Every March, Grade 10 students in Ontario write the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT), a standardized test that measures students’ literacy skills at a Grade 9 curriculum standard. Passing the test is a requirement for the Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD).

Grade 10 students will write the OSSLT in late March over the course of two and a half hours. Students who fail will have another chance to write the test in Grade 11. The test has a reading and a writing component and aims to highlight areas where students may need support so that school systems can strive to fulfill those needs.

MGCI’s mock literacy test was first introduced twenty years ago when the OSSLT was introduced. Along with the more recently-introduced monthly literacy assignments, the test hoped to better prepare students for the test and reduce stress on the day of. Although only Grade 10 students write the OSSLT, Grade 9s are also required to participate in the mock test. This year, the mock test took place on 17 October 2018. Grade 9 and 10 students wrote the test during periods 3 and 2 respectively and were supervised by their teachers. Those with a spare period reported to the cafeteria to write the test.

Grade 9 students work hard during period 3 to write the mock literacy test. Image: Evan Woo

The results of the mock test also help identify students performing below the provincial standard, which then allows teachers to specifically help these students or recommend them for after school literacy sessions.

As with the real OSSLT, the mock test was comprised of questions that gauged students’ ability to understand various literary materials from short stories to graphics. However, it lacked a writing component, which the real OSSLT will have. The test was met with positive feedback because it gave students an insight into what was expected of them. “Through the test, we were able to touch on our strengths and what we could have worked on. I believe it will help us correct our line of thought so we can perform to the best of our ability in the real test,” said Grade 9 student Anirudh Goel. Mr. Sharp, the vice principal in charge of the mock literacy test, corroborated: “The test is very effective because it tells students how they are doing and where they can improve. The questions are designed to specifically test different areas so teachers can find where students might need help.”

Although the mock test is considered valuable by students, some students perceived flaws in the test. Anirudh added, “Although the questions were straightforward, some were extremely debatable.” Grade 11 student Jennifer Yu, who wrote the OSSLT last year, said that although the mock test helped her “get used to the format [of the OSSLT] and get a feel for what the questions could be like,” she would “add more full length writing,” which was a big component of the real test. However, the reason the mock test may not have had a writing component was because marking over a thousand writing pieces would have been overly time consuming.

Garneau’s dedication to preparing students for the OSSLT has paid off in the past, with a high percentage of students passing the test in Grade 10. Based on the organization of this mock test and additional practice opportunities, this year should be no different.