If you’re lucky enough to get a place on a PGCE course here are a few tips from former PGCE students to help you prepare for teacher training.

We’ve trawled the TES Student Teacher  and NQT forums to bring you invaluable tips on how to prepare for your PGCE year from those who have already been there and done that.

Get ready for the skills tests

The DfE has recently made changes to the Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) skills tests. The good news is that they’ve got rid of the ICT test; the bad news is they’ve introduced pre-entry skills tests. This means that anybody applying for an initial teacher training course that starts after July 1 2013 will have to pass the skills tests before starting the course. The first pre-entry test appointments will be available from September 1 2012.

It pays to make sure you’re well prepared as there is now a limit of two resits per subject and you will be charged for resits  Do your homework by taking the practice tests.
DfE QTS practice tests for numeracy
DfE QTS practice tests for literacy

Read 'How to pass the QTS Numeracy Skills Test'
Read 'How to pass the QTS Literacy Skills Test'
Read more on the changes to the QTS skills tests

Go through your reading list and pre-course material

Before you start your PGCE course you should have been sent some pre-course material and a reading list from your training provider. Go through this carefully.

GTP student Deborahzebra recommends that you make ‘active notes’ on your reading; “Review each relevant chapter; ie how you could potentially apply the theory that is outlined, are there any positives or negatives to that technique, the three main things you learnt from the chapter. A page of A4 per chapter would probably be about right and reference the top of each notes page (so you know where it came from and can just drop it into the reference list of an essay). You'll then have a concise set of notes to help you  when it comes to writing essays.”

There are a few books that trainee teachers regularly mention as good pre-course reading material. The Lazy Teacher's Handbook by Jim Smith is always popular; Eva_Smith says,  “it's jam-packed with teaching ideas and suggestions to try out and focuses of how to get the kids doing the work, not you.” Another good book for helping with behaviour problems is Sue Cowley’s Getting the Buggers to Behave. 

You should also stay abreast of the key issues in education in preparation for your course. There’s no no better way to do this than by reading the TES magazine every week. You can buy the mag on the newsstand every Friday or 

save a bit of money and take advantage of our subscription offer where you get two years for the price of one.

Get practical school experience

But reading will only get you so far and there’s no substitute for practical hands on experience. So if you can get into schools to watch teachers in action or to help out as a volunteer then this will be hugely helpful, and it looks good on your CV.

Lil_jo wishes she’d spent more time in schools before stating her PGCE: “If I were to do anything differently before my PGCE I would get lots more experience in schools before starting.  So if you have some spare time get into schools and watch experienced teachers. Find out what teaching strategies they use, how they deal with behaviour, how they manage transitions, how they plan, and assess. “

Joeyb31 also wishes he’d spent more time in schools: “I had a year off before I started this year and wish I had spent some more time in schools. I always saw experience as just a way to get on the course which was silly, and think I would have benefitted from more experience across the age range.” 

Swot up on your subject knowledge

Now is the time to plug any knowledge gaps you might have in your subject area. Start by researching the National Curriculum to find out what’s covered and how much you know on these topics. Another good tip is to get hold of A-level and GCSE textbooks and past exam papers and work your way through these.

Your subject association can also be a good source of information. The Council for Subject Associations is a good starting point.

Hannie86 is a secondary English PGCE student and she found the best prep was to read the National Curriculum texts: “I just kept reading texts - fiction, non-fiction, poetry, classic lit texts, contemporary, teenage fiction etc as knowing them well is what it all comes down to when you're an English teacher”

Collect online resources now

While you’ve got a bit of time on your hands why not start to build up a good collection of online resources for your subject.  Start compiling a list of your favourite websites for games, resources and any other relevant material.

Thesquidgemy recommends bookmarking all your favourite sites:Having them on Google bookmarks meant I could access them at home, school or uni, which was very useful”. Alternatively get yourself a few USB sticks and start to store your favourite resources on these.

To find great resources start off with the TES Resources website which has more than 300,000 free teaching resources developed by teachers for teachers.

Get organised

It’s time to get ready with the stationery. Pmac25 advises, sort out a particular place in your house which is just for school and uni 'stuff'. Ideally, get some storage system like a filing cabinet. You don't want to be scratching around for stuff when you're on placement as you won't have time. “

While SM_BSc recommends you get an academic planner with enough room per day to write what lessons you have.

Of course you can do all of this electronically too and there’s a handy article on getting organised for the new school year which will help.

Put aside a bit of cash for a rainy day

Many of the trainees on the forums talk about the importance of having some money put aside to get you through your PGCE year. You can guarantee that there will be lots of unexpected expenses and you won’t have time to pick up a part-time job to pay for them all.

Alliandra lists just some of the expenses you’re likely to encounter: “There will be printing/photocopying expenses, interview clothes, car repair bills, and various other daft bits like secret Santas, nights out, staff parties. It’s normal life stuff but money drains so fast and I'm not used to not earning!“

Get yourself into good shape

It might sound a bit extreme, but the PGCE year can take its toll on your health so it’s worth getting those medical and dental check-ups done before you start the course.

athrawes gymraeg explains: *Get into good shape healthwise - dental appointment, opticians etc as it’s going to be hard to find time to fit them in later on. Get a good haircut and fill the medicine cabinet ready for when you catch something nasty (at least one of the little cherubs will infect you with something!)”

The last word

I’ll leave the last word to Bekabeeck: “So to prepare for a PGCE: sleep, see your friends (you won't see them again for a year), have a good time with family/boyfriend etc. Read any good books you want to. Sort out your wardrobe, get an easy care hairstyle. Stock your freezer, and maybe buy a slow cooker.”

Further reading

Read these conversations from the TES Student Teacher and NQT forums on how to prepare yourself for your PGCE.

Advice on preparing for an Early Years PGCE

Secondary geography PGCE

PGCE English

More on the English PGCE

Primary French PGCE

Primary PGCE

Secondary English PGCE

Preparing for history PGCE

PGCE Maths

General advice on preparing for the PGCE 


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