We use cookies on this website – more information

Cookies are small text files which are downloaded to your computer or mobile device when you visit a website.


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.

Students applying for 2015 or 2016 entry

If you are applying for an Initial Teacher Training (ITT) programme, you will be required to have passed the National 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 and check out the Five Steps to Skills Test Success below.

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

Students who started before September 2013

If you started an ITT programme before September 2013, you will have to pass the skills tests in literacy and numeracy before you can be recommended for Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). You will be able to take the skills test at any point during your training.

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 and check out the Five Steps to Skills Test Success section below.

When should I take the tests?

Skills Test Pass Rate

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. 

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! 

We'll even congratulate you with a £10 iTunes gift card if you pass before 31 July 2015.

Please note: Test centres get booked up very quickly, so book your test dates well in advance.

Five steps to 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 2015, however before you dive into the test, take a look at these steps below.

1. Understand the rules and don’t panic!

Remember that all candidates are restricted to only three attempts at each test. If you fail on the third attempt at one or both tests, you will not be able to retake the tests for two years and therefore will not be able to register on an Initial Teacher Training programme until then.

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.

Apprehension about the tests is often due to a lack of understanding of the structure and content of the tests and the fact that in some areas you won’t have made use of those skills for some time. It is therefore vitally important you practice and prepare sufficiently.

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.

Working through the online sample tests will enable you to identify any shortfall in your numeracy and literacy skills and become familiar with the structure of the questions you will face in the actual tests.

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.

Now that you have had a go at some of the practice tests, you'll have a sense of whether  you are confident enough to go ahead with booking an actual test or whether you ought to prepare further.

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; please note that tests cannot be booked for the same day.

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. Many of the test centres administer other tests and the summer period can often be very busy with booking. Plan ahead to ensure you have time to practice and prepare, take the tests and allow for possible resits.

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.

Once the test starts, listen to each question carefully and note down important information is helpful to you. Make sure you answer all questions even if you are not confident about the answer; one correct answer can make the difference between a pass and a fail.

The Numeracy test lasts 48 minutes and the Literacy test 45 minutes.

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.

  • I failed the first attempt at one or both tests

    You will know from this first attempt how close you were from the pass mark (63%). You will also know which topics presented more of a problem to you and for which you need to do further preparation and practice. Check out again the support resources available online.

    Remember you can also book a place on one of our face to face Numeracy or Literacy support workshop held on our campuses. These are free and delivered by some of the university’s Maths and English Language specialist tutors.

  • I failed one or both tests for the second time

    Don't panic! You still have one more chance to pass the test. As well as undertaking further preparation and practice, before taking your final tests, we strongly recommend that you attend an on-campus support session at the University of Cumbria.

  • I failed one or both tests for the third time

    Don't be discouraged! There are still some options available.

    Undergraduate students

    If you applied for an undergraduate teacher training degree, you can get your first degree in another subject and apply to do a PGCE afterwards. By the time you finish your first degree, you will be able to take the skills test again.

    We have a range of courses centred around working with people available, such as BA (Hons) Youth and Community Work, BA (Hons) Working with Children and Families, BSc (Hons) Applied Psychology and BA (Hons) Social Work, after which you could progress onto a postgraduate route into teacher training.

    Explore our full range of undergraduate courses.

    Postgraduate students

    If you have applied for a PGCE, there are options available to you too, such as MA EducationMA Social Work or Graduate Diploma Youth and Community Work.

    You may also want to talk to one of our careers advisers who can give you impartial advice about your career options. Check our careers page or contact a careers adviser at careers@cumbria.ac.uk.


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).

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)

Skills test support workshops

Trainees Chatting in Professional Development ClassHave you attempted the tests and failed one or both of them?

The university is running a series of free skills test workshops in Carlisle, Lancaster and London. These intensive workshops give you the opportunity to refresh your literacy and numeracy knowledge across the range of topics covered in the professional skills tests.

New dates will be released soon, so please keep checking.

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

Please note: These sessions are open to University of Cumbria applicants and current students only. You will be asked to provide your University of Cumbria applicant or student reference number as part of the booking process.

If you have any queries about the workshops, please contact headstartedu@cumbria.ac.uk

LearnDirect Test Centres

You can sit your test at the University of Cumbria Lancaster campus.

Skills Test Centre, The Keep
University of Cumbria
Bowerham Road
Lancaster, LA1 3JD

Test centres in the north ►

Test centres in the north
LearnDirect Test CentreAddress
Skills Test Centre, The Keep
(on Lancaster campus)
University of Cumbria
Bowerham Road
Lancaster, LA1 3JD
PHX Training Ltd - Carlisle
(0.3 miles from Fusehill St)
3-5 Victoria Place, Carlisle, CA1 1ER
Phone: 01228 810 960
Email: shirley@phxtraining.co.uk
LearnDirect E-Assessment Newcastle 6th Floor Eldon House West, Regent Centre
Gosforth, Newcastle, NE3 3PF
Hope Foundation Middlesborough Hope House, 1 Grange Road
Middlesbrough, TS1 5BA
LearnDirect E-Assessment Edinburgh 160 Dundee Street
Edinburgh, EH11 1DQ
Community Training Portal Blackburn 2nd Floor Regent House, Regent Street
Blackburn, BB1 6BH
LearnDirect E-Assessment Liverpool Union Court, 4th Floor
Liverpool, L2 4SJ
Business Advice Direct Manchester Fourways House, 57 Hilton Street
Manchester, M1 2EJ
Potential4Skills Bradford 43 North Parade
Bradford, BD1 3JH

Test centres in London ►

Test centres in London
LearnDirect Test CentreAddress
LearnDirect Centres Stratford
(3.4 miles from East India Dock Road)
3 Tramway Avenue, Stratford, E15 4PN
Phone: 0208 534 2626
Email: enquiries.stratford@learndirect-centres.co.uk
LearnDirect Centres Ilford
(7.9 miles from East India Dock Road)
Ilford Chambers, 11 Chapel Road, Ilford, IG1 2AF
Phone: 0208 553 3626
Email: enquiries.ilford@learndirect-centres.co.uk