What do I do if I fail the provincial literacy test (OSSLT)?

The OSSLT can be very challenging for students who are new to the country. If you fail, retake the test and use study materials.

What is the OSSLT?

The Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT) is a standardized test for reading and writing. It covers the English language and communication skills that students should have learned in the years up to (and including) grade 9. Students normally take the test in grade 10 and, to graduate from an Ontario high school, you have to pass.

But while the test might be easy enough for most students who have grown up in Canada and spoken English all their lives, it can be a lot harder to pass if you’re new to the country or have just started to learn English. If you fail, the most important thing to remember is not to panic! Help is available.

ESL students may be eligible for an extension

If you’re registered in an ESL program and you aren’t ready to take the test by grade 10, you may be able to postpone taking the test. Your principal will decide if you’ll be allowed to put off taking the test, and for how long. If the test is approaching and you really don’t feel ready, be sure to contact your principal either through your English teacher, your guidance counselor, your parents or directly on your own.

How to study after failing

If you just got your OSSLT results and you didn’t pass, take a deep breath. It’s going to be okay! The first bit of good news is that you’re allowed to try taking the test again next year. That should give you time to prepare. It’s a good idea to ask for extra help from your English teacher, but you can also study on your own by working on the practice exercises in the OSSLT section on the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) website. You can also check out the ‘Getting Ready Guide’, which will help you to prepare.

You’ll get more than one chance

If you still don’t pass the second time, you can take the test again! In fact, there’s no limit to the number of times you can re-take the OSSLT.

Take a special course

Students who have been eligible to take the OSSLT twice and have failed it at least once can also take a special course called the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Course. Talk to your English teacher or guidance counsellor about this option.

In this full-credit English course you’ll learn the same literacy skills that are evaluated by the test—including writing summaries, news reports and information paragraphs. If you pass the course, you will have completed the requirement for the OSSLT and can graduate without having to write the test again.