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Teacher training: Applying for teacher training

Popular with graduates, teacher training is very competitive. Let Prospects guide you through the application and interview process and how to write an outstanding personal statement...


Postgraduate teacher training applications in England, Scotland and Wales are usually made through UCAS Teacher Training (UCAS TT) for:

  • university-led, Postgraduate or Professional Certificates in Education (PGCE);
  • school-led, School Direct, salaried and unsalaried, and School-centred initial teacher training (SCITT);
  • Further Education (FE)/post compulsory teacher training with some further education colleges.

Before completing your application form you need to:

  • get as much experience as you can in the classroom for the age range you are interested in teaching - contact schools/organisations in your area to observe lessons or work in education;
  • choose your training route, age range and/or subject and provider. For help, see routes into teaching;
  • make sure you meet the minimum qualification requirements.

Check the UCAS TT website for guidance and application dates and aim to apply as early as possible.

For tips on writing your application, see Teacher Training: Application Form Assistant .

Applications for early years initial teacher training and post compulsory teacher training can be made directly with the institution or the employer depending on the route.

Personal statements

Applications through UCAS TT or direct to an institution include a personal statement. This is where you explain why you want to become a teacher and demonstrate your strengths, skills and suitability for teaching. The training providers all want to know similar information from you so take your time, be prepared to get feedback, and write a few drafts.

The UCAS TT personal statement has up to 4,000 characters or 47 lines of text with an introduction, main body and conclusion.

It's important to:

  • use examples based on your recent teaching experience as much as possible;
  • tailor your personal statement according to school/age group;
  • use good, clear, written English, using the first person, such as 'my' and 'I';
  • be original and honest;
  • avoid clichés and general statements such as 'I've always wanted to teach';
  • demonstrate a passion for teaching.

Before drafting your personal statement, think carefully about the things that teacher training providers will want to know, such as…

  • Why do I want to teach? - show that you know about the challenges and rewards of teaching. Maybe talk about a teacher who inspired you, any lessons you have observed/taught, what went well and how you would have improved on them. Discuss teaching styles used and the use of technology.
  • Why do I want to teach this age group/at this level? - what appeals to you, use examples of your experience with this group.
  • What are my strengths? - include the relevance of your degree and subject knowledge. 
  • What experience do I have? - include any relevant work experience such as leadership, coaching a sports team, youth work or working at a summer camp. Give examples of how this developed your teaching skills.
  • What personal skills/abilities do I have? - such as: initiative; determination; creativity; time management; organisational skills; listening skills; leading or working in a team; versatility; and dependability.
  • Do I have any geographical restrictions? - if you don't currently live in the UK, why do you want to study here?
  • What extra do I bring?

Take a look at our example personal statement.

Each personal statement should be unique and personal to you so it is not advisable to copy the example. All applications made through UCAS TT are put through a Similarity Detection Service. Instead, use the guidelines and the example and produce your own, personal version. Selectors want to get an insight into who you are and why you are suited to teaching.

Professional skills test

Before being accepted onto a teacher training course, including early years initial teacher training, you will need to pass the numeracy and literacy skills tests. It is advisable to practice the skills tests before taking them. Your initial skills tests will be free, but you will be expected to pay for resits.

From December 1 2014 the skills tests will be administered by Learndirect, until then they will continue to be delivered by Pearson VUE. For more information see Professional Skills Tests for Trainee Teachers .


If you are successful with your application, the next step will be an interview. This will be within 40 working days of UCAS TT receiving your application and may last up to a day. 

Preparation is the key to success as with any interview, so do your research and get up to date on the latest educational issues.

Make sure you:

  • research the training route and school/institution;
  • are clear about why you want to teach;
  • can talk about your teaching experience, whether working or observing.

The interview may include:

  • a one-to-one and/or panel interview;
  • a presentation - you may or may not have time to prepare for this;
  • written tests such as English/maths or information technology;
  • a short teaching session.

Interviewers will be looking for candidates who:

  • have good communication skills;
  • use examples of their experience and reflect on it;
  • are enthusiastic about teaching and the subject/age they want to teach;
  • display a good understanding of the role of a teacher.

What will I be asked?

They will want to hear illustrations from your recent classroom experience, also remember that your hobbies, employment and work experience may provide good evidence of skills relevant to teaching.

Prepare answers to show what you would bring to the school, maybe classroom organisation, strong communication skills, knowledge of educational issues and responding to the different needs of pupils. Think about what you will contribute to the school, such as ideas which have worked, or a hobby which can add something such as the ability to sing and lead a choir.

Questions are likely to be around familiar themes, including:

  • What makes you think teaching is a good profession for you?
  • Why this key stage/subject?
  • Why are you interested in teacher training with us?

Your qualifications

  • How have you made your degree subject relevant and interesting to students?
  • What inspired you to choose your degree subject?

Your relevant experience

  • Tell us about a good/bad lesson you have observed/taught, what made it good/bad?
  • When have you helped a pupil in the classroom, what made you effective?
  • What was your own school experience like, maybe tell us about a favourite teacher and how this motivates you?


  • When have you overcome a challenging situation?
  • How do you deal with stress?
  • When have you successfully used your initiative?
  • Give an example of when you have dealt with discrimination issues…
  • Tell us about when you have worked in multicultural settings…
  • How do you view a teacher's responsibility in keeping children safe?

For more interview advice see interview tips.

Written by Editor, Graduate Prospects
September 2014

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