An Overview of the”new”OSSLT Online Testing Format (2021)

2020/2021 has been a school year like we’ve never experienced before; teaching and learning in the midst of a pandemic is something that all education stakeholders have been struggling through with as much poise and determination as possible.

It therefore only makes sense that the government, via the Ministry of Education, has decided that this is the year to roll out a new OSSLT testing format in addition to completely revamping the elementary math curriculum and attempting to de-stream grade 9.


If you’ve successfully wiped EQAO’s last disastrous attempt at an online administration of the OSSLT from your memory, let me jog it by taking a look at my blog from 2016: Online OSSLT: Titanic Disaster.

Based on the absolute sinking of the maiden voyage of the online OSSLT, it seems that EQAO has made adjustments to the online format that will run in 2020.

Read on for a brief overview of what’s new, how to prepare students, and what may lie ahead…

What’s New

  • the test will be administered online only
  • only in class students may write the test (online students will not be able to attempt the test this year, but school boards MAY make arrangements for them to write on a case by case basis)
  • school boards/schools/students have a choice whether or not they’d like to ‘opt in’ to writing the test
  • the literacy requirement is not necessary for grade 12 students graduating this school year
  • there will be a ‘window’ of time where students will be able to attempt the test based on their school board (March-May)
  • the terms ‘Booklet 1’ and ‘Booklet 2’ have been replaced by ‘Session A’ and ‘Session B’
  • the new ‘sessions’ are shorter (60minutes of time is allotted for each session, as opposed to 70minutes that was previously allowed per booklet)
  • there are significantly fewer written questions (only one paragraph question, and one long writing task – opinion piece)
  • the built in tools for the test include: text to speech (must turn on), read aloud, highlighter, underline, eraser, zoom in/out, line reader, contrast, rough notes
  • there are new question types (drag and drop, checklists, sequencing of events)
  • there is a new online field test that students can take to practice the new format of the test
  • students must stick to their COVID cohorts when writing both the practice test and actual test

How to Prepare Students

  • EQAO is offering a Live Webcast series to support teachers and administrators in the transition to this new format
  • old preparation methods/test questions may still be used, involving reading and writing questions related to: Real Life Narrative, Information Paragraph, News Report, Dialogue, Writing Multiple Choice and Series of Paragraphs
  • students should attempt the new Practice Test to familiarize themselves with some of the new question formats, as well as the tools and test in general
  • there is no way of generating a complete output of student Practice Test responses or comparing the responses of a group of students which is very frustrating, so I created a Google Form that replicates the test, as well as generates a response page for students and creates the ability to compare student responses if all students complete the same form (you can create your own or purchase mine on TpT)
  • once practice test results are compiled, teachers should analyze what skills/question types their students are struggling with prior to the test, and assimilate those skills/question types into their everyday teaching practice
  • when organizing writing groups, teachers will have to be very conscious of COVID cohorts, as well as special education needs for students

What’s Next?

  • if there are a number of students who choose not to write, or those who can’t because they are online students one would hope that next year there will be two opportunities to write the OSSLT, since students need to fail the test before they can take the course to satisfy the literacy graduation requirement
  • depending on the successful administration of the test, the format may be “tweaked” once again
  • with the introduction of a “window” of time to write the test, perhaps there will be more flexibility and opportunities to challenge the test for students

Are you a teacher administrating the OSSLT in Ontario this school year? Add to the conversation below! What are your questions, concerns or comments?


7 thoughts on “An Overview of the”new”OSSLT Online Testing Format (2021)

  1. Do I sense a hint of sarcasm? Haha- always impeccable timing by our education ministers. Learning Aspen is a nice touch also. Good luck navigating this year!


    1. Spell check has never been an approved accommodation on the OSSLT. Traditionally, students who had sever issues with spelling would use a scribe or the prediction tool on Google RW. Both these accommodations will also be available on the new version of the test.


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