Preparing for the OSSLT

The 2019-2020 School Year OSSLT date is Tuesday, March 31st, 2020

What is the OSSLT?

The Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT) is a test taken by students in Grade 10 that measures whether they are meeting the minimum standard for literacy across all subjects up to the end of Grade 9, according to The Ontario Curriculum. Successful completion of the literacy test is one of the requirements to earn an Ontario Secondary School Diploma, a student cannot graduate High School without first passing the OSSLT. The same versions of the assessments are administered for academic and applied students. All students across the province write this test on the same date.

Quick OSSLT Overview

The OSSLT is administered in and by the school the student is currently attending. The test itself is two and a half hours long, consists of four booklets – two Question booklets and two Answer booklets – and is marked out of 400. These marks come from a range of questions, including: multiple-choice, short answers, newsletter writing, and opinion writing.

The tests are NOT marked by the students’ teachers, instead, the completed tests are shipped back to the EQAO (Education Quality and Accountability Office) for marking. Students who fail there first attempt must retake the test again the following year on the set OSSLT date for that year. Students who fail a second time will be required to take the full OLC4O (Ontario Literacy Course) in Grade 12 to meet the literacy requirement required to graduate.

What does the OSSLT test students on?

The OSSLT consists of a reading and writing component, both of which test students on materials they will have learned throughout The Ontario Curriculum from Grades 1-9.

Reading Component

For the OSSLT, reading is defined as the process through which the reader makes meaning of a variety of written texts as reflected in the expectations in The Ontario Curriculum across all subjects up to the end of Grade 9. The readings that students may be presented with include: information paragraphs, news reports, dialogues, real-life narratives, and graphic texts. Students will be expected to answer questions regarding the readings through a mixture of multiple choice questions and written/short answer questions.

The OSSLT’s reading selections focus on three reading skills:

  • understanding explicitly (directly) stated ideas and information;
  • understanding implicitly (indirectly) stated ideas and information;
  • connecting the information and ideas in a reading selection with your knowledge and personal experience.

Writing Component

For the OSSLT, writing is defined as a constructive process of communicating in the forms in which students are expected to write according to the expectations in The Ontario Curriculum across all subjects up to the end of Grade 9. The writings that students may be required to complete include: a news reports and a series of paragraphs expressing an opinion. Both of which require widely different structures and content.

The OSSLT’s writing tasks focus on three writing skills:

  • developing a main idea with specific supporting details;
  • organizing information and ideas in a coherent manner;
  • applying conventions (syntax, spelling, grammar, punctuation, usage) in a manner that does not distract from clear communication

What’s the difference between the OSSLT and a regular classroom test?

Newmarket OSSLT Tutoring
(Information adapted from

How to prepare your child for the OSSLT

Schools and teachers are expected to help students prepare for the OSSLT through some sort of organized activities or preparation courses during regular school hours. However, some students may not find this enough, especially ESL speakers, and some parents may find that their child’s school does not offer any help at all. If this is the case, then students may need to prepare on their own time outside of school hours.  

Some options that students have to prepare outside of school include:

  • build reading comprehension skills by reading grade appropriate books as much as you can outside of school
  • practice writing skills by writing news articles and opinion pieces on a variety of different topic (one of these is guaranteed to show up on your test)
  • pay extra attention in English class and always complete assigned homework; use your marks and the teacher’s feedback as a way to gauge your current English / Literacy level
  • look for outside help from tutors or attend an OSSLT prep course, such as the ones offered at Northern Academy (see below for more details)

OSSLT Preparation Course

Northern Academy offers an extensive OSSLT preparation course that covers every aspect of the OSSLT. Our course ensures students are prepared for every possible question type they may come across of the OSSLT, including news article writing and a series of paragraphs expressing an opinion.

As a leading Newmarket OSSLT tutoring center, Northern Academy offers expert tutoring in all areas of the OSSLT to ensure every student is fully prepared for the test. Whether it’s your first time taking the test, or second, our teachers will make sure that your next one is your last one. No one wants to spend a whole semester taking the OSSLC course (the course you have to take if you fail the test), so make sure you’re prepared the first time and join our OSSLT preparation course.

Not sure if you’re prepared? Book a free OSSLT placement test to find out!