The QTS Numeracy Skills Test: Information and Resources

Do you panic about the QTS numeracy test?

If you do not use mathematics regularly in your work or other activities (and sometimes, even if you do) the QTS numeracy skills test can be challenging to pass. The format of the test, and the over-verbose language used in many of the questions, are likely to cause significant stress if you lack confidence in doing mathematics.

Confidence and capability are not the same thing. It's very likely your capability for mathematics exceeds your own estimation of it.

There are two particular things you need to work on. The first is mental calculation: this relies on methods you probably learnt in late primary school or early secondary school, and if you have not done significant amounts of mental calculation in recent years (which is true for most adults) then these methods will be half-forgotten and you will need to do a lot of practice to build up your speed and confidence. This really is not about being 'good' or 'bad at maths'. The methods can be mastered by anyone, but it will take practice.

The second particular thing you need to work on is the several types of graphs that appear in part 2 of the test: bar charts, scatter graphs, box-and-whisker plots, and cumulative frequency charts. You should be familiar with most of these from GCSE Mathematics, however there are some peculiarities to the QTS presentation to learn about.

What is the key to passing the test?

I have worked with a lot of clients (about 100 over the past five years) supporting them to take the test.

I ask clients to consciously work on: (1) efficient methods of getting answers, and (2) actively managing the stress of doing Part 1 of the test (the mental questions) - by minimising thinking/calculating and maximising memory recall, and backing this up by step-by-step checking.

There is not only one way to do calculations and you need to find a way that you feel comfortable with, and can carry out confidently and quickly. This is especially important for doing mental arithmetic in Part 1 of the test. You may be told by others that their method is better than yours, or that yours is 'not efficient', or you might think someone else's method is better because they are 'good at maths'. By all means explore different ways of doing things (that's important for being a teacher) but so far as this test is concerned, the priority is to have a method that is fast and accurate for you.

The more you can memorise number facts the less you will have to calculate during the test, this is enormously beneficial as it saves time and avoids making errors. The key number facts are times tables (up to 12 x 12), and the common fractions (that is, quarters, fifths, eighths, tenths) and their equivalent forms as decimals and percentages.

It is so common to find people who try to do the test 'at arms length' due to deep-rooted fears about maths, so they apply methods they know (or half-know) in haphazard ways and hope for the best. So my best advice is to keep working on changing your approach --- open up to the fear and deal with it by training yourself to act efficiently.

Department for Education official site

Numeracy professional skills tests: official information about the test

Practice tests are available at the website Registration with a valid email address is required. Three of the practice tests can be downloaded in printable PDF: Practice test 2, Practice test 3, Practice test 4.

Other test resources

The study guide that many people use is: Mark Patmore, Passing the Numeracy Skills Test, published by Sage/Learning Matters (6th edition, February 2015). The advantage of Patmore's book is that the questions capture the style of the actual tests quite well (less positive aspects are the fact that the content changes little between editions, and there are mistakes in the answers which have not been fixed for several years). Other books tend to push on mathematical content which is not part of the test. What Patmore gets right is the way that the maths is usually expressed in (intentionally) difficult and confusing language. is a commercial website which offers 20 full practice tests, a diagnosic tool to analyse your performance, and explanations and examples of the different types of questions. I have recommended this site to many people who have found it a useful practice resource. Commercial interactive and printed materials for guidance and practice. The material is good; I have tried the Mental arithmetic pack.

A classic general book about primary-level mathematics is Mathematics Explained for Primary Teachers by Derek Haylock. This is very well-written and much recommended. Many teachers will have this book so ask around for it; you don't need the latest edition if preparing for the QTS test, though if you are teaching in primary school the up-to-date information will certainly be helpful. The book website has a very useful free resource called the Numeracy Testbank - maths exercises extracted from Haylock's book Numeracy for Teaching.

I am a fan of Kjartan Poskitt, author of the Murderous Maths books for children (the best deal is the 'Power of Ten' boxed collection - but this does not include the book on fractions, 'The Mean and Vulgar Bits', which is strongly relevant to the QTS test), and also Everyday Maths for Grown-Ups which is a humorous and good-humoured book covering a lot of QTS test topics (but not graphs and charts), as well as algebra and more. If the humour appeals to you, these books are a great way to absorb ideas.

Maths apps for practicing arithmetic

Apps for iPhone/iPad and Android are really useful to practice your mental arithmetic skills. They make things a bit more fun, and you can use them in any spare moment during the day.

There are dozens of these, usually in free and paid versions. Just search for "maths test", "maths trainer", "mental maths", "fractions", etc. Obviously, it's a chaotic marketplace with limited quality control so choose carefully. I suggest you download a few of the free versions and see what you like (as they are usually written with children in mind). Don't buy anything until you have tried it.

One app that I have tried and like is Math Attack for Android.

The app must have a timed test option so that you can practice thinking and answering under a time constraint. It should include questions for all four operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division). You should be aiming to get full marks in tests involving whole two digit numbers (ie. the scope of standard times tables).

Software and websites for practicing

If you are working in a school, do remember to have a look at the numeracy software installed on the school computer system, or any subscription websites that the school has access to.

Printed materials for practicing

If you are working in a school, or are able to access a university library, it is worth checking the numeracy/mental maths practice materials designed for (around) Year 6 students.

Of course there are dozens and dozens of these. The best I have seen, for QTS practice, is this one:

Mental Maths in Minutes for Ages 9-11: Photocopiable Resources Book for Mental Maths Practice, by Andrew Brodie (published 2004, currently in print). Short tests on different mental maths topics are printed as 4 tests per A4 page, with answers on the back. Very handy to carry around as a day's practice work! []

I also liked: Quick Mental Maths for 11 Year-olds and Quick Mental Maths for 10 Year-olds by William Hartley (1999, out of print). []

Are you looking for a tutor for the QTS numeracy test?

I offer tuition to anywhere online (usually via Skype and shared whiteboard), and sometimes face-to-face in Central London. I have helped more than 80 people to pass the test. A small amount of tuition can be surprisingly effective; two or three 1-hour sessions can cover the key methods for Parts 1 and 2 of the test, and set you up with what you need to practice as preparation for taking the test. Please get in touch via