For someone who has feared maths for almost the entirety of their life , the QTS numeracy skills test required in order to teach/train to be a teacher, was a complete nightmare for me.
For anyone who wonders why this is, I will explain to the best of my ability (because English was definitely my preferred subject).
The test is made up of 2 sections and is scored out of 28. You have to get 18 correct in order to pass and that means 64% of your answers need to be correct. The first section of the test (or should I say the worst thing I’ve ever experienced) is out of 12 and is based around mental arithmetic, whereby a question is read out (it’s not displayed on the screen, only the key information is E.G £24 and 25%) twice and then the individual has 18 seconds in which to type the answer once it has been read out for a second time. And as if the time pressure wasn’t enough, when the time ends, the answer box disappears and you never see it again. So if you didn’t write your answer down, there’s no going back (it feels as dramatic as it sounds). Section B is the written data section whereby questions are asked within the context of school procedure, I.E statistical analysis of graphs, ETC. This section is out of 16 and is more flexible in terms of time (40 mins, I think) and you can go back to questions that you find difficult or need to check, ETC – essentially one of the only generous aspects of the test.
Basically… total nightmare. To really understand, you would have to do one (I would’ve put in a link for you to do yourself, but unless you register you don’t have access to the department of education provided ones) and believe me, even getting through one without crying was the first obstacle I had to over come.
BUT there is a way. I won’t lie, I kinda feel that if I can do it – someone who wasn’t even expected to get a level 3 in maths in year 6 (and was constantly told how awful I was at it) and a B at GCSE (this was a miracle in itself and in no way reflected my mathematical capability) – anyone can do it. It’s a ridiculously demoralising venture, attempting to pass this test, as it really can make you feel awful and hopeless before it makes you feel even the tiniest bit optimistic. But you can do it, you really can.
Here are the 3 things I did, as a complete math-o-phobe that contributed to me passing the test:
At first, practising the tests was completely out of the question as I was just too scared to accept and face what I would eventually have to do. But then, when I had been coerced by my Dad into eventually booking the test – which was on the 21st April, 2015 – I was kind of forced into practising because of how scared I actually was. I won’t lie, I totally failed it and got about 13 (or less) out of 28 right but actually getting through an entire one felt like an achievement in itself. So after this, I kind of knew I needed to start practising because I wasn’t really anywhere near the pass mark, and I knew that starting early would allow me to de-stress myself a little nearer the time. (I started 2 months before – yeah I was that scared – I didn’t even start revising that early for my A-Levels.) The resources on the QTS skills test website helped a little, with their ‘areas of numeracy’ list (x) allowing me to see all that I could possibly be asked about, yet due to there only being 4 practise tests available, I wasn’t too sure where to go next after I had completed those. So naturally, as a member of the internet generation, I googled and googled and eventually found this . Numeracy Ready, a site designed to help people practise for this test, provides 20 QTS style test papers for only £24.99. (although, admittedly, it was £20 or £19.99 when I did it, which is a bit of a bummer) Now, although I’d love to attribute my passing to my own ability, I do believe that this website and it’s resources were the main reason for me passing the test due to how much practise they allowed me to do. Not only are the arithmetic sections actually verbal – but keep in mind that you should have paper handy because you’ll need to write the answers down, something you’ll have to be hard on yourself with because in the test you won’t be able to go back to questions as you won’t be writing them down (although, they do provide printable answer sheets on the site which allows you to note down both whether you answered in time and if you answered correctly) – but they’re also realistic. I learnt how to answer many forms of questions from Numeracy Ready that came up in my test and had I not gone through with this site and had the step by step guidance that the improvement packs provided, I think I would’ve struggled. So practise, practise, practise. Use the site, pay £24.99 because it’s SO worth it, honestly. When the time got closer to my test, I did a practise test every day on the 20 days leading up to the date and this meant I was constantly using my -newly acquired – skills and putting them into practise. Although, the one criticism I do have of the package, is that once you have completed a test and opened a new one, you cannot go back to the one you previously opened which means that when you’ve used up all your 20, you’ve got to pay again. But irregardless, the Numeracy Ready site was the best thing I used when attempting to pass my test and I do accredit me passing to the site and their resources.
- ACKNOWLEDGE PROGRESS
I’ve put this one in capitals because it’s ridiculously important. As I said before and if you’re doing/have done the tests, you will know that it can be demoralising when you don’t hit the pass mark, and for people who haven’t got much confidence in their mathematical ability, it’s a pretty tough blow. Which means, little steps of progress are so important and it is massively important to acknowledge them! Going back to Numeracy Ready, on their site they provide a progress tracker – which if you’re a lover of visual displays of progress in order to actually feel like you’ve achieved something, like me, you’ll adore – which you can fill in via plotting your result every time you do a practise paper. Even if you’re not achieving the pass mark, plotting your results and seeing your progress is definitely confidence boosting. I won’t lie, it took me a while to get above the pass mark, so that confidence boost was long coming, but when I did finally get 18/28 and I could see how I’d gone from 13 to 18, I actually felt that I could maybe pass the real test. Even if you go from 13 to 14, 14 to 15 and 15 to 16, celebrate! You’re getting closer and closer and with more practise, the better you’ll get (I didn’t believe ANYONE when they said this to me before I did my test, but trust me, it happens!)
- Don’t Let Yourself Get Caught Up
So many people get caught up in the pressure and stress of this test and this is totally understandable. The test is literally a nightmare and if I never have to do it again it’ll be too soon, but the trick is to not let yourself freak out. I know, I know, “but Rosie I have to get into uni and I have to pass because I only have 3 attempts and if I fail the first time I might aswell give up” but these negative thoughts don’t help. I made excuses and I literally tried to think of a whole new career prospect in order to avoid doing this test, but when realising there was nothing in my heart other than teaching and a love for pizza – but not cooking pizza – I realised I had to stop being so pessimistic and just get on with it. Let me tell you this, passing that test was literally the one thing in my life that I am proud of myself for, and that feeling of knowing it’s over is probably the best thing ever – better than knowing A-Levels are over. So trust me, don’t get caught up and try to not think the worst. I know it’s easy for me to say, but I’ve done it, I’ve been there, bought the t-shirt, cried on the t-shirt, bought a new t-shirt and then cried on that one too, but you can do it. The 3 attempts thing is definitely not a helpful aspect, but doing it on more than one occasion does not mean you’re a failure. It’s another chance to show what you can do, what you’ve worked for and potentially – for us maths haters – show a computer what we thought we could never in a million years do. YOU HAVE GOT THIS AND I BELIEVE IN YOU.
So, practise and practise and don’t be too hard on yourself. Some good news, is that in the test you get paper/ white boards to write down your ‘workings’ – basically, a place for you to write indecipherable scribbles that only you can understand but GO YOU because they’ll be massively helpful – and also, when you actually go to do the test you will probably meet a lot of other scared individuals doing exactly the same who are maybe on their second or third try, and pooing themselves just as much as you.
The test is probably the worst thing I’ve done in my life yet passing it was the best thing I’ve ever done. Don’t let yourself think yourself into failure, try to stay positive – even when you’re consistently getting 13/28 and light at the end of the tunnel seems like it’s red and flashing and looks significantly like a train that shows no signs of stopping (I feel you) – and remember, not passing first time doesn’t mean you’re a failure.
Think of how you’ll feel afterwards and how much you have worked for this. The more you prepare, the more confident you will feel. Walk into that room – although I warn you the receptionist may be grumpy because both the ones that I met were – thinking ‘I can do this’ and then just go for it. You are capable and whatever the result, I will be proud of you.
If this helped anyone ( sorry if it made you feel worse I feel like a realistic perspective is kinda what is needed when talking about this test) then I’m so so so glad because I know I found it awful and had nothing like this to read to give me an insight. The tests are horrible – and the first part = ridiculously unrepresentative of the requirements of a real primary school teacher = cost effective = #thanksobama = #governmentprobs – and I totally know how you feel, but trust me, there’s so much you can do to prepare yourself. Good luck and give it all you’ve got , you’ll be glad you did ☺☺☺