Characteristics of Successful and Unsuccessful Student Performance on the OSSLT

The Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test is administered to all students in the province at two points during the 2021–2022 school year. The first is between October 13 and December 1, with individual student results reported by the end of January 2022, and the second is between March 23 and May 18, with individual student results reported by the end of June 2022. Grades 10 and 11, and non-graduating Grade 12 students who are studying in person are eligible to take the OSSLT. As the literacy graduation requirement for all students graduating during the 2021–2022 school year has been waived, graduating students do not need to take the test. Successful completion of the test is a graduation requirement. The test is composed of reading selections with multiple-select and open-response questions, and writing an Opinion Essay with multiple-select writing questions. Each session (Session A and Session B) is designed to be completed in 60 minutes, and students complete each session in one sitting. The sessions can be attempted one after the other, either back to back with a short break, or on two different dates and times. At the end of the two assessment sessions, students will be presented with a questionnaire that asks them about their experiences, attitudes and perceptions with respect to literacy.

After a review of students’ work on the test over the years, literacy experts from across the province have identified characteristics of successful or unsuccessful students’ work. The characteristics have been categorized into headings that define what each characteristic means in relation to the test.

The chart below outlines the conclusions. This information may assist educators in

  • helping unsuccessful students understand what “getting better” at literacy looks like;
  • identifying evidence that would help a student move from one category to another; and
  • discussing areas for student improvement with parents.
​​​Unsuccessful​​​​​​​
Successful​​​​​​​
The unsuccessful student’s work is ch​aracterized by:
​The successful student’s work is characterized by:
Simplicity
In ideas and sparse supporting details; in understanding and use of forms (e.g., personal essay, graphs and charts); and in vocabulary use
Complexity
Big ideas, details selected to support generalizations; broad vocabulary; connects purposes, audience, and form
Repetition
The small set of ideas selected from texts or chosen for writing are used repeatedly; narrow range of skill sets for choice of vocabulary and sentence structure; syntax is often drawn from oral language
Variety
Range of literacy and fluency skills; navigates and adopts different types of expression; produces own ideas; syntax is that of written language where appropriate; flexibility of expression
​​Concreteness
Focus on specifics of tasks; straight-forward purposes in reading or writing; heavy reliance on personal experience for evidence
Abstraction
Uses symbols and visualization in understanding and expression; transfers skills and prior knowledge to new situations​​​
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