NHS Literacy and Numeracy Practice Test & Prep Guide (2023)

by Sarah Duncan

So, you’ve just applied to work with the NHS!

Take the NHS Numeracy and Literacy Test to improve your score.

However, you’ve got no idea what to expect in the upcoming numeracy and literacy test – only that it’s an important part of the recruitment process that’s necessary to prove your competency as a candidate.

Don’t worry! In this article, you’ll discover everything there is to know about how to effectively study and prepare for the NHS numeracy and literacy test.

This handy guide will highlight every section of the assessment, as well as provide helpful strategies, tips, and practice questions.

There has never been a better resource to help you effectively prepare for and excel in the NHS numeracy and literacy test. What are we waiting for then? Let’s get into it!

What is the NHS Numeracy and Literacy Assessment Test?

The NHS has been at the forefront of medical care in the UK ever since its inception in 1948.

Providing assistance to an average of 1.6 million patients per day, it is no wonder they have such high standards for anyone interested in applying for a position!

The NHS isn’t just looking for people who are passionate about the UK’s healthcare system; they’re looking for individuals who can display high levels of analytical thinking and numerical aptitude.

Potential candidates must be able to communicate effectively, understand all the healthcare protocols, and employ rudimental mathematics in their everyday working environment.

Therefore, it is essential that the NHS recruitment team examines employees through their distinct, healthcare-related numeracy and literacy assessments.

Specifically, the numeracy test evaluates a potential candidate’s ability with numbers; they will be assessed on simple mathematical equations, from basic calculations to numerical reasoning.

This is an extremely important skill set, especially for employees working with counting doses of life-saving medications for patients!

The literacy test, on the other hand, assesses an individual’s ability to read, write, and comprehend the English language.

Effective communication is key in the healthcare system. In fact,, strong lines of communication will save lives!

Therefore, it is paramount that NHS employees can not only explain but understand complex instructions and medical jargon.


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NHS numeracy and Literacy Test Process

Luckily, the NHS assessment process is relatively straightforward.

First, you’ll need to apply online. This can be done by submitting a form and your CV through the NHS portal found on their website.

Once approved, the numeracy and literacy tests will be sent to you via email.

They can be completed at home on a computer provided you have good internet access. Each test has an allotted time of 30 minutes with no extensions.

Those who pass the assessment are then called in for a face-to-face interview. This is the final step of the process. After the interview, the recruitment agent or administrator will reach out to those who have been successful.

Why Does the NHS Use the Numeracy Literacy Test

Basic reading skills are not enough for most positions in the NHS. The literacy test portion of the NHS tests your ability to read, write, and comprehend the English language. Literacy skills are especially important as the healthcare system is an intricate one that involves many lines of communication.

Misinterpreted data or being unable to process information properly may turn out deadly if the position is not filled out right. From the most basic terms to interpreting chunks of text, the literacy test assesses applicants’ capacity to process information within a limited time period. 

The NHS literacy test has around 20 questions, with an allotted 30 minutes for test takers. The format of the test is multiple choice, so it is important that candidates not only get the right answer, but also make sure they pick the right letter. 

On the other hand, the numeracy or mathematics test gauges candidates’ ability with numbers. Basic calculations and numerical reasoning will be tested. This is, of course critical in healthcare, where numbers related to drug doses and other tasks can mean life or death for a patient.

The test filters out those who are quick to solve numeracy problems and resolve issues quickly. Furthermore, the ability to observe the smallest details, from misplaced decimal points to units of measurement, is critical for any position within the NHS. 

Just like the literacy test, the NHS numeracy test has 20 questions with an allotted time of 30 minutes. While the test can be done at home, test takers are not allowed to use a calculator. 

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Questions to Expect in the Numeracy and Literacy Tests

All information needed to reach the answer in every question in the NHS numeracy and literacy tests are provided. This means that prospective applicants should not focus on reviewing information about their specific desired position, but rather the test format itself. 

The literacy test evaluates basic grammar, vocabulary, and language skills, along with comprehension of various texts. Literacy assessment questions will come in the form of completing sentences or paragraphs, reading passages and picking the right answers to following questions.

Practice Questions 1

Choose the best term that completes the sentence:

The patient must take medicine to _______ the pain in his legs.

a) worsen

b) agitate

c) alleviate

d) add to

The words worsen, agitate, and boost are words that do not make sense in the context of the sentence. The answer is therefore c) alleviate, which means to improve or lessen the pain in the patient’s legs. 

Here is another sample question:

What is the synonym for the word “adequate”?

a) sufficient

b) inadequate

c) excessive

d) insufficient

Synonyms are pairs of words that evoke the same meaning. Therefore, the answer to this question is a) sufficient

Polishing your vocabulary and grammar skills takes time, but it may not be the time that you have. You can opt to pay for premium practice tests created by experts to ensure that you will be more than ready to face the NHS Literacy Test.

Practice Questions 2

The numeracy test assesses numerical reasoning and basic mathematical skills. This will come in the form of data interpretation, calculating percentages and ratios, and problem solving.

Below is a sample numeracy test item:

A hotel has 250 beds and operates at 70% capacity. How many beds are occupied?

a) 210 beds

b) 200 beds

c) 175 beds

d) 150 beds

To find the number of beds occupied, you need to calculate 70% of the total number of beds: The calculation process is 70% of 250 beds, which means 0.7 * 250 = 175 beds.  Therefore, the answer is c) 175 beds. 

Here is another sample numeracy test item:

Derrick received a delivery box that has a length of 8 meters, a width of 5 meters, and a height of 3 meters. What is the volume of the box?

a) 24 cubic meters

b) 40 cubic meters

c) 60 cubic meters

d) 120 cubic meters

Volume is defined as the amount of space that a substance or object occupies. The formula to calculate volume is to multiply the length, width, and height. The volume is 8 meters × 5 meters × 3 meters. Therefore, the correct answer is d) 120 cubic meters.

Take note that the numeracy test can provide more complex equations. It all depends on the role you are applying for. While not all successful applicants are expected to get a perfect score, you need to obtain the minimum score needed to get to the interview stage. Typically, successful candidates score within the top 50% of all applicants. 

The format, content, and difficulty of the questions in the NHS Numeracy Literacy Tests vary largely depending on the role and level of responsibility the candidate is applying for. It is important that applicants review the NHS guidelines thoroughly, including the job description or any other materials provided. 

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Tips to Prepare for the NHS Numeracy Literacy Test

Job application, especially for an institution as prestigious as the NHS, can be nerve-wracking. However, with the right amount of preparation, you can get closer to the job of your dreams. The following are tips on how to prepare for the NHS Numeracy and Literacy Test:

  • Read, Assess, Plan. Read all the information as indicated and provided by the NHS about your application. Take note of dates and the specific exams you are about to take. Assess your own skills for every section. Determine which subject you may need to dedicate more time reviewing for. Plan your review schedule and follow it, so you will be more confident on the day of the test. 
  • Review with a Purpose. This includes gathering the right materials for the exams, whether it’s a list of basic mathematical formulas, grammar lessons, or reading materials to improve comprehension. There are also video tutorials and step by step guide that you can look up online.
  • Choose the Right Tests. You already know that the exams are in multiple choice format. But once you throw in the 30 minute time limit, how well do you think you’ll do? The best way to determine if you are well prepared for a timed exam is to take practice tests. While it is easy to find online practice tests, make sure you look for practice questions that have been created by experts, preferably those with a track record for producing successful candidates. Practice tests tailored to the specific exams you are about to take will not only help you improve your knowledge and polish your skills, it will also instill confidence in your own innate abilities. 
  • Stimulate Your Testing Environment. Since the NHS Numeracy and Literacy Test is taken ideally at home where you can ensure you have no distractions, you should also try to practice your testing environment. Are there specific noises you should look out for, such as trucks or pets? Are there distractions you can minimize or remove completely? By taking your practice test in the actual space where you will be taking it, you will be less anxious about external factors that may affect your performance. 
  • Check Your Tech. Since you will not be provided with the computer where you will take your test, take full responsibility of determining if your device works for the day of the test, and if your internet connection will be stable enough for it. Create backup plans in case of worst case scenarios, such as borrowing an extra laptop, or preparing another wifi connection. This will not just show your dedication to the test and the position, but your ability to solve problems on the spot. 
  • Praise Your Progress. Be proud of what you have accomplished as your review for the test. Compare practice test scores and assess which subjects you are in need of help with. If you know someone who has taken the test, talk to them about their experience or any concern that you might have with the literacy and numeracy test. Celebrate improvements so you will be motivated to continue learning. 
  • Take the Test with Confidence and Caution. You have done everything you can with the amount of time you had and the materials you were able to get. Take the actual exam with confidence, knowing you have properly reviewed and practiced for it; and with caution, by reading instructions carefully and comprehending each question shown on your screen.

What Happens after Taking the NHS Numeracy and Literacy Test

Getting the Call

Once you successfully pass both the initial recruitment phase and attain a satisfactory score on the numeracy and literacy tests, you might receive an invitation for the final interview, which is also the final step of the application procedure. It is typically conducted face-to-face.

Those applying as an NHS healthcare assistant, NHS staff, or various other roles will be interviewed by two people, usually a healthcare professional and a recruiter. Just as with the numeracy and literacy test, it is important to prepare yourself for the final interview, as it will be your time to present the best version of yourself and be the candidate that they are looking for.

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Questions to Expect

Typically, the final interview will cover questions about your technical skills and your past experience. It is important to look back on your career. Take note of highlights and other learnings you have had. This will reflect in the competency-based questions, where you will be asked to draw on past experiences to show you how you resolved issues or problems in your job.

When you prepare for the interview, remember to reread the job description or posting that the NHS provided. Check the specific characteristics that they are looking for. Make sure that they also match your own. This will help you construct your answers in ways that will reflect the candidate they want for the position. The following are some of the questions you may be asked:

  • What do you know about the role we are looking to fill?
  • Why do you think you would be the best person for the job?
  • When was the last time you had a problem at work where no one could tell you how to handle it, and how did you address it on your own?

Don’t forget to read about the NHS or the specific institution you are looking to work for before going in for the interview. 

Related Guide: Everything You Need To Know About NHS Graduate Scheme

Taking the Right Steps

Do not let your dreams of becoming part of the NHS be hindered by fear or anxiety. On the other hand, do not let your passion of helping others be the only qualification and preparation you have when applying for the job. Instead, let it be your motivation to take the right steps towards your dream job. 

Once you send that application form, you’ve taken the first important step. The next ones are just as critical. While it may be scary at times, knowing what to expect and preparing properly will alleviate any thoughts of anxiety and doubt.

Know your weaknesses. Turn to practice tests so you can turn them into weapons. Finally, believe that all your preparation will bear fruit to a new, fulfilling career in the NHS. Get to work.


What areas should I focus on most for the NHS literacy test?

The areas you should focus on for the NHS literacy test are basic grammar, vocabulary, language skills, and the ability to comprehend various texts. Prepare for fill-in-the-blank style questions and multiple choice.

Are there any official NHS practice tests available?

There are no official NHS practice tests available online. However, you can find multiple sample or mock questions on various websites posted by individuals who have taken the test.

How can I improve my chances of getting employed by NHS?

You can improve your chances of getting employed by the NHS by practicing for the upcoming numeracy and literacy tests.

You can also prepare for the in-person interview by familiarizing yourself with the NHS values, reading up on the role you’re applying for, and by practicing common interview questions.