In the first of a series of extracts from the book, “Passing the Professional Skills Tests for Trainee Teachers and Getting into ITT”, we take a look at the literacy test. What is the test like and what does it cover? Find out here

As a trainee teacher, you have to pass a test of your own literacy if you are to be granted QTS. This applies to all teachers, whether you see yourselves as having an English specialism or not. This chapter is designed to help you to pass that test.

What is the test like?

The test is carried out online and has four sections: Spelling, Punctuation, Grammar, and Comprehension.

The spelling section of the test has to be attempted first. Once the spelling section is done, you must go on to the other sections and cannot return to spelling. There is no restriction on how you go about the other three sections. You can do them in any order. It may make more sense to do the grammar test last but that is up to you.

The pass mark for both literacy and numeracy skills tests is 60 per cent. In the literacy skills test, Spelling has a total of 10 marks, Punctuation 15, Grammar 8-12 and Comprehension 8-12. If, as is likely, the test has 48 questions, 29 correct answers can gain you a pass.


In this test, you are expected to use British English spelling but either -ize or -ise verb endings will be allowed.

You will need to wear headphones for this part of the test. You will see 10 sentences on the screen. One word has been deleted from each sentence. Where a word has been deleted, there appears an icon for Audio. When you reach that word in your reading, click the icon and listen through your headphones. You will hear the deleted word. Decide how you think it is spelled and type your decision directly into the box provided in the deletion space. If you need to have the word repeated, click the audio icon again. You can do this as many times as you want, even if you are only part of the way through spelling the word, or have finished and just want to check. You may also make several attempts to spell a word but you should keep in mind that the whole test allows only about 45 minutes.

A multiple choice spelling option is available for candidates with hearing impairment. As this is a book, not a computer, the practice questions follow the same rubric and format as the hearing impaired multiple-choice questions in the Literacy Skills Test:

Select the correctly spelled word from the box of alternatives. Write your answer in the space in the sentence.

1. Please provide the school bursar with all the ____________ from last term.

  • receipts
  • receits
  • reciepts
  • reciets

2. Teachers used their ____________ judgement when selecting topics for discussion.

  • professional
  • proffesional
  • profesional
  • professionel


Unlike spelling, there is a personal element in punctuation. By the time you have finished the chapter, you might have noticed that we use more semicolons than most people. Many writers never use semicolons at all. The point is that, if they are used, they should be used consistently.

The test is presented online. You will see a text that has some punctuation omitted. Your task is to identify where to place a punctuation mark, change a lower case letter to an upper case one or create a new paragraph. When you have decided what change to make, double click on the word you have chosen to edit – the word before the punctuation mark – and a dialogue box will appear. The word you clicked will appear in a box. Type in your punctuation and click OK. The box will disappear and the word and your punctuation choice will appear in the text but will now be blue. To add a new paragraph, double click on the word before the new paragraph is to begin, click on the letter ‘P’ which is in the dialogue box and click OK. You can change your answer if you think you should.

Sometimes, although it is possible to insert a punctuation mark, it may not be necessary or even appropriate. You have to decide. What is very important is that you create a text whose punctuation is wholly consistent. Remember to add up your changes so that they total 15 and also remember there are only 15 correct amendments. If you insert punctuation where it is correct but not necessary, it will not add to your score nor will any marks be deducted.

This is the sort of question you are likely to meet in the book. Your job is to make it appropriate and consistent in its use of punctuation:

although the literacy framework had been working well some staff wondered how to maintain the good work they had done in other areas of the curriculum could drama and pe be retained at the same level as previously


This test is multiple-choice. You will see a passage that is not quite complete; bits of language are missing. The decision about what should be inserted to complete the passage is a grammatical choice. You will be shown a range of possible bits of language to insert, only one of which would complete that part of the passage satisfactorily. The choice of that insertion will depend on your reading the whole passage carefully as well as the sentence that has to be completed. You insert your choice simply by dragging it into position.

Below is an example of a sentence that is incomplete. Four possible ways of completing the sentence are offered. Your task is to choose the one that fits grammatically:

The assembly was concerned with the series of playground incidents

Now choose one of the following to complete the sentence:

(a) that were making life difficult for the infants.
(b) that was making life difficult for the infants.
(c) that are making life difficult for the infants.
(d) that is making life difficult for the infants.


This test puts an emphasis on close, analytical reading. You will need to read the passage with attention to the main ideas, with an awareness of its arguments and, sometimes, with an idea of how it affects your existing ideas. You might need to make judgements about the text and to organise and reorganise its content. The comprehension test uses a range of multiple choice style questions. You will be expected to drag and drop selected options in order to:

  • match statements to categories
  • complete a list
  • sequence information
  • identify points
  • match text to summaries
  • identify meaning of words/phrases
  • evaluate statements
  • select headings, and
  • identify readership.

At its simplest, the test might ask you to identify the meaning of words and phrases. Remember that no one test will test every aspect of every one of the four sections. In the following passage, for example, you are asked to say who you think is the intended audience for the text:

You will have seen from the local press, where results are published from every school in the Authority, that this school has had a consistently high standard of performance in the annual SATs over several years. This fine record is expected to continue for some years, at least. A consequence of this success is that the school is oversubscribed each year and, regretfully, it is not always possible to offer a place to every child whose parents apply to us.

How to prepare for the literacy skills test

Read more on passing the skills tests

How to pass the QTS Numeracy Skills Test


This article is an excerpt from Passing the Professional Skills Tests for Trainee Teachers and Getting into ITT by Nina Weiss, Bruce Bond, Mark Patmore and Jim Johnson. Published by SAGE and Learning Matters and available from Amazon:

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