The Professional Skills Tests

29th April 2016

First and foremost, I’d like to again take this time to mention another benefit that BCU offers, they stated in my interview that if you were to pass both of the Professional Skills Test (PST) before May 4th, you may be eligible for a £1,000 bursary. As a current University student, I can’t tell you how helpful that will be!

The PST’s are made up of a Literacy test and a Numeracy test, which must be done at an official centre. They recommend that you book as soon as possible, and definitely before August time if you can, simply to make sure that you get an appointment, as you must have passed both of these tests before you can begin your studies for this course-this is relevant for courses with the QTS, and if you need to take the tests, you will be informed about this well in advance. The policies around the tests have also now changed in that it used to be possible for you to retake the tests as many times as it takes for you to pass. However, since September 2012 it is now only possible for you to retake the tests twice, after which, if you have not passed, you must wait 2 years before taking the test again.

Your first set of tests are free, and you only pay for any resits you take. Most institutions will provide help sessions if you have applied with them and been successful in your interview. I personally did not attend any of these as I was too far away, however I found the practice tests and information more than sufficient to use as revision for the tests.

To sit your tests you’re required to take two forms of identification-I took my drivers license and my passport. You must also take a letter from an institution or confirmation of a place on a course to show also. I chose to take both of my tests on the same day, and had to go through the process twice, but that only takes 5 minutes, if that. You cannot wear any watch into the exam room, earphones are provided, as are a pen and paper for workings. You are also given a key to a locker to put your belongings in when you arrive. If you have ever been for your driving theory test, the process is very similar.

The literacy tests involve firstly a spelling test in which the words are read out to you, and are placed in a sentence for you to listen to, and spell out. I personally preferred to just type, however I am aware that some people find it easier to write their spellings instead, and this is perfectly fine. Punctuation is then tested, this is done by providing you with a text that is missing basic aspects of punctuation such as commas, full stops, speech marks, brackets, the capitalisation of letters, and the input of paragraphs, there are 15 pieces of punctuation which must be added. I found this aspect fairly easy, but it is always helpful to double and triple check by reading through it slowly. We’re often very used to reading so much material where the text is exactly as it should be without any errors, and so sometimes its easy to read it over and our brains to quickly fill in or sort out those errors; so reading slowly and double checking can make sure you spot those. Thirdly, there is a test of grammar, in which there are multiple (around-if not exactly-four) potential endings/beginnings/sections of a sentence that are missing and you must input the one that makes the most sense, and is the most grammatically correct. Again, I liked this one, some of them were rather easy, and others I just needed to read each option in my head to see which one sounded the most accurate if I wasn’t sure. And finally, the last test is of your comprehension. You’re given a text, and you must read the whole thing, the same text is used for every question. You’re either asked to link together meanings or implications, or asked which words imply the same as that used-this will become much clearer when you carry out the practice tests, its not as difficult as it sounds.

The numeracy test is split into two parts, the first is the mental arithmetic, where the questions are read out to you and you must answer in a given time limit. I found my mental arithmetic to be incredibly rusty the first time I tried after doing it for so long, however after practice it gradually got easier. I made a note of questions that I struggled with to check I could answer a question like it in the future. The paper to do workings on is extremely useful, however be very careful that you keep an eye on the time, and allow enough time to type in the answer. The second part is a written section, which involves a combination of reading data and answering questions, and being word questions that require an answer.

Both tests are entirely surrounded by a teaching ‘theme’ shall we say. For example, the grammar aspects tend to be a letter to parents or governors, the spellings tend to be things you would include in notices or letters, comprehension has aspects of articles in relation to teaching and education, and the punctuation again a letter or notice. The numeracy is similar, such as looking at pie charts of results, or Ofsted reports, marks of pupils, or the cost of trips etc. It’s actually quite interesting and encouraging to see aspects of what you will be involved in contributing to, or seeing in the future.

I personally was very nervous about my tests as my results were not anywhere above 90% in my practice tests on the Government website. My growing desire to become a teacher and begin the course added to my nerves. However, I knew I could only do my best, and that I had revised as much as I could. I made sure I was as relaxed as possible, had eaten well, had drunk plenty of water, and went with my granddad and brother in order to give a slight distraction.

The tests themselves I found were easier on the day than the practice tests, but that is just my personal opinion, I’m unaware of how others found it. I began the tests slowly and confidently, some questions I was unsure of the answers to, and some (particularly for the mental arithmetic questions) I either guessed, or ran out of time to answer, and so that made me extremely nervous. But, I tried to relax as much as I could and just continued, as I knew the pass mark meant that I didn’t have to get every question right. My tests both began earlier than the time I had booked, due to me getting there before others and us being seen in order.

All of the above information was correct as of the 6th April 2016 as per the Department of Education page, to which the link is given below for more information on the tests. However, I am not responsible for any information you take directly from this post, hence why the link is provided below for you to view the information yourself.

I hope this has helped to answer some of your questions surrounding the tests, and should you want to know, the next post includes information about the results of the test in general, as well as my results.

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