Literacy and Numeracy Test for Initial Teacher Education Students

Prior to graduation, all initial teacher education students are expected to sit the Literacy and Numeracy Test for Initial Teacher Education Students (the test) to demonstrate that they have been assessed as being in the top 30 per cent of the adult population for personal literacy and numeracy. The test provides a nationally consistent way to assess aspects of an individual’s personal literacy and numeracy skills.

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Between 2016 and 2020, over 96,000 individuals have attempted one or both components of the test.

The tables below show the number of new candidates attempting each component of the test one or more times and the percentage meeting the standard each year.

Literacy component

Year Total first-time test candidates % met the standard
2016 13,083 95.2%
2017 23,387 92.0%
2018 22,061 90.5%
2019 20,670 91.7%
2020* 16,511 91.8%

Numeracy component

Year Total first-time test candidates % met the standard
2016 13,084 94.2%
2017 23,465 92.3%
2018 22,007 90.0%
2019 20,702 90.7%
2020* 16,313 91.9%

*Note: There were fewer test candidates in 2020 due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on test operations. Many physical testing centres were closed and the May 2020 test window was conducted completely online.

The test requirement

Enhancing the capability of teachers is vital to raising the overall quality of Australia’s school system and lifting student outcomes. Action to improve the quality of teachers in Australian schools must begin when teachers are first prepared for the profession.

For teachers, strong personal literacy and numeracy skills are an essential part of the attributes and skills needed to be effective in the classroom. They are also necessary to foster the development of these critical skills in students, providing the building blocks for future learning.

The requirement that all initial teacher education students possess personal literacy and numeracy skills in the top 30 per cent of the adult population has been in place since 2011 when all education ministers agreed to the updated Accreditation of initial teacher education programs in Australia: Standards and Procedures. In 2015, all education ministers agreed that from 1 July 2016 the test would be used as the means to demonstrate students have achieved this standard.

The test standard of literacy and numeracy achievement equivalent to the top 30 per cent of the Australian adult population was empirically validated in 2017 with reference to the OECD Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies. The test has been developed with reference to the Australian Core Skills Framework, the key measure for the Australian Government’s Skills for Education and Employment program. The test has been created in consultation with teacher educators from the higher education sector and represents literacy and numeracy tasks and contexts that can reasonably be expected to be within the professional experience of teachers.

Any initial teacher education student undertaking a qualification that enables them to register to teach in a school setting is expected to meet the standard of the test prior to graduation. There are no exemptions or alternative assessments to the test requirement.

Some states and territories also require prospective teachers to meet the test standard before registration or employment as a teacher. For more information on state and territory requirements, contact the teacher registration authority in your state or territory. Links to all state and territory teacher registration authorities can be found on the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership website.

On 11 December 2020, all education ministers agreed that, from 2023, students who are planning to enrol in an initial teacher education course will have the option to sit the test before they commence their studies. This decision is intended to offer more certainty and fairness to students before they decide to invest time and resources in pursuing a teaching career. This will also give higher education providers the opportunity to provide targeted assistance to students who need additional support to meet the required standard.

Sitting the test

The Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) is the test administrator and is responsible for delivering the test in selected testing centres across Australia and through an invigilated online environment (remote proctoring). The test is held during set test windows throughout the year. Students seeking up-to-date information on the test, including test dates, locations and registration procedures, should refer to ACER’s test website.

The test has two components: a literacy component and a numeracy component. Students are required to register for the test on the ACER test website and pay the test fee at the time of registration.

To assist candidates to prepare for the test, ACER offers a range of resources on the test website. This includes full size practice tests, as well as retired test items, practice questions and a Described Proficiency Scale which describes the skills assessed by the test and how candidates’ achievement of the standard required by the test is determined.

All test candidates have up to three opportunities to demonstrate that they meet the standard in each test component. Candidates who do not meet the standard after three attempts should discuss options with their higher education provider. Higher education providers can request up to two additional resit attempts for an individual student in special or extenuating circumstances.

If after reviewing the information on the test website you have further queries about the administration of the test, please contact ACER at teacheredtest@acer.edu.au.