How to Become a Teacher

  • Comprehensive course, breaking down the entire process of becoming a teacher;
  • Sample teacher interview questions & answers;
  • QTS mock tests;
  • Initial Teacher Training (ITT);
  • The best training routes for you;
  • The easiest way to becoming a UK teacher.
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The Role of a teacher

The role of teachers has changed considerably in recent years, and has become much more varied and challenging. Far from the disciplinarian figures of the past, teachers are now an inspiration and role model to the younger generation. With more and more skill expectations being placed on teachers; the requirements to join the profession are harder than ever before.

Knowing your subject alone doesn’t make you a teacher. Teachers need to have a rare combination of attributes, which make them ideal for the role. So, what qualifications do you need to become a teacher? And how do you actually become one? In our course, we will answer all of your questions. Using our step-by-step guide, you can begin your teaching career early, and progress up the teaching ladder. And that’s not all! We won’t just be helping you to become a teacher, but we’ll also show you how to become a GREAT teacher. Our course is packed full of insider tips on everything from lesson planning to keeping discipline in the classroom.


In order to work as a teacher, you will need to have a keen grasp of the teacher core competencies. The core competencies refer to a set of behavioural characteristics, which are expected of a teacher in the classroom. Before you start applying for jobs, it’s important to assess yourself against these qualities. This will help you to decide whether you are prepared for the commitment that teaching involves.

Relationship management. Teaching isn’t just about adhering to curriculum material, it’s about resolving conflict in the classroom and encouraging pupils to get along and grow as people. Particularly when you are teaching younger students, you are teaching them personal skills which will be essential later in life. If you’ve been to school, you’ll probably be aware of the fact that conflict is inevitable in the classroom. Adolescents or teenagers are under huge amounts of pressure and this generates tension. Not everyone gets along. You must be able to prevent situations like this from getting out of hand, and act as a calm and unbiased support figure.

Professionalism. Teachers are there to provide an example for their pupils, and therefore they must be able to look up to you. This means that your behaviour both inside and out of the classroom needs to be exemplary. You must be able to act with integrity, and show a good level of respect to everyone that you meet. As a teacher, an important part of your role is in practicing fairness and equality; and showing students the right way to behave.

Listening. Listening is absolutely essential for teachers. Part of the difficulty of teaching is that there are just so many different voices in the classroom. It’s hard to know who to listen to and at what moments. Even one-to-ones can be challenging, because children in particular don’t always make clear exactly what they are trying to say. This is why you need to be able to listen to what your pupils are saying. Remember that they will learn from your responses.



You are teaching a class of Year 4 pupils. There are 30 pupils in the class. The subject being taught is French. In the middle of the lesson, one of the students puts their hand up.

Mary-Anne: ‘Miss, my Daddy said that we don’t need to learn the French language because French people are stupid. Even though I know that cheval means horse, and vache means cow, and mouton means sheep…I don’t live on a farm.’

How would you respond to this?


Your answer should have been somewhere along the lines of:

I would praise Mary-Anne for her excellent vocabulary, but use this as an opportunity to explain how and why discrimination is wrong. French people are not stupid, and I would make sure this is clear to her and the rest of the class. We learn languages in order to remove stereotypes, not encourage them.

Remember that listening isn’t just about listening to what has been said. Listening is about understanding beyond what has been said. Particularly when children are speaking, they often talk about things that they might not have a complete understanding of, and therefore it is important to respond to them in a way that is positive and allows the subject to be discussed professionally and sensitively.

Start your teaching career today by gaining an insight into the different routes into teaching, as well as learning the qualities and requirements!


Different routes into teaching


The vast majority of postgrad teacher training applications in England are made through UCAS Teacher Training. This is a web based application portal, which allows you to connect with course and training providers. The application form that you submit will allow you to connect with:

  • PGCE university or college course providers;
  • SCITT training providers;
  • School Direct, both salaried and unsalaried.

Application for training courses, which is known as ‘Apply 1’, opens on the 27th October, and allows candidates to apply for training programmes if and when they open. The majority of courses are done on a first come, first served basis. Therefore, you should apply as soon as possible in order to improve your chances of success.

During Apply 1, you can apply for up to 3 different training providers. The next stage is ‘Apply 2’. This opens on the 9th November, and is for candidates who have not received any offers from the Apply 1 phase. Applications made during Apply 2 must be made one at a time, but candidates can keep applying until they are offered a place on a course.

Candidates who are applying will need to have 2 referees, and in the majority of cases will need to demonstrate that they have passed the Professional Skills Test.


All candidates wishing to obtain QTS will need to pass the Professional Skills Tests in Numeracy and Literacy. As a teacher, you will need to demonstrate a high level of numeracy and literary in all areas of work. This set of standards applies to ALL teachers, not just those who teach subjects which include numerical ability, such as mathematics. It is vital that you are fully prepared for the tests, and the first stage in your preparation is to gain an understanding of what is involved during the tests.

The Professional Skills Tests are a pass or fail, with a minimum competence test standard which is based on a range of practical skills deemed important for a teacher’s general professional practice. The Teaching Agency will hold a number of test forms in each subject area and you will be assigned a test paper, picked at random, when you enter the test. Because the test paper is picked at random, there is no way of determining the type of questions you will be asked. Therefore, it is vital that you prepare for every eventuality and type of question.

The test papers and questions that are held by the Teaching Agency are changed and renewed each year. All tests are piloted each year by the Teaching Agency, to ensure they are relevant to the role and of a standard that is comparable to the teaching role you will be expected to undertake. The tests themselves are taken in a secure test centre, on a computer, unless special arrangements have been granted for an alternative format. Now, let’s look at each section of the test individually:

Professional Skills Numeracy Test

The QTS numeracy test is a computer based assessment, which covers 3 separate areas: mental arithmetic, interpreting and using written data, and solving written arithmetic problems. You will only have a total of 48 minutes to complete the test, unless you have specifically requested special arrangements to be made.

Audio (mental arithmetic) questions

The first part of the test is a mental arithmetic section. This comprises of an audio test, which you listen to through provided headphones. This area of the test will assess your competence in the following key areas:

• Time;

• Fractions;

• Percentages;

• Measurements;

• Conversions.

During this section, each of the questions are individually timed and you are not allowed to use a calculator.

Written numeracy questions

During this part of the numeracy skills test you will need to answer computer-based questions. You are permitted to use a calculator during this test but not your own. An on-screen calculator will be provided. The test questions will assess your ability to interpret and use written data in the following key areas:

• Identifying trends correctly;

• Making comparisons in order to draw conclusions;

• Interpreting information accurately.

You will also be tested on your ability to solve written arithmetic problems, which are set in a variety of situations and will include:

• Time;

• Money;

• Proportion and ratio;

• Percentages, fractions and decimals;

• Measurements (e.g. distance, area);

• Conversions (e.g. from one currency to another, from fractions to decimals or percentages);

• Averages (including mean, median, mode and range where relevant);

• Using simple formulae.

The Professional Skills Literacy Test

The QTS literacy test is a computer based assessment, which covers 4 different sections: spelling, punctuation, grammar and comprehension. You will take the spelling test first, before moving onto the other 3 sections. These sections can be completed in any order, however you cannot return back to the spelling section once it has been completed. The sections will be scored as follows:

• 10 marks for Spelling;

• 15 marks for Punctuation;

• 12 marks for Grammar;

• 12 marks for Comprehension.

While this can differ between years, it is estimated that you will need a minimum of 60% in order to pass this test. The sections of the test are as follows:


During this exercise, you will be required to wear headphones. There will be 10 sentences on the screen, with one word deleted from each sentence. You’ll need

to click on the deleted section to listen to the deleted word, before typing it into the space. You will be judged on the accuracy of your spelling.


This is an online test, although you won’t be required to wear any headphones on this assessment. You will be given a passage or text with missing punctuation. You’ll need to identify where to place a punctuation mark, where lower case letters should be turned to upper case and where a new paragraph should start. You won’t be penalised for inserting correct punctuation where it is not necessary, but you won’t be rewarded either.


This is a multiple-choice assessment. You will be given a passage that is incomplete, with different bits of language missing. You will be required to make a grammatical decision about which piece of language (from the options given) should be inserted. You’ll need to read the whole passage carefully, before making your choice.


This test requires you to read and analyse a passage, and then answer multiple choice questions. You will need to read the passage carefully, paying attention to the ideas expressed in the passage, the arguments and the tone of the speaker. You will need to make astute assumptions or judgements based on the content, and perform tasks such as:

• Identifying the meaning of words;

• Evaluating statements;

• Matching text with answer options;

• Identifying motivations.



The PGCE is the best route available if you are someone who already has a degree in the subject that you want to teach. Possibly the strongest element of the PGCE is that it allows prospective teachers to conduct in-depth study of the theory behind learning and teaching, whilst still giving them a substantial amount of time actually teaching in schools, via placements. Once you’ve completed the PGCE, you will graduate with QTS, and will be qualified to teach in state schools within England and Wales.

The majority of PGCE courses start in early September, and take around 9 full-time months to complete (so about the standard length of 1 university year). In most cases, you’ll be teaching a subject which links extremely closely with the subject that you did at degree level. However, it is possible to teach in a subject which doesn’t link closely with this. If this is the case, you might be asked to take part in a subject knowledge enhancement course.

This will be done before the PGCE actually starts, and therefore the route will take longer to complete. The courses generally run for between 2-36 weeks. You might also consider a subject knowledge enhancement course even if you don’t feel it would be absolutely necessary. These act as a refresher, and will ultimately make your application much stronger. The relationship between your degree and the PGCE will depend upon the type of PGCE that you are taking.

If you are training to be a secondary school teacher, then you will need to demonstrate that at least 50% of your degree is relevant to the subject you want to teach (which has to be a part of the National Curriculum). On the other hand, primary school teachers will need to demonstrate a basic level/knowledge of all subjects; and your degree doesn’t have to be a National Curriculum subject.


In order to apply for a place on a PGCE, you will generally have to use UCAS Teacher Training. However, there are rare exceptions to this rule, where the universities and course providers will allow you to apply to them directly.

In most cases, the course providers use UCAS Teacher Training as a simple way of processing the sheer volume of applications that they are receiving. Let’s look at some reasons for why you should pick the PGCE over any other route:

Support Levels. While the PGCE (full-time) only lasts for 1 year, one of the most popular elements of this programme is that it gives candidates a chance to prepare via classes and theory lessons; before being thrown into the terrifying classroom environment. Unlike programmes such as Teach First, where candidates are thrown straight into the deep end, the PGCE takes a slower and more patient approach to developing good teachers. Furthermore, you will be in the same boat as many people from your course; meaning that you’ll have the opportunity to share ideas and support one another.

Freedom of choice. Another clear benefit to the PGCE compared to other options, is that you can (pretty much) choose the area/location in which you wish to teach.

Although you might not necessarily gain a placement in the exact school that you want, and this will depend on vacancies/availability, you are extremely likely to gain a placement that is at the very least in your county. This in contrast to other programmes, where you can theoretically be sent to anywhere in the country.

Experience. The PGCE will provide you with plenty of experience in the classroom environment. As mentioned, you will take part in at least 24 weeks of placement in schools during the course. Combined with the theory side of the programme, this means that you are guaranteed time to get yourself familiar with the classroom environment.

Learning from experts. The theory-based element of the PGCE is one of the aspects that makes it so appealing to post-graduates. When learning on the PGCE, you’ll be taught by professionals in the field, who have vast experience of teaching. The wisdom that these lecturers can impart will be extremely valuable. As a newcomer to the teaching profession, you’ll learn to appreciate any tips or tricks that you can get your hands on, for dealing with your classes in the most efficient and professional way.


Teach First is a charity-based training route that has really picked up in popularity over the last few years.

Teach First select top graduate candidates and then train them in conjunction with a group of different universities. Candidates will then be placed in challenging schools around the UK, to work for a period of at least 2 years. To add to the challenge, you’ll only be teaching in schools where more than half of the pupils come from the poorest 30% of families in the country.

The aim of Teach First is not just to train teachers to educate, but to train them to change lives. Since you will be working with low-income or struggling students, it will be your job to motivate them, help them believe in themselves and build a better future.

When working with Teach First, you will take 6 weeks of intensive training, before you begin teaching in one of the allocated partner schools. At the same time, you will be completing the Teach First Leadership Development Programme. We will cover this programme in extensive detail, in the next section.

Teach First has fantastic success results, with the large majority of candidates who complete the programme going on to teach. In some cases, Teach First doesn’t just create teachers; it creates charity leaders, school governors and educational authorities. The aim of Teach First is to show candidates that education is a cause worth fighting for, and that your income should not prevent you from obtaining first rate teaching. It is this ethos which drives the course runners and applicants.

Teach First Leadership Development Programme

One of the most appealing aspects about Teach First is the Leadership Development Programme. This is a 2 year programme, which runs alongside your teacher training to help you learn business and personal skills, provide you with mentoring and gives you the chance to network and receive support from Teach First partners and members.

The aim of the programme is to teach you how to become an effective leader as well as a successful teacher. You will pick up skills which are extremely important in the classroom environment, such as adapting to difficult scenarios and learning what your biggest strengths and weaknesses are. You’ll come to appreciate the value of caring about your students, and champion the Teach First cause, eliminating educational inequality.


The Assessment Only route allows experienced teachers who don’t yet have QTS, to demonstrate that they meet the QTS standards, without them needing to take part in any further training. By the end of this route, you will have proved that you meet the Teachers’ Standards, laid out by the National College for Teaching and Leadership.

In order to pass, you will need to provide detailed evidence that confirms you meet these standards. In order to do this, you will be assessed by an AO provider in your current place of work, and you’ll also need to have passed the Professional Skills Test before being accepted. The assessors will judge you based on the lessons that they observe, and will measure your performance in these lessons against the teacher core competencies and expectations.

What are the Benefits?

There are a number of benefits to Assessment Only which separate it from other training routes.

Firstly, there is the timescale. As you might have guessed, the Assessment Only route is one of the quickest (if not the quickest) available, since you won’t have to go through a period of extensive training. You’ll already have completed the required training, through working in a school, so you will essentially skip this part of the process. The extensiveness of the assessment process will come down to the location in which you are teaching, and your own qualities as an educator. This all means that you will become a qualified teacher in no time at all!

Secondly, since you will already be earning a wage, this will mean you can move up the teacher pay scale once you’ve passed the assessment stage. Again, this will depend largely on the institution in which you are teaching. You’ll also be able to work in maintained/state schools.

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How to Become a Teacher: Contents

  • A comprehensive overview of 7 different training routes, complete with module guides and detailed application advice.
  • Top tips on how to ACE the teacher interview, including lesson planning advice and sample responses to questions!
  • A breakdown of the teacher core competencies, to give you the edge over your competitors!
  • Top teaching tips, spread out across the guide, to help you become a more capable teacher!
  • Stunning modules, taking you on a journey from trainee, to fully qualified teacher.



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