NHS Healthcare Assistant Literacy and Numeracy Test Guide with Practice Questions

Last Updated on May 27, 2021

Are you applying for a role in the NHS? If so, you will likely be asked to complete some aptitude tests to complete during the application process. These are used as a way to screen candidates in the early stages of an application to make sure you are well-suited to the job and will be able to maintain the high standards of the NHS staff.

These tests could differ depending on the role you are applying for, and can include a variety of psychometric tests, situational judgment tests and personality questionnaires. However, two of the most common tests for healthcare assistants and many other roles are the NHS literacy and numeracy tests.

These can feel nerve-racking if you have never done a pre-job test before, but don’t worry. They are fairly straightforward and with a little bit of preparation,you will be ready to pass with flying colours in no time. Let’s take a look at the application process and how the tests actually work.

About the NHS

The NHS is England’s publicly funded medical and health care provider and one of the largest employers in the world. From working as a surgeon to administrative staff, there are many roles to choose from at the NHS. Heralded as the country’s backbone, especially in the last few years, it is an exciting time to join their ranks and jobs will certainly be rewarding.

When recruiting, the NHS looks for candidates that display a variety of key skills. Aside from having the motivation and enthusiasm to be part of the NHS, they look for problem-solving, service to others, leadership, ability to work in a team and manage services, analytical thinking and numerical aptitude.

Bear this in mind throughout your application as it may help you align your application to these principles, making it more likely that you will get a role. They also prefer to use psychometric tests to assess new candidates. As they receive applications from such a diverse range of applicants, it can be hard to judge a candidate’s aptitude based on experience only.

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Application process

To apply for a job in the NHS you must first submit an online application. A few days after your application is received, you will be sent the online tests to complete at home. These will consist of a literacy and numeracy test which are both timed tests that are to be completed online on a computer with internet access in 30 minutes each.

Once you have submitted these tests and pass, then you may be invited for an interview. This is the final stage of the recruitment process, so at this point you just need to wait for a call to find out if you landed the role.

To sum up, the application process looks like this:

  • Online application
  • Online tests
  • Interview
  • Job offer

Literacy Test

The literacy test evaluates a candidate’s ability to read, write and comprehend text in English. It is designed to test basic skills like grammar and punctuation as well as the ability to understand a text and pick out key information.

It is important for the NHS to check your literacy skills as your job may involve processing medical information, as well as communicating with doctors, medical staff, and patients in person, by phone, or via email.

The test is timed and you have 30 minutes to answer around 20 questions. The questions are all multiple choice so make sure to read the questions carefully. You will be presented with all the information necessary for the exam.

This means that you don’t technically need to prepare anything in advance. However, it is a good idea to get familiar with the types of questions beforehand so you don’t make any silly mistakes on the day. Dig out your old-school books and brush up on your literacy skills, and most importantly take some online practice tests.

Remember that you will be working against the clock. Check out the PrepPack from Job Test Prep for practice tests and study guides. In fact, to give you an idea of the types of questions you might come up against in the literacy exam, we have provided a practice question here.

Practice question:

Which of the following words is an antonym of grow?

  • Flourish
  • Shrink
  • Elongate
  • Fall

2. Shrink

Why is this the answer?
An antonym describes a word with the opposite meaning. Using a process of elimination you can determine that none of the other words are the opposite of grow.

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Numeracy Test

The numeracy, or mathematics test, as you can probably guess is about numbers. This test will evaluate your ability to do basic calculations and apply numerical reasoning to different situations. The NHS looks for candidates with strong numeracy skills that will help them excel in the role and resolve problems quickly.

You will encounter some questions that test you on addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. You may also be questioned on more complex equations to do with calculating drug doses and other mathematics-based tasks that could come up in your NHS role.

Again, this test is timed and it is 30 minutes long with multiple choice answers for around 20 questions. It is done online and is usually undertaken from home. You are not able to use a calculator as the test aims to test your mental capacity for mathematical tasks.

To progress to the interview stage, you will need to achieve a minimum score. As an estimate, successful candidates usually score within the top 50% of candidates. It is a good idea to review some basic maths and calculations before taking the test.

Doing practice questions is also a great way to familiarise yourself with the types of questions you may find on the test. This will help you stay calm and answer questions efficiently on the day.

Let’s take a look at a practice question so you can get an idea of what you might face on the day. For more in depth practise questions, tips, and study guides, check out the PrepPack at Job Test Prep.

Practice question:

A pizza is cut into 10 slices. 6 slices of the pizza are about to be eaten. What fraction describes this amount?


Why is this the answer?
As the pizza is cut into 10 and 6 pieces will be eaten you can safely say 6/10 slices will be eaten. However this can be simplified further, dividing each part of the fraction by 2, leaving you with ⅗.

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The final interview

If you do make it through both the preliminary recruitment stage and achieve a high enough score in the literacy and numeracy tests, you may be invited to an interview. This is the final stage of the application process and usually takes place in person.

It will usually take place with two interviewers. If you are applying for a healthcare assistant role and various other roles, these two interviewers will usually be a recruiter as well as a healthcare professional. In the interview, you will usually discuss your technical skills and past experience.

You may also be asked competency-based questions where you will be asked to draw on past experiences to show how you resolved issues effectively in the past. At this stage, it is good to bear in mind the characteristics that the NHS looks for in their candidates. It will help you align your answers to what they are looking for. Make sure you have also read up about the job and the NHS, as they could ask you some role-specific questions too.

The types of questions you may be asked could be some of the following:

  • Describe why you would be a great fit for this role?
  • What do you know about the NHS healthcare assistant role?
  • Tell me about a time when you had to resolve a problem with a colleague?

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How to prepare for the NHS literacy and numeracy tests?

If you are nervous about the tests and want to make sure you end up in the top-scoring end of candidates, there is something you can do. Refresh your maths and literacy skills and take some practice tests online.

The best way to feel fully prepared for the NHS tests is to go through some similar questions and be comfortable with the topics they cover. Job Test Prep’s PrepPack includes video tutorials, full simulation English practice tests, and detailed answers to the questions. It can help you feel confident and make sure you don’t miss out on the role you want.


So are you ready to land your dream role in the NHS? Want to put your skills to good use and help people in the process? You are nearly there! And now with your newfound understanding of how the tests and whole application process work, you are ready to go and apply for it.

You can certainly ace the NHS literacy and numeracy tests if you put your mind to it. Just make sure you are well prepared and practiced and there is nothing to worry about. Have confidence in yourself and you can achieve anything!

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