Tougher English, maths and reasoning tests set for prospective teachers


Budding teachers will have to pass new, tougher tests in English, mathematics and abstract reasoning before they will be allowed to begin their training, the government has confirmed today.

Budding teachers will have to pass new, tougher tests in English, mathematics and abstract reasoning before they will be allowed to begin their training, the government has confirmed today.

Tougher questions (seven examples of which are published at the end of this article) combined with a ban on using calculators in mathematics and higher pass marks for both English and maths will raise standards in education, the government claims.

The new tests will apply to those wanting to train in England and will come into effect from September next year. Prospective teachers will now need to reach the equivalent of a GCSE grade B to pass the tests.

The changes are among those recommended by the Skills Test Review which has been chaired by headteacher Sally Coates – the Department for Education (DfE) has accepted its findings in full.

Other changes include the testing of candidates’ English through continuous prose questions such as: “Every teacher is a teacher of English. Discuss.”

There will also be a new test for verbal, numerical and abstract reasoning. The DfE says that this will “recognise that good teachers need to respond quickly and appropriately to often unpredictable demands”.

The Review Panel also proposes that the tests could be used as a factor in determining the level of bursary to which a trainee teacher would be entitled.

Education secretary Michael Gove said: “The evidence from around the world is clear – rigorous selection of trainee teachers is key to raising the quality and standing of the teaching profession.

“These changes will mean that parents can be confident that we have the best teachers coming into our classrooms. Above all, it will help ensure we raise standards in our schools and close the attainment gap between the rich and poor.”

Ms Coates, who is principal at Burlington Danes Academy in west London, added: “In carrying out the review, we wanted the tests to send a strong signal about the quality of teachers we all want to see.

“We believe that the whole selection process needs to be sufficiently rigorous to ensure that anyone who gains a place on a course of initial teacher training would be highly likely to succeed in that training, and go on to make an excellent teacher.”

However, the National Union of Teachers questioned how Mr Gove’s interest in teacher training requirements meshed with his support for academies employing non-qualified teachers.

General secretary Christine Blower said: “It is surprising that Michael Gove is showing such interest in the entry requirements for teacher training courses, while at the same time advocating that schools should be free to employ unqualified teachers.

“The real issue is the training and support that teachers are given once they have entered into teaching training. All too often the government is looking at ever shorter routes to qualifying as a teacher, including on the job training in schools. This leaves little opportunity or time for trainee teachers to be able to learn about child development and pedagogy in depth.

“If we are to compete with countries such as Finland, then we need to ensure that we give trainee teachers sufficient university based learning alongside practical teaching practice.”

The Teaching Agency will be responsible for administering the new tests.


Questions proposed by the Review Panel include the following (maths answers at the end):


Candidates will continue to be tested, as now, for spelling, grammar and punctuation. In addition, candidates’ use of vocabulary and ability to write clear and accurate continuous prose will be assessed. Candidates will also be asked to write a piece of continuous prose. Example proposed questions include:

  • Describe an event or experience which has been important to you, and explain its importance.

  • Why do many people not vote in elections? Should voting be a legal requirement?

  • Discuss the influence of a book or film on your life.

  • Every teacher is a teacher of English. Discuss.


Maths (no calculator allowed, scroll down for the answers):

1) The cost, £C, of advertising in a newspaper is worked out using the formula: C = 0.4n + 0.75 where n is the number of words in the advertisement. 

  • A: The cost of an advertisement is £11.55. How many words are in the advertisement?

  • B: If I have only £9.00, how many words can I afford?


2) The mean age of the 11 members of a football team is 22 years. 

  • A: When one member of the football team was sent off, the mean age of the rest of the team was 21 years. How old was the player who was sent off?

  • B: The modal age of the 11 players is 17 and only the 3 youngest players are aged 17. The median age of the 11 players is 20. What is the maximum possible age of one of the players?


3) One afternoon Maria drove directly from her house to her Grandmother’s house and was back home by 1600 hours. She left home at 1500 hours and spent 15 minutes with her Grandmother. 

  • A: How far away is her Grandmother’s house if she can complete the trip driving at an average speed of 64km per hour?

  • B: On another day, she left home at 1500 hours and spent 15 minutes with her Grandmother, but arrived home at 1551 hours. What was her average speed for the whole journey?


Maths answers

  • 1A: 27 words

  • 1B: 20 words

  • 2A: 32

  • 2B: 41

  • 3A: 24 kilometres

  • 3B: 80 kilometres an hour


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