/ Teacher training "professional skills tests" literacy/numeracy.

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Has anyone done these recently? I've been working through the practice tests online and the literacy ones are fine but battling rather with numeracy. I can work most of the questions out with time and a scrap of paper, but feel horribly pressured trying to do them in the time given. Then panic replaces careful thought! I can see the logic in the reasoning for having the tests, but I'm not sure you'd ever have to be doing this kind of mental arithmetic puzzles in 18 seconds in real life - at least not if you don't want to be a maths teacher!
highclimber - on 26 Apr 2014
In reply to TobyA:


On my PGCE less than half of the RE and primary trainees failed their numeracy test (some more than once).
Offwidth - on 26 Apr 2014
In reply to TobyA:

Sounds like you need to learn some of the lessons you will be expected to give. Student panic isnt limited to numerical tests. Get on with practice and trust what that will produce and be glad that you can now also benefit from the empathy for struggling students given your own genuine struggle. I was a below par language student with straight A grades in all other subjects and my efforts to eventually get O level French B were probably my most useful learning experience.
LJC - on 26 Apr 2014
In reply to Offwidth:

A friend, who is now fully qualified music teacher, failed the numeracy test 9 times. Panic, not reading the question, and the time constraints all didn't help someone who wasn't the strongest matmatician, but excellent in their own field.

The first few fails were annoying, the next were funny. Then it got utterly demoralising, I feel for you!
In reply to highclimber:

Do you mean more than half?

The place I've got interview will only give provisional offers if you haven't passed both so that adds some pressure! Should have started re-awakening all my maths knowledge some weeks (months) back of course! In at the deep end once again...
JimmyKay - on 26 Apr 2014
In reply to TobyA:

I never looked at any practice tests, I just went in and did them. However my friends that did the practice tests said they were much harder than the real thing. I remember questions like an eight of 40 as a percentage and number of people paying to get on and off a bus at different stops and stuff like that.
Clarence - on 26 Apr 2014
In reply to JimmyKay:
I didn't practice and just went in, sat down and aced them. Those who did the practice tests failed at least one. I don't think I am smarter than them but a level head and not knowing or worrying about what to expect seems to have done the trick.

When you teach, kids ask you all kinds of questions just to wind you up. If you can answer them there and then you shut them up immediately. If not they will pick at your sanity until you end up bludgeoning one of the little feckers with a dumbbell. That is why you need mental arithmetic.
Post edited at 11:21
highclimber - on 26 Apr 2014
In reply to TobyA:

> Do you mean more than half?

> The place I've got interview will only give provisional offers if you haven't passed both so that adds some pressure! Should have started re-awakening all my maths knowledge some weeks (months) back of course! In at the deep end once again...

Haha, yeah, well I think it was at least half. I believe now Wales are asking for grade B at gcse for maths and English instead of statutory tests.
coombsy - on 26 Apr 2014
In reply to Clarence:

I did the test 3 years ago - really struggled too after having done no mental arithmetic for years.
I found that the best way of improving was chatting with mates/family and asking them how they'd find percentages/averages etc. (all the kind of stuff in the tests). Some of them had great suggestions/shortcuts for quickly working things out. My mate even gave me some practise questions as we were driving to the crag, and with a bit of practise my confidence and speed increased dead quickly and I passed the test shortly after.
Ask your mates for tips maybe and just get used to doing a bit of practise daily.
Good luck with it. Sure you'll smash it to bits
In reply to coombsy:

> I did the test 3 years ago - really struggled too after having done no mental arithmetic for years.

They've made it harder since 2012 too! :-( I'm trying it on monday - on a flying visit to the UK. If I mess it up (seems quite likely currently!) then I'll have to put some proper work into going back through all my basic maths which I haven't really done like this since my GCSEs well over 20 years ago! You can only try resitting twice now as well, if you fail then its 2 years before you can try again meaning you can't apply for a PGCE until then, as you have to pass now before starting the course. Must be lots of slightly panicky potential teaching trainees around like me currently. :)

Some bits are absolutely fine - reading graphs and taking data from them I've done in my old job enough for it to feel easy, but calculating fractions or working out percentages of unhelpful numbers is stuff I've forgotten how to do without using the calculator on my phone!
In reply to highclimber:

> I believe now Wales are asking for grade B at gcse for maths and English instead of statutory tests.

Hmm... got them. Bore da Cardiff!? ;-)

highclimber - on 26 Apr 2014
In reply to TobyA:

I did mine at Bangor. Added benefit of doing it in wales is there's no time limit to complete nqt.
Carolyn - on 26 Apr 2014
In reply to TobyA:

> Some bits are absolutely fine - reading graphs and taking data from them I've done in my old job enough for it to feel easy, but calculating fractions or working out percentages of unhelpful numbers is stuff I've forgotten how to do without using the calculator on my phone!

It was probably pre-2012 changes, but there was a thread on another forum I use about it a while back. One thing we noticed with the examples given was that the answers were all nice round numbers - eg a question that gave the mpg of a car, the distance it had to travel and asked how many gallons were needed - answers were always a whole number of gallons. So you could take short cuts to some extent, rounding up/down (eg using 35 mpg not 36) and checking it was "about right", confident you only had to sure it was 6 gallons rather than 5 or 7, and it wasn't going to be 6.3 or similar.

IYSWIM? Worth thinking about when you look at example questions, anyhow.
tom_in_edinburgh - on 26 Apr 2014
In reply to highclimber:

> On my PGCE less than half of the RE and primary trainees failed their numeracy test (some more than once).

I wonder why RE teachers need to be able to do maths. Their boss thought you could divide 5 loaves and 2 fishes among 5,000 people and give them one each.
In reply to Carolyn:

I can see some logic in many of the mental arithmetic questions along those lines, but the second part of the test you get to use a little pop up calculator and then obviously it gets more complicated.

The practice tests are here http://www.education.gov.uk/QTS/Numeracy/assessment_engine.html if anyone wants a look and either tell me I'm thick for finding that hard or commiserate!
timjones - on 26 Apr 2014
In reply to TobyA:
> The practice tests are here http://www.education.gov.uk/QTS/Numeracy/assessment_engine.html if anyone wants a look and either tell me I'm thick for finding that hard or commiserate!

I had a play with those earlier. I have to confess that it didn't seem clear whether or not you could use a pen and paper in the mental arithmetic section. If you can use pen and paper I thought they were alarmingly easy for a test that is presumably aimed at university graduates.
Post edited at 13:25
In reply to timjones:

I think there is pen and whiteboard sort of thing. I hope so anyway! I generally can work them out then but I'm not sure if I can in the required 18 seconds! I guess that plenty of people like me haven't done arithmetic since GCSE, so even if you are just out of uni that could be 5-6 years without really needing to think like that. But perhaps you're one of those people who is just annoying great at mental maths- :) I have a mate like that; he would always tell me my new score in darts before I had even totted up what my three darts totaled for that go. I get there in the end, but I'm impressed by people who just fly through the calculation like that.
JimmyKay - on 26 Apr 2014
In reply to tom_in_edinburgh:

Believe it or not, when schools are in shortage in certain areas, they ask teachers from all different subjects to cover others. For some reason we've now got two MFL teachers in our science department. Good job they did their numeracy tests!!! ;-)
timjones - on 26 Apr 2014
In reply to TobyA:

> I think there is pen and whiteboard sort of thing. I hope so anyway! I generally can work them out then but I'm not sure if I can in the required 18 seconds! I guess that plenty of people like me haven't done arithmetic since GCSE, so even if you are just out of uni that could be 5-6 years without really needing to think like that. But perhaps you're one of those people who is just annoying great at mental maths- :) I have a mate like that; he would always tell me my new score in darts before I had even totted up what my three darts totaled for that go. I get there in the end, but I'm impressed by people who just fly through the calculation like that.

I get to use mental arithmetic on a day to day basis ;)

I would hope that there is some sort of ability to write the numbers down. Surely it's supposed to be a maths test rather than a memory test?

The 18 seconds per question seems a bit harsh but a quick google suggests that the pass mark is only 60%. If this is correct you only need to get one question on the first part correct given that there is plenty of time for the onscreen part so very little need to worry about getting those wrong.

I'm sure you'll be fine with a little practice.

timjones - on 26 Apr 2014
In reply to tom_in_edinburgh:

> I wonder why RE teachers need to be able to do maths. Their boss thought you could divide 5 loaves and 2 fishes among 5,000 people and give them one each.

Blimey. And there was I thinking it was a moral tale illustrate what can be achieved if people share what they have rather than selfishly hiding it from others ;)
In reply to timjones:

Thanks Tim. I'm discovering lots of great online maths sites which I will use a bit more systemically over time if I don't get it on the first go. If nothing else it will help me help my kids with their homework!
Jim C - on 26 Apr 2014
In reply to TobyA:
My daughter's boyfriend has done them, but he has a maths and physics degree, and worked a lot to get cash ( for beer) in a bookies.

What if you get a job in a bookies, (and play a lot of darts. ) these will be vital skills.
marsbar - on 26 Apr 2014
In reply to TobyA:

I cant get the tests to open on this. So I cant help specifically.

If its any help most % questions will rely on tricks and spotting them.

Eg to find 17.5 % of 40
10% is 4
5% is 2
2.5 % is 1

So its easy divide by 10 halve it halve it and add them.


Anyone going into teaching now needs to be able to work out what percentage of kids of which background are on target etc etc :-(
Postmanpat on 26 Apr 2014
In reply to TobyA:

Where are the practice tests?
In reply to Postmanpat:

In the link I posted somewhere above.
mbh - on 26 Apr 2014
In reply to TobyA:

> I think there is pen and whiteboard sort of thing. I hope so anyway! I generally can work them out then but I'm not sure if I can in the required 18 seconds! I guess that plenty of people like me haven't done arithmetic since GCSE, so even if you are just out of uni that could be 5-6 years without really needing to think like that. But perhaps you're one of those people who is just annoying great at mental maths- :) I have a mate like that; he would always tell me my new score in darts before I had even totted up what my three darts totaled for that go. I get there in the end, but I'm impressed by people who just fly through the calculation like that.

It's amazing what you can do with a little practice. My students often seem to think I am a towering genius when I work out numerical answers in my head before they have finished pressing the wrong buttons on their calculators. But I have been doing this sort of thing for 35 years or so, and they haven't, so it's not surprising, but nor is it mysterious
Carolyn - on 26 Apr 2014
In reply to TobyA:

The other hint I heard was that the 18 sec was if you listened to the question in full twice - some people found it better to listen carefully once, take headphones off, and take longer over the working out rather than listen a second time.
phja - on 26 Apr 2014
In reply to TobyA:

Did mine about 2 months ago. They are pretty much identical (in terms of format and difficulty) to the practice tests online.

If mental maths is your weak point, really focus on the second part of the test (with graphs and stuff). The pass mark for the test is ~63% so if you can get 15/15 on the second half of the test you will only need about 3/12 on the first half (the mental arithmetic part).

When it comes to the first half you need to practice practice practice!! And come up with a system of recognising patterns. For example a question like "what is 24/120 as a percentage"...remember that you can /6 then x5...stuff like that. When it comes to dividing always try to do so by easy numbers like if a question needs you to divide by 40...just divide by 10, then 2 then 2 again. Always try and use numbers like 2,5,10,100 to simplify any calculation.

That was my strategy anyway and I passed 1st time!!

Good luck!!
phja - on 26 Apr 2014
In reply to TobyA:

You do get pen and white board. The time limit is closer to 40 sec after listening to the question the 1st time.
marsbar - on 26 Apr 2014
In reply to phja:
And Toby

That is another example of them using "nice" numbers

24/120

If you ignore the 0 for a moment you can see 24 is twice 12.

So 24/12 would be 2.

24/120 is 0.2

So it is 20 %

Look for patterns like this and practise your doubles and halves with your kids to speed up and you will be fine.
Post edited at 19:34
Le Chevalier Mal Fet - on 26 Apr 2014
In reply to highclimber:

> On my PGCE less than half of the RE and primary trainees failed their numeracy test (some more than once).

So more than half passed? That seems like good news.
Carolyn - on 26 Apr 2014
In reply to marsbar:

Yup. Or lots of other ways to do the same - I'd see that I needed to knock off a sixth (to get the 120 down to 100), so work out a sixth of 24 (4) and knock that off (to get 20%).
marsbar - on 26 Apr 2014
In reply to Carolyn:

There are so many ways. I try to get the kids to explain and there is usually at least one way I didnt think of.
henwardian - on 26 Apr 2014
In reply to Clarence:
> When you teach, kids ask you all kinds of questions just to wind you up. If you can answer them there and then you shut them up immediately. If not they will pick at your sanity until you end up bludgeoning one of the little feckers with a dumbbell. That is why you need mental arithmetic.

Sure Kids ask plenty of questions but most will be relevant to your subject (so you should know the answer). Things that are silly can safely be deflected/ignored by pointing out they are off topic. Any questions you don't know the answer to are a great opportunity; you can have an impromptu goggle to find the answer or ask the class if anyone knows or tell the class/a table/the questioner to go find out the answer tonight and tell the class tomorrow.

When it comes to arithmatic though, while I've only taught for a year, I found no problem at all with doing most things in my head and when something tricky came along, just turning round and saying "Ok, someone get a calculator out and tell me the answer for this one". As long as you are better at mental arithmatic than all your pupils, this shouldn't cause you any problems (which you really should be because you have had at least a decades more practice than them at it!).

Also. Pupils don't always "shut up immediately" if you answer all questions. Plenty will take it as a signal to ask an every increasing number of questions to try to catch you out or sidetrack you and some will even take to arguing the opposite when they are absolutely and completely wrong... And that certainly will lead to you wanting to bludgeon them with dumbell :D
henwardian - on 26 Apr 2014
In reply to TobyA:

Haha, I just checked out the link to the practice tests. All I have to say is "what a load of *****". No written question so you have to listen to and memorise what the annoying voice is saying (generally not the situation you will be confronted with in a classroom where, even if the question were asked verbally, with three sequential calculations, you would certainly write it down so at the very least the pupils could see it) and the annoying voice is talking over the top of your thinking when you are working it out. C- as a useful test of numberacy imo.

I'd probably do this test with a pair of ear phones and remove them quickly after the first read of the question so you can concentrate.

(also, bad luck! We never had to do anything like this in the PGDE. Worst we had was our essays thrown back at us if we were not capable of writing English properly.)
In reply to phja:

Well done! And thanks for the advice. I've been doing another practice run this morning and I'm seeing those friendly patterns more that you and others mentioned. Still not sure if I'll hold it together under time constraints but I'm only feeling E1 scared rather than yesterday's E2 - "this could all end very painfully" terrified.

I'll have more time on the plane over to Heathrow tonight to get doing more mental arithmetic, then it's literacy at 8am tomorrow morning in Worcester followed by a quick dash up the road to Brum to try the numeracy at lunchtime. Yes - perhaps not the best organised way to try it, but I needed to do both in the one spare day I have. :)
marsbar - on 27 Apr 2014
In reply to TobyA:

Everything crossed
lithos on 27 Apr 2014
In reply to TobyA:

Hi Toby

i run a maths club at uni for our undergrads (who all have B at GCSE within 2 years) and the thing i see most 'silly' mistakes on is negative arithmetic

-4 - -5 etc, we do all sorts of things but that regularly gets them.


the friendly numbers/patterns are always used (im my expereince) so when you see the the fraction (% etc) wok out how / what makes it friendly, if that makes sense!

that previous example i'd have done by factorisations, sounds hard but tis easy

24/120 = 24/12 * 1/10 = 2 / 10 =20%

as marsbar says tons of ways and why they work is the interesting bit, working out their equivalencies.


this is a great site (IMHO) http://www.mathsisfun.com/

good luk, you'll be fine, its on HS at most :-)
parkovski - on 27 Apr 2014
In reply to TobyA:
What Henwardian said is exactly the technique to use. You will be doing it on earphones in the real test. I found for almost all the questions you get the numbers written down on the first go then need it to shut up while you do the working out... When I first tried the practice tests I didn't realise you could write the numbers down - but you should get a dry-wipe marker and a little whiteboard.

I can't remember what the pass mark is, but if you are confident with the non-timed non-audio questions you can afford quite a few mistakes on the mental arithmetic.

Good luck!

PS - There are normally some enraging mistakes and/or ambiguities in the literacy test. Please do share your inevitable post-test rants!
Post edited at 12:51
In reply to parkovski:
Thank again all. Sitting at airport now trying not panic too much! Lithos, am I being totally dense or is it simply 1? I got a B at GCSE but long long ago!
Orgsm on 27 Apr 2014
In reply to coombsy:

> I did the test 3 years ago - really struggled too after having done no mental arithmetic for years.

Bit harsh not letting you write anything down. All calculated in your head, with nothing written down, hard for anyone, even if good at maths.

mrj_langley - on 27 Apr 2014
In reply to TobyA:

When I did mine earlier this year I got a whiteboard and pen to do working out with; I just wrote down all the numbers which were relevant the first time through then double checked them when the voice said it again. By this time the method's usually pretty clear, I found I had plenty of time to work them out.

Good luck!
lithos on 27 Apr 2014
In reply to TobyA:

sorry yes it is 1 it was an eg not a test :-) jt's a real thing that makes people stop and think, and often my students get that wrong and are to eager to guess,

another thing i try to encourage it not to reduce things to decimals eg leave 1/3 as that not .333333 etc . This may not be relevant to your test
but these friendly fractions always work out so leave them be.

another trick is to remember 'of = multiply' eg 1/2 of 1/3 = 1/2 * 1/3
mbh - on 27 Apr 2014
In reply to TobyA:

Good luck tomorrow!

remember that (eg) 1/2 x 1/3 = 1 / (2 x 3) = 1/6 etc.

And, that anything goes, if it is valid and gives the right answer. There is no single way to do these problems.
Swirly - on 27 Apr 2014
In reply to lithos:
> another thing i try to encourage it not to reduce things to decimals eg leave 1/3 as that not .333333 etc . This may not be relevant to your test

> but these friendly fractions always work out so leave them be.

Not for pupils studying Physics or Chemistry; writing a fraction would cost them the mark. I wondered why some were doing that.

I remember people taking 9 or more attempts to pass these tests. Even as a trainee I felt embarrassed for the profession that they were allowed to do this.

I also fail to understand why, as someone above suggests, that training in Wales so you have an unlimited amount of time to take the NQT year is a good thing. Surely the best thing is to progress as quickly as possible so you have the skills to best help your kids?

As for why should an RS teacher have maths skills? If it comes to the point where they are promoted to a position where they have to make decisions based on data, and in schools there are a lot of data, then it is best for everyone if they have some mathematical skills. Moreover, numeracy (and literacy) are whole school responsibilities under the latest OFSTED frameworks...

To the OP, all my tips have been covered but to reiterate: you should get a mini-whiteboard, write down all the numbers the first time. The time should be enough to get the answer, type it in and maybe enough time to check your working. Don't panic if you cock one up you get enough chances at them. You won't get to go over the mental arithmetic at all but on the second half you can go back and forward as you please, make use of this.

The commonest questions will be based on "school scenarios" e.g. percentages of exam results, costs of trips and time calculations. So practise these and also times tables. For literacy make sure you're OK with commonly misspelt words.

Good luck.
Post edited at 19:19
Coel Hellier - on 27 Apr 2014
In reply to Swirly:

> Not for pupils studying Physics or Chemistry; writing a fraction would cost them the mark.

Why would writing something as a fraction cost them marks? (Unless the question explicitly asked for an answer as a decimal.)
Swirly - on 27 Apr 2014
In reply to Coel Hellier:

because 1.00/3.00 = 0.333 and nothing else. They are expected to be able to work with significant figures and understand that you can't give an answer more precise than the limits of your measurements which a third would be.
Springfield - on 27 Apr 2014
In reply to TobyA:

Hate to say it, but if people can't pass these fairly simple tests they will struggle with the rigours of the teaching profession
highclimber - on 28 Apr 2014
In reply to Swirly:


> I remember people taking 9 or more attempts to pass these tests. Even as a trainee I felt embarrassed for the profession that they were allowed to do this.
I agree.

> I also fail to understand why, as someone above suggests, that training in Wales so you have an unlimited amount of time to take the NQT year is a good thing. Surely the best thing is to progress as quickly as possible so you have the skills to best help your kids?
Because it was difficult for many teachers to obtain a permanent position in Wales that most NQTs like myself cannot easily complete induction. Schools are increasingly using supply agencies meaning we cannot start induction.
jkarran - on 28 Apr 2014
In reply to TobyA:

> The practice tests are here http://www.education.gov.uk/QTS/Numeracy/assessment_engine.html if anyone wants a look and either tell me I'm thick for finding that hard or commiserate!

I sympathize. The arithmetic is relatively easy and the questions mostly seem to be set-up with simple tricks that need to be spotted and exploited but the repeated disembodied verbal delivery makes it near impossible for me to retain the information. If you're allowed to take notes it'd be a case of learning to spot the tricks, if not then I've no idea how I'd train for it and I'm sure I'd do very poorly given the format. I have an engineering degree, I can do the arithmatic.

What's the pass mark?

jk
Post edited at 10:05
MG - on 28 Apr 2014
In reply to Swirly:

> because 1.00/3.00 = 0.333 and nothing else.

But it doesn't!
PeakDJ on 28 Apr 2014
In reply to TobyA:

Good luck. I did them a couple of years ago and took notes on the whiteboard thingy while listening to the question. I then just focused on getting the correct answer. I thought they were pretty good tests of basic literacy and numeracy.

Perhaps a written test would be better though?
In reply to all: Quite unbelievably I passed!

Felt super nervous going in and found some of the questions a bit confusing - not really anything like any of the ones in the practice-tests, but most were similar in structure to the practice tests so yielded to a bit of scribbling and some panicky, dry-mouthed mental sums.

Over all I'd say definitely E2, but plentiful options for placing pro if you are well practiced in advance! :-)

Thank you everyone for tips, experiences, ideas and encouragement. The advice was all really useful. The UKC massive comes up trumps once again. :-)


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