If you are applying for Initial Teacher Training in England, you will need to pass skills tests in numeracy and literacy. There are only three attempts at the test before you are “frozen” for two years. For many applicants whose maths has got a little rusty, and particularly those intending to teach arts and humanities subjects, this can be a stressful experience.

One of my top ten tips to passing QTS Numeracy is to understand what the syllabus expects of you. A good starting point is to check out the QTS Numeracy Skills Test specification, which details the style of the exam and types of question that appear. While the test is pitched about GCSE grade C, you’ll see it doesn’t cover the full GCSE syllabus: the emphasis is on arithmetic and data handling, with little work on algebra or space and shape. Don’t just use your old GCSE revision guide — most of its content won’t be relevant.

There are only four practice tests available so many students struggle to find adequate practice material. If you don’t have it already I would suggest getting hold of a copy of “Passing the Numeracy Skills Test” by Mark Patmore as it has a good collection of extra questions similar to the actual exam, but I also reviewed other choices of book for QTS Numeracy.

So long as you have a GCSE grade C then really it’s a matter of practice to get your skills and speed up to test standard. But particularly for someone who is rusty the amount of practice required may be very high. From experience the biggest determinant of success seems to be knowledge of times tables, since good speed and accuracy are necessary to complete in the allowed time any multiplication, division, fraction, ratio and proportion questions in the first section of the test. There are lots of places to practise these skills online; some I have recommended in the past are:

- Three minute times table challenge: by the time you take the test, you should aim to be scoring close to 100% on this consistently.
- Times table reaction game: very good for building up speed.
- A BBC Skillwise game to help “working backwards” with times tables, an essential skill for cancelling fractions and ratios.
- A comprehensive training game: select “Multiplication” then “Ten Times Table” to practise all tables up to 10×10. Select “Divide” then “Divide by 2 to 10” for a mixture of division problems. Also try the addition and subtraction options – you’ll have to do a bit of this in the timed mental arithmetic questions!
- Times table facts, forward and “back” (i.e. division) up to 12 x 12: a reasonable target would be 40 correct answers in 2 minutes.
- A mixture of multiplication, division, addition and subtraction: many of these you’d need to solve by pen and paper. A reasonable target might be 10-12 correct answers in 2 minutes, but this exercise is harder than the other one.

You may also be interested in my collection of advice and free worksheets for passing QTS Numeracy.

If you have recommendations for other links I could add, one of the links above has stopped working, or you are looking for additional support passing your QTS Numeracy, please contact me.