Passing the QTS Literacy Skills Test: Overview and Practice

  Teacher who has passed the QTS Literacy Skills Test with students While pursuing your dream of becoming a teacher, you will have to pass the QTS literacy skills test. The test assesses your understanding of literacy areas such as spelling and grammar. If you want to teach in the UK, you need to pass the literacy test. Here, we will outline what the test is, followed by more detail on what you will be tested on.

What is the QTS Literacy Skills Test?

The first thing to remember is that none of the QTS skills tests are assessing your teaching ability, and this applies to the literacy test as well. Instead, you will be tested on the general literacy skills required to teach at an acceptable level. It takes around 45 minutes to complete, is sat via a computer (rather than pen and paper) and your first attempt is free of charge. Since you’ll need to pay for subsequent attempts, passing on your first try is quite important! The test can be taken at Learndirect centres which are found all over the country. While it only takes 90 minutes to complete, preparation time can take a lot longer. For this reason, we’ve compiled an outline of each section as well as some helpful tips for passing the literacy test.

What am I being tested on?

The literacy skills test consists of four sections, one for each of the following: spelling, punctuation, grammar and comprehension. Different sections have a higher or lower number of available marks, so you should prepare to spend slightly longer on some sections than you do on others.

QTS Literacy Skills Test – Spelling

This first test assesses your ability to spell words to complete a sentence. You will be provided with headphones and ten sentences will appear on-screen, each with a single word missing. In the missing word’s place there will be an audio icon which you can click when ready to have the word play through the headphones. A sentence may appear like this:             The head teacher determined that the students were ________ dressed for school. The audio icon will appear and you must click it to hear the missing word. After hearing the word, type the correct spelling into the box where the word is missing from. You can press the icon to repeat the word if you need to hear the word again. NOTE: Once you have completed the spelling section of the literacy test, you cannot return to it. Therefore, check your answers thoroughly before finishing the section. If you have impaired hearing, a multiple choice test is available. Questions will appear as follows:             The head teacher determined that the students were ________ dressed for school.
  • appropriately
  • approprietly
  • appropriatly
  • appropreetly

Spelling – Tips and Notes

  • In this section, you will be expected to answer using British English spelling conventions. For example, “colour” would be correct (because it’s British English) while “color” would be considered incorrect (because it’s American English).
  • However, use of the American English –ize suffix is acceptable (e.g. “realize”). You can use this or the British English –ise suffix (e.g. “realise”). Both will do fine.
  • If you’re struggling with the spellings, try and break the words down into their syllables. For example:
Appropriately – App-ro-priate-ly This may help with some of the longer words that you may face.
  • A total of 10 marks are available for this section.
After the section on spelling is finished, you will not be able to return to it. However, the following three sections can be attempted in any order. We strongly recommend that you start with the section(s) you find easiest in order to secure as many marks as possible early on. You can save the toughest section for last.

QTS Literacy Skills Test – Punctuation

In this section, you will be asked to punctuate a piece of writing. In other words, you will be presented with a paragraph and then must ensure that the punctuation is correct. In order to succeed in this section, you will need a good understanding of basic punctuation, as well as punctuation marks such as apostrophes, colons and semi-colons. Here is an example of the kind of question you may be asked: it had been decided that the board of governers job was to keep the school leadership in check acting as a devils advocate in meetings this was not popular with the teachers they felt that too much power had been handed to the governers but the leadership team agreed nonetheless The above passage has 8 missing punctuation marks, but in the real test there will be 15. You will not be penalised for adding punctuation which isn’t incorrect but is also unnecessary, but you won’t receive any more marks for them, either. Just ensure that the punctuation is consistent and appropriate.

Punctuation – Tips and Notes

  • This section has a total of 15 marks available, making it an extremely valuable part of the test. Make sure you are prepared for it.
A strong understanding of punctuation is important for passing the QTS Literacy Skills Test

QTS Literacy Skills Test – Grammar

In the grammar section, you will be required to identify poor grammar. You will be given a passage with parts missing, and then will have to pick from a selection of answers to fill the space. From the multiple choice selection, only one answer will match the sentence in a way which is grammatically correct. Therefore, you must be able to distinguish between sentences which make grammatical sense and those which don’t. A question in the grammar section of the test could appear as follows: Parents evening was postponed because
  • a large proportion of the staff was on strike.
  • a large proportion of the staff were on strike.
  • a large proportion of the staff is on strike.
  • a large proportion of the staff are on strike.

Grammar – Tips and Notes

  • Look out for the use of tense in these passages (i.e. past, present, future) and make sure that they are consistent.
  • Depending on which kind of test you take, the grammar section will have between 10 and 12 marks available.
The QTS Literacy Skills Test requires good grammar skills

QTS Literacy Skills Test – Comprehension

In this section, you will need to demonstrate your ability to read, understand and interpret a passage of text. Keep an eye out for the main points of the passage since you may need to provide a summary of them. You’ll also need to be able to distinguish fact from opinion, and be prepared to summarise the passage in your own words. In addition, you might need to make a logical deduction. A deduction is simply a conclusion made from information presented. Here’s an example:
  1. All squares have four sides.
  2. This object is a square.
  3. (Deduction) Therefore, this object has four sides.
Here is an example of a passage you may face in the comprehension section of the literacy test. The passage in the real test will be significantly longer (3-4 large paragraphs), but this should give you an idea of what to expect: It was decided by the leadership team that stricter uniform rules would need to come into immediate effect. These amendments would need to be in place prior to the 18th October in order to increase the standard of discipline. This would also mean that the new rules were in place for the Ofsted inspection, which could improve the results of their report. However, the school was prepared to concede if the stricter rules were deemed too harsh on the students by parents and teachers. However, reversal of this rule would not take place until the first day back after the October term break on the 2nd November.

Comprehension – Tips and Notes

  • The comprehension section usually involves multiple choice answers.
  • Pay attention to key points and key words.
The comprehension section of QTS test assesses your knowledge of the passage given

Breakdown of Marks

The marks available in the QTS literacy skills test are broken down as follows:
  • Spelling – 10 marks
  • Punctuation – 15 marks
  • Grammar – 10-12 marks
  • Comprehension – 10-12 marks

Final Tips and Conclusion

  • Reading regularly will help your literacy skills improve. In particular, reading non-fiction (such as newspaper and online news articles) will help your comprehension skills.
  • Since the test is taken at a computer, make sure to brush up on your typing skills. Make sure you avoid those typos!
  • The pass mark for the QTS literacy skills test is 60%. This means you need to get at least 29 marks in total in order to pass.
You should now have a general idea of what to expect from the QTS literacy skills test, as well as some tips on how to pass it. You can find general information about booking the test here.