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Professional skills tests

Don't delay - give it a go!

What are the professional skills tests?

The skills tests cover the core skills that teachers need to fulfil their wider professional role in schools. For more information about the skills tests, see the NCTL website.

If you are applying for an Initial Teacher Training (ITT) programme, you will be required to have passed the Professional Skills Tests in numeracy and literacy as part of the admissions process. Once you have submitted your course application form, you will be eligible to book the skills test via the Department of Education website.

Please note that you're only allowed three attempts at passing the test, after which you will have to wait two years before taking the test again. To ensure that you are thoroughly prepared for the skills test, please make use of the literacy and numeracy practice tests that are available on the NCTL website.

Please note that the skills tests are only valid for three years prior to registering for the course.

To find an updated list of Skills Test centres, please visit the Department of Education website

When should I take the tests?

You should take the skills tests after applying for a teacher training course. You will be asked for proof of application prior to registering for the tests. Skills tests must be completed before 31 July 2016.

Based on the experience of applicants in previous years, we recommend taking the tests ahead of summer exams to avoid intensifying pressure during your A-levels.

By leaving taking the skills tests late in the summer, you take the risk of not giving yourself sufficient time to prepare effectively or resit the test if necessary, so don’t delay; give it a go! 

Skills test support workshops

Skills Test Support Student Quote

The university is running a series of free skills test workshops in Carlisle, Lancaster and London. Our workshops have helped many students gain the confidence to pass the tests and take their first steps to becoming a trainee teacher at the University of Cumbria.

Future workshop dates are coming very soon. Keep visiting us to book your place or follow @uocskillstests to see when new workshops have been announced.

We recommend trying out the sample skills tests available and identify the topics where you need further practice or understanding before the session.

Numeracy workshops
 Location Date Time Booking
Carlisle 16 May 4.00-6.00pm Book now
14 June 4.00-6.00pm Book now
13 July 4.00-6.00pm Book now
Lancaster 11 May 4.00-6.00pm Book now
15 June 4.00-6.00pm Book now
6 July 4.00-6.00pm Book now
London 11 May 4.00-6.00pm Book now
8 June 4.00-6.00pm Book now
1 July 9.00-11.00am Book now

Literacy workshops
 Location Date TimeBooking 
Carlisle    3 May 4.30-6.30pm Book now
16 June 4.30-6.30pm  Book now
7 July 4.30-6.30pm  Book now
Lancaster  9 May 4.00-6.00pm  Book now 
6 June 4.00-6.00pm Book now
London 17 May 4.00- 6.00pm Book now
21 June 2.00-4.00pm Book now
13 July 4.00-6.00pm Book now

Please note: To attend the workshops you must have applied or be intending to apply for a teacher training course at the University of Cumbria. You will be asked to provide proof of your application/interest when you arrive for the session. This can be an email acknowledging receipt of your application, or confirmation that you attended an open day.

If you have any queries about the workshops, please contact skillstests@cumbria.ac.uk or follow @UoCSkillsTests on Twitter.

Tips for skills test success

As a teacher training applicant, you must pass both the numeracy and literacy skills tests before you can join a teacher training programme, regardless of your results at GCSE. The deadline to pass is 31 July 2016, however before you dive into the test, take a look at these tips below.

1. Don’t panic!

The skills tests assess basic literacy and numeracy skills that you will have already acquired. Both tests are set at approximately GCSE grade C level and should not present any difficulties to the majority of candidates.

It's important to prepare for the tests so you have the confidence to give it a go. Come to one of our skills test workshops to refresh your knowledge. 

2. Try a practice test and review your weak areas

Be fully prepared before booking the tests. Use the online literacy and numeracy practice tests to familiarise yourself with the format and topics.

The pass mark for both tests is currently set at 63% so the practice tests will allow you to identify how you measure against the pass mark and the areas you will need to develop further before booking the actual tests.

If you found any test questions particularly difficult, take a look at our list of resources and review the topic.

3. Book your tests online

How to book

You can book your tests online. Tests should be booked at least three working days in advance.

You should be aware that LearnDirect Test Centres can experience peaks of demand, so you may not always be able to book tests on a date of your choice. Register now to book ahead. If you have problems booking, please contact the helpline:

► Special arrangements

If you have previously required special arrangements in a test or public exam, you can request the same for the professional skills tests for trainee teachers.

Please follow the online instructions when booking your tests. Depending on your need, you may be able to apply directly online, or you may have to fill in an application form. If your requested arrangement requires an application form and evidence to be provided before the test, this may take up to 10 working days to process. Find out more.

There are different versions of the tests to cater for different needs. Evidence must be available to support any request for adaptations, including the following:

  • 25 and 50 percent extra time versions
  • on-screen spelling questions in literacy tests
  • on-screen mental arithmetic questions in numeracy tests
  • paper-based tests (including larger print format)

Evidence required

Requests for 25 percent extra time do not require an application form or evidence to be submitted, although the NCTL reserves the right to request proof that candidates require special arrangements.

For special arrangements beyond 25 percent extra time, an application form and evidence, in the form of a medical report, SENCO or educational psychologist’s report, is required.

Skills test helpline

The helpline is open on weekdays from 8am to 4pm.

Telephone: 0300 303 9613 or Email: support@sta.learndirect.com

4. On the day of the test, come prepared and keep calm

Arrive at the test centre at least 15 minutes before your appointment.

Remember to bring with you:

  • Evidence of your application to Initial Teacher Training
  • The test booking confirmation email
  • The two forms of ID requested by the test centre. For more details, visit the Department for Education website
  • Any supporting documents for extra time or special arrangements

As you start the test, have writing materials at hand to make notes as necessary. Take time to read through the test instructions. Don’t rush this stage and be clear about what you must do.

After the test

If you passed both tests, congratulations! You're one step closer to becoming a teacher!

Please email the admissions team at educationadmissions@cumbria.ac.uk so we can check the results on the database and update our records against your application.


External websites

Please note: The University of Cumbria is not responsible for the content on external websites. Inclusion of a link does not imply endorsement.  

Department of Education website
On this site, you can find literacy and numeracy practice papers, as well as revision notes for numeracy (areas of numeracy in the side menu).

Follow the university's dedicated Skills Test Twitter page for advice and support. 

BBC Skillswise
This adult learning website covers some of the same topics that appear on the QTS skills test.

Adrian Beckett's Maths Tuition
Examples of numeracy skills test questions and their solutions.

Creative Openings
A variety of tips to passing the literacy skills test.

Numeracy Ready
Practice papers and tutorials for the numeracy skills test. The resources on this website are not free.


Patmore, M (2012) Achieving QTS: Passing the Numeracy Skills Test London; Sage

CGP Books (2013) Spelling, Punctuation & Grammar for GCSE, Complete Revision & Practice. (ISBN 978 1 84762 147 4)