Literacy skills tests

The literacy professional skills test

This page gives an overview of the literacy skills test so that you can prepare for taking the test. Details about access arrangements are on the Process for taking the professional skills test page

Test content

The literacy professional skills test is divided into 4 sections:

  • spelling
  • punctuation
  • grammar
  • comprehension

You will not be tested on your knowledge of the English national curriculum or on how to teach it.

The test must be completed within 45 minutes, unless you have been granted specific arrangements.

The total number of marks available ranges from 41 to 49, depending on the test. These are broken down as follows:

  • spelling section – 10 marks
  • punctuation section – 15 marks
  • grammar – 10-12 marks
  • comprehension section – between 10 and 12 marks

All the literacy tests have been calibrated statistically against a benchmark test. As with any multiple set of tests, the tests are not identical to each other. This is because each test has different questions, but they are all of an equivalent standard. A test with slightly harder questions will have a slightly lower pass mark and a test with slightly easier questions will have a slightly higher pass mark.

Further information on literacy test content and format is included in the literacy test specification.

Spelling section

You must complete the spelling section first. This is the only part of the test that may not be revisited once you have finished it.

The spelling section is an audio test which you will listen to via headphones provided for you. If you are sitting the non-audio version of the test you will have to select the correct spelling from a list.

The words tested are those that you could reasonably be expected to use in your professional role as a teacher. The words are not especially obscure or technical and are used frequently in professional writing.

You will not be penalised if you adopt American English usage when asked to spell a word which has an -ise or -ize suffix. In all other cases you are required to use standard British English usage.

Punctuation section

This section tests your ability to understand and apply punctuation rules. The correct and consistent use of punctuation is an essential aspect of a teacher’s literacy.

You will be asked to insert punctuation into a piece of writing. You are not required to remove or rewrite any sections of the passage. The passage may contain instances where punctuation is acceptable although not essential. Any non-essential punctuation that is added to the passage will not be scored.

From 30 November 2016 the punctuation section will contain an on screen counter. The counter shows how many pieces of punctuation need to be added to the passage. It will start at 15 and reduce by one each time a piece of punctuation is added to the text until it reaches zero. Once a candidate has added 15 pieces of punctuation to the text, they will be unable to add any further punctuation unless they remove a previously added punctuation mark. This counter will allow candidates to track the number of pieces of punctuation added and provide a quick check that all punctuation marks have been added. This change to the punctuation section will not affect the way that it is marked or the method used to assess punctuation.

Grammar section

This section tests your ability to identify text that doesn’t conform to good grammatical practice. You will be expected to distinguish between text that makes sense and clearly conveys its intended meaning and text that does not. You will not be tested on your knowledge of grammatical terms, but on your knowledge of how to use grammar correctly.

The grammar section requires you to construct a short, continuous prose passage. At 4 or more points in the text you will be asked to select the most appropriate choice for insertion to complete the passage.

Comprehension section

This section tests your ability to:

  • identify main points in a text
  • distinguish between facts and opinions
  • retrieve facts and key points
  • make inferences and deductions
  • evaluate meaning and status

You will be asked to re-work, organise and structure information.

The test uses texts such as documents published by local and national government bodies, schools and the educational press. Extracts from websites and national newspapers are also used.

Preparing for the tests

We have produced a short information sheet to help you to prepare for your literacy test. We advise you read this and the information below to help you prepare for the tests.

Other support is available. Your ITT provider may be able to advise on appropriate materials.


The glossary lists terms used in literacy. You won’t be tested on definitions of these terms however they may help you prepare for the literacy skills test.

Practice tests

Practising the tests will help you to familiarise yourself with the look and feel of the tests. It will also provide an opportunity to revise the different content areas covered by the tests.

You can access a series of practice tests which include similar types of questions to those in the actual tests. These are available to help you to practise answering questions and become familiar with navigational features used in the online tests. Passing the practice tests provides no guarantee that you will pass your actual test.

The first time that you access the practice tests you will need to complete an initial registration. Click on the initial registration link at the bottom of the log in screen to do this. No personal details are requested, other than a username. Your details are not stored so please keep your username and password safe. You will also need this activation key for your initial registration: jhULiqgX. Once you are registered and have logged in you will also be able to:

  • practise the literacy and numeracy tests
  • view your previous results for the practice tests you have taken
  • pause the test so that it can be resumed later
  • access guidance which explains how to answer each practice test question

The practice tests are presented in 2 formats.

The fully interactive online tests will score your answers. The online tests include versions with special arrangement entitlements. You need to log in to your practice test account to access the online versions of the tests.

You can also download the non-interactive versions of the literacy practice paper 2, literacy practice paper 3 and literacy practice paper 4. These are designed for candidates who have been granted a specific arrangement to complete a paper-based test, but may also be used by other candidates. You do not need to register or log in to access these tests.

Technical advice for the practice tests

You will need access to a computer with the following specification to access the online practice tests: 

Operating system

Microsoft Windows XP/Vista/7/8
Mac OS X 10.5.x - 10.8.x
Display resolution of at least 1024x768 pixels with 16k colours

Supported browsers

Internet Explorer: Version 10 to 11
Google Chrome: Latest version

Internet connection

Download speeds required are minimal however for the best experience we recommend the test is taken with at least 500Kbit/s connections (0.5MB).

Getting help

PSI's helpdesk is available from Monday to Friday, 8am to 4pm

Telephone: 0300 303 9613 

Email: and

You can contact the Teaching Information Line on 0800 389 2500 for advice on teacher training more widely, including what’s involved in teacher training; qualification queries; funding options; and arranging school experience. The Teaching Information Line can also help you to check if you’re eligible to receive one-to-one support from a qualified teacher to prepare for the skills tests and get ready for interviews. Alternatively you could visit the Get into Teaching website for more information.