How do I pass the OSSLT to graduate from high school?

To graduate, all Ontario high school students must show that they've achieved a certain level of English proficiency by passing the OSSLT.

What is the OSSLT?

The Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT) is a standardized test that all students in Ontario must pass to graduate high school. It evaluates the reading and writing skills you should have acquired by going through the province’s English curriculum from kindergarten to grade 9. 

The OSSLT is normally taken in grade 10 at the end of March or the beginning of April. You can take the test as many times as you need until you pass.

The test is taken on a computer and consists of two 60-minute sessions. There are 31 multiple-choice questions and two open-response questions. You must complete each session in one sitting, but you can choose to take the two sessions in one day with a short break between sessions, or on two different dates and times.

What skills does the OSSLT test for?

The OSSLT assesses students reading and writing skills by asking students to:

  • Write paragraphs, introductions, and conclusions for different audiences
  • Express and defend their opinions with evidence 
  • Read texts and identify the main points and supporting evidence 
  • Interpret narrative texts like news reports and short fictional stories
  • Interpret informational texts like textbooks and opinion pieces

How do I prepare for the OSSLT?

If you’ve been going to school in Ontario, you have already been preparing for the OSSLT! Still, you may want more practice to make sure you remember everything you’ve been learning. 

Start by watching this video about what to expect on the OSSLT

Then start practicing! You can take the practice test on the EQAO website, and then through the past tests that have been administered from 2003 to 2018. Northview Heights Secondary School also has several practice tests posted on its website. 

For a more detailed explanation of the OSSLT as a literacy test, as well as a sample student report, you can look through this OSSLT framework.

What supports are available to English language learners?

If you are new to Canada and if English is not your first language, the OSSLT may seem challenging for you. The good news is that there are supports available to English language learners (ELLs) to help you succeed. 

Teachers and school administrators can help create a plan for you to make the test more accessible, which may look like:

  • Additional time to take the test 
  • A quiet, private and/or small group setting
  • Prompts if you need help focusing while taking the test 

In addition, ELLs are eligible for extended, supervised breaks while taking the test. 

If you are taking special courses like English As a Second Language (ESL) or English Literacy Development (ELD), you may also be allowed to defer taking the test later on in high school. 

What if I fail the OSSLT?

All high school students MUST pass the OSSLT to graduate. If you fail, you can retake the test as many times as you need until you pass.

Students who have failed the test may be eligible to take the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Course (OSSLC)  in grade 12. The course is one credit and teaches four units:

  • Unit 1: Reading and writing fundamentals
  • Unit 2: Exploring a variety of texts
  • Unit 3: Workplace communication
  • Unit 4: Reviewing key concepts

Talk to your guidance counsellor to see if you can take the OSSLC course. You can also learn about the course in more detail through the Ministry of Education’s OSSLC PDF.