Professional skills tests: how to prepare for the literacy and numeracy tests

Ask Tes Institute: how to prepare for literacy and numeracy professional skills tests

Regardless of the route into teaching, it is compulsory for all trainees to take and pass professional skills tests in literacy and numeracy before they can begin teacher training. These tests are designed to assess the core skills that teachers need to fulfill their professional role in schools and ensure all teachers are competent in numeracy and literacy, regardless of their specialism.

The skills tests are split into two exams, one focusing on literacy and the other on numeracy.

Numeracy professional skills test

You have 48 minutes to complete the maths element of the skills test, which is made up of two sections:

  • Section one: mental arithmetic is delivered via headphones and consists of 12 questions, each one being read twice
  • Section two: written arithmetic focuses on graphs and charts and is made up of 16 questions that expect you to identify trends correctly, make comparisons in order to draw conclusions and interpret information accurately. You may use an off-screen calculator to make calculations

How to prepare for your numeracy skills test

Tes Institute are running a series of free online help clinics designed to help candidates prepare for the skills tests. For numeracy, we are splitting the help clinics into two sections, one that focuses on mental arithmetic and the other on calculator questions. All you have to do to attend is register online and the sessions are available to anyone who needs to prepare for the tests.

The Department for Education (DfE) also provide online practise tests and information sheets detailing specifics about the exam. There are also various online tutorials, such as this Youtube video that gives tips on solving mental arithmetic equations.

Literacy professional skills test

You have 45 minutes to complete the literacy test, which is made up of four components: an audio based spelling section, a punctuation exercise, a grammar and a comprehension section.

How to prepare for your literacy skills test

As well as online help clinics in numeracy, Tes Institute is also providing a free online help clinic for literacy that covers the four components of the test. Similarly, if you would like to attend a literacy help clinic you just need to register online.

The Department for Education also provide some practise tests and an information guide for the literacy test too.

Changes to the professional skills tests in 2018

The DfE recently announced changes that relaxed the rules on the number of tests that you can sit. From February 2018:

  • Candidates will have unlimited attempts to achieve a test pass
  • The two-year lockout period will be removed and candidates who were previously locked out will be able to book tests for both subjects
  • All candidates will be able to book 3 tests per subject, free of charge. A charge will be applied from the fourth test attempt per subject

If you have paid for and taken a second or third attempt at a test on or after 24 October 2017 and before 14 February 2018, you will automatically receive a refund for the cost of your test.

Booking your skills test

Once you feel sufficiently prepared for the skills tests, you can book a test appointment online and sit them at centres across the country. Whilst there isn't a limit on the number of times you can sit the tests, you only get the first three attempts free of charge and any test after that must be paid for, so getting early preparation in is strongly advised.