Ten Common Numeracy Tests - dummies

By Colin Beveridge

The contents of the main types of numeracy test you may have to take differ because different qualifications (and different jobs) have different ideas about exactly what numeracy skills you need to have. This makes sense – if you’re going to be a teacher, you’re probably going to need more maths in a day-to-day setting than if you’re going to be a soldier.

Plenty of jobs in the armed forces need excellent maths skills, and plenty of teachers manage to avoid anything to do with maths – but they’re missing out on all the fun.

Adult Literacy and Adult Numeracy (ALAN)

The ALAN qualifications (Adult Literacy and Adult Numeracy) are sometimes called Adult Basic Skills and are the exams you usually take if you’re doing classes in numeracy or basic maths.

The numeracy qualifications are divided into five levels – Entry Levels 1-3 and Levels 1 and 2, which cover material from counting through to GCSE-level maths. The ALAN numeracy test isn’t quite as broad-ranging as a GCSE, but some jobs and colleges accept it as an equivalent. If things go wrong, you’re allowed to retake the test at a later date.

The qualifications themselves are assessed either by an on-screen or paper multiple-choice exam, which generally contains 40 questions you need to answer in an hour and 15 minutes (so you have a little less than two minutes per question). You can’t use a calculator in the ALAN numeracy test.

GCSE-equivalent test in maths and Qualified Teacher Status

You currently have two numeracy hurdles to jump if you want to be a teacher: you need to pass a GCSE-equivalent test in maths before you start teacher training, and you need to pass a second numeracy test to reach Qualified Teacher Status (or QTS).

Fortunately, the scope of the QTS numeracy test is much narrower than the GCSE, and you’re currently allowed several attempts to pass it. It consists of two parts: mental arithmetic, which is a quickfire non-calculator test, and on-screen questions, which involve statistical information (such as graphs and tables) and real-world maths.

Army numeracy test

If you want to join the British Army, you need to go through a series of recruitment tests, including numeracy, literacy, teamwork, memory and the BARB (British Army Recruitment Battery), which is about reasoning and understanding information. The good news is that the numeracy test doesn’t require many of the more difficult sections of this book, and you’re provided with a calculator.

Army Technical Selection Test (TST)

If you’re looking for a more technical job in the army, you also need to do well in the Technical Selection Test (or TST). This involves some more advanced maths, roughly up to GCSE standard. One or two topics are slightly beyond the scope of this book (particularly transposing formulas, powers, standard form and factorising).

Royal Navy Recruit Test (RT)

To join the Royal Navy, you need to pass the Recruit Test (or RT), which tests your literacy, numeracy, problem-solving and mechanical skills. As with the army numeracy test, you’re unlikely to need all of the material in this book. Don’t worry too much if you don’t pass first time – you’re allowed to take the test again.

Royal Air Force Airman/Airwoman Selection Test (AST)

If you want to join the Royal Air Force as an airman or airwoman, you need to take seven aptitude tests, but the only one considered a numeracy test is Numerical Reasoning, which tests your ability to work with fractions, decimals and formulas, as well as interpreting graphs and tables.

Police Numerical Reasoning Tests

As part of your initial recruitment, you need to sit a short non-calculator exam, in which you have 12 minutes to answer 25 multiple-choice questions. The test covers topics such as working with money, speed and distance, averages, and shape.

UK Fire and Rescue Service Working with Numbers test

To become a firefighter, you need to pass a whole battery of tests covering your physical and mental aptitude for the job. Listed sneakily under Psychological Tests is the Working with Numbers test.

Because the ambulance service has such a wide variety of roles, there isn’t a specific numeracy test that applicants have to pass. However, the jobs within the service do require you to have a good all-round level of education, generally including a GCSE grade C or better in maths and some roles require you to pass an appropriate numeracy test.

Maritime and Coastguard Agency

You don’t need to take a particular numeracy qualification to become a volunteer coastguard rescue officer. However, you are expected to be able to understand and exchange complex information by phone or radio, which requires at least basic maths skills.

Find out more about the MCA.

UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT)

To qualify for a university course in medicine or dentistry, you usually need to pass the UK Clinical Aptitude Test (or UKCAT) – a series of papers that determine how suitable you are to become a medical or dental professional. UKCAT consists of four tests.

The Quantitative Reasoning test is about interpreting numerical and graphical information and doing calculations from it.