How many marks do I need to pass the QTS Numeracy professional skills test?

This is one of the most common questions I get asked, along with “how many marks do I need to pick up in the mental arithmetic test”? You may have heard the official pass mark was raised from 60% to 63% in 2012 — or been told the difficulty level differs between tests depending on which question set you are allocated, so the computer automatically adjusts the pass mark to compensate. Which is true?

Confusingly, both! The 63% pass mark means you need to get 18 out of 28 questions completely correct — there are no marks for working, or half-marks for partially correct answers. Put another way, you can afford ten mistakes.

However, that pass mark only refers to the “specification test” that is used as a baseline to assess how hard it should be to pass QTS Numeracy. The test you sit may not have a pass mark of 18. Do not try counting how many wrong answers you have given. Do not give up if you feel you have made more than ten mistakes! If you are sitting an unusually hard paper, your 12 mistakes may be equivalent to making 8 mistakes on the specification paper, so you can still pass.

Many of my clients have been pleasantly surprised to pass given the number of mistakes they thought they’d made, which vindicates them for trying hard until the end. Other people have come to me for help saying they failed their first attempt, having stopped trying after the mental once they felt they “couldn’t pass”. Don’t do it, just keep going!

So what use is this mythical “18 out of 28”? Firstly, it gives you a target when trying the practice tests online. One of my strongest recommendations is not to take your actual test until you can pass the practice with a “safety margin” to spare — perhaps 20 or 21 marks. (Read the rest of my top 10 tips for passing QTS Numeracy here.)

Secondly, we can use it as a guide to see how well you need to do in the mental arithmetic (out of 12) compared to the on-screen questions on written arithmetic and data (out of 16).

This assumes 18 marks are required to pass overall; the pass mark on your exam is likely to be similar but not identical, so these figures are only approximate. However, it is clear that a poor mental arithmetic mark makes passing very difficult, because it leaves you chasing a high percentage on the on-screen questions. Even if mental arithmetic is your weakest area and you think you can make up for it on the data questions, try to do enough practice and preparation for you to score above half marks in the mental! This makes the challenge for you on the on-screen section much more accessible.