What is the QTS Literacy Skills Test?
The QTS (Qualified Teacher Status) Literacy Skills Test is a requirement if you wish to work in teaching in the UK, at any level. Good literacy skills are essential for effective teaching and this is why so much emphasis is placed on completion of the literacy skills test.
The test is not a measure of your ability to teach. It is an assessment of whether your reading and writing skills are sufficient to work in a teaching role.
The test takes approximately 45 minutes to complete and is usually taken on a computer. The first attempt at the test is free, but any subsequent re-takes incur a fee.
Where Will You Sit the Test?
Sections of the QTS Literacy Skills Test
Within the test, there are four sections that you will have to complete, as detailed below. To pass the test, you will have to achieve 60% at least. This means that you will need to secure 29 marks to pass.
The first section evaluates your ability to formulate sentences and select the correct spelling. A series of sentences will be delivered in audio format via headphones, while the text appears on screen. Each of the sentences will have a different word missing. A sample sentence would be:
“The manager determined that the candidates were [ ] dressed for an interview.”
Candidates are required to select the most suitable word (and spelling) that completes the sentence.
When completing the spelling section of the literacy test, you will be expected to apply British English spelling conventions. So prefer favour to favor, and colour to color. When it comes to -ise or -ize spellings, it is acceptable to use either. So organise and organize would both be fine, for example.
There are 10 marks available for this section.
Once you have completed the spelling section of the test, you cannot return to it. Therefore make sure that you complete the test as accurately as you can.
Candidates can sit the remaining three tests in any order. We recommend you start with the sections that you find the easiest. This way you will pick up easy marks early on, and should gain confidence as you go.
The next section assesses your punctuation skills. You’ll be presented with a paragraph of text and you must ensure that the punctuation is accurate. The key to success in this section is a good understanding of basic grammar - and particularly punctuation marks such as colons, semi-colons and apostrophes.
A sample paragraph could be something like this:
“It was determined that the role of the board of governors was to ensure that school leadership was monitored by being an advocate in school meetings this was not too popular with teaching staff they felt that the governors had too much power yet the leadership team agreed with the decision“
With the corrected version reading as follows:
“It was determined that the role of the board of governors was to ensure that school leadership was monitored, by being an advocate in school meetings. This was not too popular with teaching staff: they felt that the governors had too much power, yet the leadership team agreed with the decision.“
Note that in the actual test there will be 15 punctuation errors to identify. Candidates will not be penalized for adding extra punctuation that is perhaps unnecessary (though you won’t receive any additional marks for doing so either). Just make sure that the punctuation that you are adding is appropriate and consistent.
Here you will be asked to identify poor grammar. You will be presented with a paragraph with sections missing, and you will be asked to choose from a range of options to complete the paragraph.
Usually, the question will be multiple choice with four options to choose from. One of the four options is the right sentence and you have to identify the correct one. As a result, it’s important that you can distinguish between a sentence that makes grammatical sense and one that does not.
An example question:
The sports day at the school was postponed because:
- A large proportion of the teaching staff was on strike
- A large proportion of the teaching staff were on strike
- A large proportion of the teaching staff is on strike
- A large proportion of the teaching staff are on strike
The correct answer is the first sentence (past tense rather than present tense is accurate, and singular for proportion).
When answering these questions, take note of the tense within the paragraph, identifying whether the initial sentence is written in the past, present or future tense. Make sure that your chosen sentence fits in with the original sentence and is consistent.
Depending on the type of test that you take, there will be between 10 and 12 marks available.
The last of the four tests is comprehension. During this assessment you will be evaluated on the way you read, understand and interpret written information.
As you read, keep in mind the main ideas in the text because you may be asked to summarise them in the questions. You will also need to be able to separate fact from opinion and rewrite the passage in your own words.
Sometimes with a comprehension test, you may be required to make a logical deduction. A deduction is simply something that you conclude from the information that you have been given.
The following paragraph is an example piece of text representative of what you may find when you sit the comprehension element of the test. In the real test, the passage will be much longer, typically between 3 and 4 paragraphs.
“The senior team of teaching staff decided that uniform rules needed to be revised and stricter regulations should be implemented with immediate effect. These rules would need to be fully implemented before 20th September, shortly after the start of the new school year. These new rules would be in place prior to the Ofsted inspection and could result in an improved rating by the investigators.
“The school was prepared to reconsider if the rules were deemed to be too strict on students by both parents and teachers. However, this rule would not be reversed until after the October half term when the students returned in early November. “
Tips For Preparation and Practice
As with any skills test, there are certain techniques and practices that you can implement to increase your chances of success. We recommend the following for the QTS Literacy Skills Tests:
- Read regularly to improve your literacy skills, particularly non-fiction. This can include online news articles and newspapers as well as informative books and guides, all of which will improve the way in which you read and understand written information.
- As the tests are usually completed on a computer, fine-tune your typing skills so you can type quickly and accurately during the test.
- Review your skills in grammar and punctuation. Read websites and resource pages, watch videos and take some online tests that evaluate your skills. They will soon identify any weak areas that you may need to focus on.
- Sit practice tests. Websites such as JobTestPrep offer literacy skills test practice packages, so make use of them before you take the real test.
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