Pass plus

18th April 2008 at 01:00
Sara Bubb on why skills tests shouldn't cause concern

As much as everyone loves to moan about the skills tests, you can't do without them in England if you want qualified teacher status (QTS). If you're training in Scotland or Wales, you can breathe a sigh of relief, since they don't exist.

The tests are hyped up to be worse than they are. Look at the pass mark - at 60 per cent they're really not hard. "They were basic and easy to do, and the whole process was well organised, but they were hyped up to be a lot worse than they were," one trainee said. "It was too much added stress for nothing."

Their view is pretty typical. Most people pass on their first or second attempt - 95 per cent in ICT, 91 per cent in literacy and 89 per cent in numeracy. Mind you, someone took 15 goes to pass the tests, so not everyone finds them a piece of cake.

Numeracy is the test that most people find toughest, but 79 per cent pass first time. You can have as many goes as you need, so don't worry. I know that's no comfort to those of you who go to pieces in tests, don't feel confident at maths, literacy or ICT and aren't brilliant with computers.

But you'll be fine if you practise. The Training and Development Agency for Schools website (see www.tda.co.uk) has lots of resources to help. There's information on the test content, structure and layout, benchmark tests, interactive practice tests, sample questions with answers, a handy glossary of key terms and a list of further resources.

Book the tests early to allow time for resits well before the end of your course. It's quite a palaver registering and booking them at designated centres. If English isn't your first language or if you have a disability, register as such - you'll get more time.

Time is precious in any test, but when you do these tests there's a timer to show how long you have left. Prepare, practise and put them into perspective: compared to teaching 30 children, they're a doddle

Sara Bubb is an education consultant specialising in induction.

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