with so many different school boards, schools, and communities. As diverse as the province is, it is important that the curriculum retains its integrity across every school. The standards for getting a B, for example, should not vary from one school to another in Ontario. The idea is that teaching and learning should be consistent across the boards.

Given the size of the province’s population, one can imagine how hard it would be to enforce standards. Having everyone take the same test, no matter what part of the province they live, enables the province to see that students are able to be successful with the same expectations for reading and writing. 

Is the OSSLT the most important assessment you can take? It is definitely important from the perspective that we need it to graduate. However, the best snapshot of your literacy skills will be provided by a look at all the different things you write as a learner, your presentations, and the different analyses you do of texts over time - not just in the sitting of a single test.

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.

What is OSSLT
Don't be stressed about the OSSLT. Source: Unsplash.

How to Be Successful on the OSSLT?

To be successful on the OSSLT, it's important that you take the time to prepare for and familiarize yourself with the test. Bear in mind that you have been preparing for this test for years without knowing it: your teachers have been teaching you curriculum expectations that you will be assessed on when you take the test.

Start by looking up exactly what the test will look like, and reading some sample test. Nearly every school board in Ontario will have a page on their site dedicated to sharing samples of the OSSLT with students, so you'll find plenty of content to explore. Next, find out what a good OSSLT answer looks like. Again, the internet has tons of samples you can study to see what it takes to get a good score.

Of course, you will want to make sure your own literacy skills are up to the standard required to be successful. Are you a good reader? Do you enjoy writing? How are your language arts grades? What are your greatest areas of need? If you're not sure, simply ask your language arts or English teachers for feedback as they will be well positioned to know what you can work on to get a good OSSLT score.

Finally, make time on a regular basis to practice planning and writing answers for the OSSLT. Remember that the OSSLT is taken in a single sitting, so you will want to feel confident about just delving into the test and knowing exactly what you need to do. Read frequently from different types of texts in your spare time, from fiction to non-fiction, articles and opinion pieces, so you will be ready for any text the OSSLT throws at you. Make sure you know how to deep breathe in case you get stressed or anxious, and put in your best effort when test time comes.

Get your OSSLT preparation kickstarted with our latest study tips.

Will a Tutor Help Students Pass the Ontario Literacy Test?

A tutor can do wonders with supporting you in developing the literacy skills it takes to be successful on the OSSLT. Superprof.ca is the best place you can find a tutor for your OSSLT needs.

Superprof.ca is a site that connects Canadian tutors with students. Having a Canadian tutor from Superprof means that you will have someone that understands the Ontario curriculum, and has possibly even taken or assessed the test themselves. They can provide important insights on the OSSLT you won’t be able to find anywhere else.

The Superprof site is easy to use, and provides you with pictures of prospective tutors, detailed descriptions of their areas of expertise and approach to teaching. You can quickly get a sense of the rates they charge so you can compare different tutors and find someone who fits your family’s budget.

When it comes to the OSSLT, a Superprof tutor can curate test questions for you to practice with that actually address your biggest areas of need. They can provide detailed and descriptive feedback on your writing and reading analyses, and tell you exactly what to do to improve your score. They can share the best strategies for passing the test, and increase practice sessions as your test date nears.

Superprof tutors can meet with your virtually or safely in person, and at times that work for your schedule. Not sure if a Superprof tutor is right for you? Why not set up a consultation with one so you can get some perspective. Most Superprof tutors will provide the first hour for free, giving you plenty of time to get to know them.

Check out Superprof today!

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.