BlogEducation NewsOvercoming The OSSLT for international students

Overcoming The OSSLT for international students

Being an international student can be tough. Alongside the usual woes of secondary school; exams, homework, and so on, there is the added problem of doing all of that in your second language. It’s certainly not easy, but it’s a great way to get a first-class education, improve your language skills, and set yourself up for a great career and future prospects. 

If you choose to attend high school in the province of Ontario, then you will need to complete a series of assessments in order to secure your diploma. One of these assessments is the OSSLT, otherwise known as the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test. 

The test is designed to ensure that students in the tenth and eleventh grades have the necessary literacy (reading and writing) skills in order to graduate. 

This article offers information on the OSSLT for international students, particularly those with English as a second language, as well as studying tips.

What is the OSSLT?

The OSSLT is a 2.5 hour-long examination taken in two parts with a short fifteen minute break in the middle. It is designed to test the reading and writing skills of students. The test is typically taken in grade ten or eleven, and is scored as a pass or fail grade. By extension, students who pass the exam have no need to retake it in an attempt to perform better. 

As mentioned above, the exam is designed to test the reading and the writing skills of students, specifically:


  • A comprehensive understanding of explicitly stated information
  • A comprehensive understanding of implicitly stated information
  • Connecting information written in the exam with information the student already knows


  • The ability to create & develop a main idea and the supporting information
  • Coherently organizing and linking ideas & information  
  • Using the correct grammar and offering clear communication

The exam allows for an unlimited number of resits without penalty, but if, after the first two attempts, students have not achieved a passing grade, they are permitted to instead take the OSL course. 

The OSL course is a course that covers the same information as the OSSLT, and will grant the credits necessary for graduation. However, it may result in a later graduation for the student. Schools can have different policies for when a student may choose to take the OSL course in place of the OSSLT, so check with your institution.

Is the OSSLT More Difficult for International Students?

Generally speaking, international students- particularly ESL students- do find the OSSLT more difficult. This is because much of the exam is based on students knowing the difference between implicit and explicitly stated information, which can be difficult for anyone who doesn’t have English as a first language.  

If we consider previous ESL students’ results, we can see that there are consistent shortfallings in very specific areas of the examination. So consistent in fact, that ESL students can often be identified through their results alone. These sections are:

  • Vocabulary
  • Indirect understanding
  • Some writing tasks. 

The fact is, students whose first language is neither French nor English are, statistically, facing the greatest challenge in passing the OSSLT. While the numbers show that 23% of students in the Ontario Province do not have English or French as a first language, there are limited allowances made for them, with support programs for ESL students lowering by up to 30% over the past 5 years. 

While this statistic is undeniably unfortunate, it has been accredited to a lack of resources available and budget cuts that the school system faces. However, there are still programmes available in some schools- things like extra English classes and supervised revision sessions. 

How Can I Pass the OSSLT as an International Student?

The OSSLT has taken several measures to try and even the playing field. From test taking strategies, to extra time, practice tests, or the option to postpone their test, there are things in place to help international students taking the OSSLT. Just a few are listed below: 

  • Do a practice exam and then focus on your weaker areas 
  • Pay specific attention to the identified shortcomings of ESL students mentioned above
  • Practice your English with additional ESL lessons
  • Read Canadian newspaper articles and focus on the language used 
  • Practice identifying the difference between implicit and explicit language 

There is also The Litguide App, which supports and encourages students with all of the above points. The Litguide App was specifically developed and designed in order to help and guide students on their way to the OSSLT, with specific features included to help international students.

What is The Litguide App?

The LitGuide app offers content based on the OSSLT curriculum and its features are specifically designed to help all kinds of students’ needs as they prepare for the exam. The coverage is extensive and makes use of the user-friendly interface to prepare students for the type of questions they will be asked. 

The app is made up of three main sections:

  • The Essentials
  • Workbooks
  • Practice Tests

Each section works alongside the type of questions that the student will be asked in the practice test, which are:

  • Multiple Choice
  • Short Answer
  • Report Writing

With automatic, helpful and constructive feedback on short answer questions, as well as real teacher feedback on report-style questions, The Litguide App has a proven track record of helping students succeed.

How Can Litguide Help International students?

Earlier in the article we discussed how international and ESL students can be identified by their test results. The Litguide App identifies students’ weak points and offers extra support and tasks for these sections. 

It also offers additional support in the form of a glossary of words, highlighting and note taking features, and audio reading for articles. This is in congruence with push notifications, online and offline features, and multiple platform functionality. 

Download The Litguide app today and see for yourself just how beneficial it can be for international students studying for the OSSLT.

Litguide is the first curriculum based platform that will help you successfully pass the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test.


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