Short Answer

On the OSSLT, you'll answer lots of different kinds of short answer questions.

In this section, we break down some different kinds of short answer questions including:

      • Head Questions
      • Heart Questions
      • The Summary Paragraph

We also cover some tips for general paragraph writing.

Short Answer Checklist

Does your short answer paragraph...

  • Have a topic sentence
  • Have a concluding sentence
  • Use specific supporting details
  • Use the PEE (point, example, explain) to work the supporting details into the paragraph
  • Answer the question that was asked
  • Fully answer the question (e.g. doesn't leave anything out, answers all parts of the question, goes far enough with details and ideas, isn't too obvious or simple, etc.)
  • Use an appropriate tone
  • Have minimal spelling/grammar errors
Head Questions
Heart Questions

Texts you'll need:

    • OSSLT 2016 Released Questions: Section IV Reading
    • OSSLT 2016 Questions Booklet 1: Section A Reading ("An Animator from Scarborough")

Texts you'll need:

      • OSSLT 2015 Answer Booklet: Section III
      • OSSLT May 2013 Question Booklet: Section V

The Summary Paragraph

There will be a question somewhere on the OSSLT that looks something like this:

"State the main idea of this selection. Use at least one specific detail from the text to support your answer."

While the wording may change slightly, this question is asking you to summarize the text that you just read. The summary paragraph is a kind of short answer question (it's also a head question), and it requires a specific kind of answer.

Tips for the Summary Paragraph:

Topic Sentences/First Sentence:

  • The OSSLT asks that you “state a main idea of this selection.”
  • Consider using a sentence starter, such as: “The main idea of the article is…” or “The author’s main idea is…”
  • The sentence starters help you get away from copying and move into analysis.


  • The OSSLT asks that you “provide one specific detail” to support your opinion about the main idea.
  • The middle of your paragraph should give points, examples/evidence, and explanations.
  • Consider using a sentence starter, such as: “The author explains this by….”
  • In the OSSLT, you should plan the number of points, examples, and explanations to fill the amount of space given. In class, you should provide as many supporting points as indicated by their teacher.


  • Reiterate your opinion or your main idea.
  • Consider using starters, such as “Overall”, “In summary”, “In conclusion”, “To reiterate”, “For this reason”, or “An examination of these points show…”.