How to prepare for the PGCE

Are you considering a career in education or aspiring to become a teacher in the United Kingdom? Then you might decide to take the PGCE (Postgraduate Certificate in Education). 

In this article, we will delve into the details regarding what the PGCE is, its significance, how to prepare for it, and the content of the PGCE.

What is the PGCE?

The PGCE, or postgraduate certificate in education, is a qualification offered in the United Kingdom for those aspiring to become teachers. 

It is a one or two-year higher education, postgraduate programme that combines academic study with practical teaching experience. This typically means that students enrol at a university to take the PGCE. Information about tuition fees for teacher training is available through UCAS.

The PGCE is designed to equip graduates with the necessary knowledge, skills, and understanding to teach in England’s primary or secondary schools. 

PGCE Primary:

This PGCE is for those who aspire to become primary teachers. It equips graduates with the necessary knowledge, skills, and practical experience to teach children aged 5 to 11 in primary schools. The programme covers a wide range of subjects and focuses on developing expertise in pedagogy, curriculum design, classroom management, and assessment techniques specific to primary education. This PGCE is the most popular and hence, the most competitive.

PGCE Secondary:

This PGCE is for those who wish to teach in secondary schools. It prepares graduates to educate students aged 11 to 18 in their specific subject areas. This teacher training programme combines theoretical learning with practical teaching experience, allowing participants to develop subject knowledge, teaching strategies, and classroom management skills. The PGCE Secondary programme emphasises the importance of subject specialisation, ensuring that graduates are well-prepared to deliver engaging and effective lessons in their chosen subject.

Unsure what PGCE you should take, or confused about whether you need to take one at all? Our expert team has plenty of experience in teacher training and qualifications like the PGCE

Most of our tutors have been teachers for years before becoming tutors at The Profs. So, if anyone has the know-how to give you the advice you need, it’s us. Just reach out.

What UK universities offer the PGCE?

Many UK universities offer PGCE degrees, including the prestigious University of Cambridge and highly renowned Russell Group institutions. Check out the list below:

This is just a list of some examples, there are many more universities that offer the PGCE! More information on this is available via the Complete University Guide.

Remember, top UK universities have high entry requirements and host a competitive admissions process. If you’d like to get into one of these top universities for the PGCE, you’ve come to the right place. 

Here, at The Profs, we offer expert guidance through university admissions. It’s OUR THING. That’s why over 95% of our students get into their first and second-choice universities, including Oxbridge and Russell Group universities. Contact our admissions team for an application review or coaching throughout the admissions process.

Understanding the PGCE: Your path to becoming a teacher

The PGCE is a significant milestone on the path to becoming a teacher. By understanding the process, examination formats and preparing strategically you can increase your chances of success.

The PGCE is a postgraduate course. This means that you must have already completed an undergraduate degree (or equivalent) to pursue this qualification.

Having a PGCE is not essential to become a teacher in the UK, whereas having the QTS is. 

Need help smashing the PGCE? Our talented and experienced team of PGCE tutors can help.

What is QTS?

You can take it with or without a PGCE, and it is often included as a part of the PGCE.

The QTS stands for Qualified Teacher Status; it is a legal requirement to teach in many English schools except some academies and free schools. The QTS is desirable for teachers in most UK schools.

Without a QTS you cannot register with the General Teaching Council for England (GTCE) and, therefore, you’re not qualified to teach in state schools.

So, if you’d like to become a teacher in the UK, you should consider obtaining the QTS. Need help passing the QTS? We’ve got you covered.

That said, there is a QTS exemption available for teachers who are qualified outside of the UK. You can check whether you’re eligible for this here.

What is the difference between the QTS and PGCE?

As previously mentioned, the QTS is almost essential to becoming a teacher whereas the PGCE is not.

The QTS is usually offered as part and parcel of the PGCE. However, you should always check this as this is not consistently the case.

The QTS is one examination, whereas the PGCE is a course that typically lasts from one to two academic years, so the QTS is much faster to obtain.

So, why might someone opt to take the PGCE as well as the QTS? Well, the QTS is usually considered a title or certificate and not an academic qualification. Whereas, the PGCE is and hence, is a good way of demonstrating to your employer that you have the education and experience to be a teacher. 

Moreover, if you need to learn or gain experience in a school setting, the PGCE offers just that, whereas the QTS doesn’t as it’s simply an assessment. 

On this same note, to take the QTS without the PGCE you must have sufficient experience e.g. working as a teacher for a couple of years. Similarly, someone might opt to jump straight to the QTS if they have already studied an education-related undergraduate course e.g. a BA in Childhood Studies.

If you’d like to be as employable as possible, it’s probably a good idea to get the PGCE before you obtain the QTS. This is especially the case if you don’t have previous teaching experience or a related degree.

If you’re unsure whether you should take the PGCE as well as the QTS or about passing either one of these qualifications, have no fear. Just allow us to help. Qualifications can make or break your future career!

Failing and resitting:

There do not seem to be any rules regarding failing and retaking the QTS. If you fail the QTS you can improve your knowledge and experience and take it again! 

If the QTS is part of your PGCE course, it is possible to fail one and pass the other. So, ensure that if this happens, you retake the necessary components to pass!

Since the PGCE is a degree, if you fail this, you must speak to your department about retaking certain modules and/or exams to pass overall.

The process to become a qualified teacher in the UK

It is possible that your journey (or someone else’s) looks a little different to the one below but the common route is as follows:

  1. Undergraduate degree (or equivalent): The first step is obtaining an undergraduate degree (usually three to four years). This can be in anything! However, it’s helpful if it is in a subject relevant to the desired teaching area e.g. English. You might even decide to take your undergraduate Education degree so that you can skip the PGCE.
  2. PGCE (or equivalent): Aspiring teachers often pursue a PGCE Primary or PGCE Secondary (or equivalent) qualification. This postgraduate qualification combines theoretical study with practical teaching experience, preparing individuals for a career in education.
  3. Experience: Gaining teaching experience is crucial, whether this is before, throughout or after the PGCE. This can be attained through placements and practical training during the PGCE programme or by gaining experience separately, such as through voluntary work or teaching assistant roles.
  4. QTS: Upon successful completion of the PGCE and meeting the necessary requirements, you can apply for Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). Note that your PGCE may include the QTS.
  5. First official teaching job application: Once you have obtained QTS, you can start applying for your first official teaching job. This process typically involves submitting applications, attending interviews, and showcasing your qualifications, experience, and passion for teaching.

More information is available via this “train to teach” page by the UK government.

Note: If you’re an international student or non-UK citizen who would like to become a teacher in the UK, this is possible! Please visit this page for more information.

Let us know if you need help smashing any of the above steps! We help students like you succeed every day. Just check out our TrustPilot reviews.

Undertaking the PGCE: A Roadmap to Success

As you embark on this journey, it’s important to prepare yourself thoroughly to make the most of your PGCE experience. Here are some tips to guide you along the way:

  • Research your chosen subject: Gain a deep understanding of the subject you wish to teach. Familiarise yourself with the curriculum, current trends, and key topics. This will help you feel more confident and prepared when delivering lessons. Please note that this is not applicable if you are pursuing the PGCE Primary.
  • Gain relevant experience: Seek opportunities to gain experience working with children or young adults in educational settings. This could include volunteering at schools, tutoring, or assisting with extracurricular activities. Practical experience will enhance your understanding of classroom dynamics and help you develop your teaching skills.
  • Stay updated with educational policies: Keep yourself informed about the latest developments in educational policies and practices. Familiarise yourself with national curriculum guidelines, assessment frameworks, and pedagogical approaches. This will allow you to align your teaching strategies with current educational standards.
  • Reflect on your learning journey: Take time to reflect on your own experiences as a learner. Consider what teaching methods were effective for you and what challenges you faced. This self-awareness will enable you to empathise with your future students and adapt your teaching techniques to cater to diverse learning styles.
  • Develop strong organisational skills: Teaching requires excellent organisation and time management skills. Practise creating lesson plans, organising resources, and maintaining records. Developing these skills early on will help you stay on top of your workload during the intensive PGCE programme.
  • Build a support network: Connect with experienced teachers, join online forums or communities, and attend educational conferences or workshops. Engaging with a support network will provide valuable insights and encouragement.
  • Familiarise yourself with assessment methods: Gain an understanding of different assessment methods and techniques. Explore formative and summative assessment strategies and how they align with the subject you wish to teach. This knowledge will assist you in designing effective assessments that accurately measure student progress.
  • Embrace a growth mindset: Approach your PGCE with a growth mindset, believing that your abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. Embrace challenges as opportunities for growth and view feedback as a valuable tool for improvement. Cultivating a growth mindset will help you navigate the demands of the PGCE programme and become a lifelong learner.
  • Embrace practical teaching experience: Make the most of every opportunity to gain practical teaching experience during your PGCE. Actively engage in classroom observations, teaching placements, and micro-teaching sessions. Embrace the challenges that come with real-life teaching scenarios and apply the theories and strategies you learn in your PGCE programme. Reflect on your experiences, seek feedback from mentors and colleagues, and continuously refine your teaching skills.
  • Develop strong classroom management techniques: Effective classroom management is crucial for a successful teaching career. Take time to understand and implement strategies for maintaining discipline, fostering a positive learning environment, and managing student behaviour. Learn about techniques such as behaviour management systems, differentiated instruction, and establishing clear expectations and routines. Building strong classroom management skills will create a conducive learning environment for your students and contribute to your overall success as a teacher.

These are just a few quick tips. Our tutors and admissions teams have got plenty more in their knowledge bank.

The PGCE’s typical course structure and assessment style

  • The standard course structure for the PGCE typically consists of a combination of academic study, practical teaching experience, and assessments. 
  • During the PGCE, students will attend lectures, seminars, and workshops where they will learn about educational theories, teaching methods, and curriculum design. They will also have opportunities to observe experienced teachers in the classroom and gradually take on teaching responsibilities under supervision.
  • Assessment methods for the PGCE may include both exams and coursework. Exams are usually focused on testing knowledge and understanding of educational theories and concepts. Coursework may involve assignments, lesson planning, teaching portfolios, and reflective journals. These assessments are designed to evaluate students’ ability to apply their learning in real-world teaching contexts.
  • Overall, the PGCE aims to provide aspiring teachers with the necessary knowledge, skills, and practical experience to become effective teachers. It combines theoretical learning with hands-on teaching practice, preparing graduates for a career in teaching in primary or secondary schools.

Don’t forget, our expert PGCE tutors can support you throughout your degree.

Please note: The precise details of your PGCE’s course structure and assessment style will depend on whether it’s primary or secondary (as well as the subject you choose) and the institution that you enrol with. So, always check the details for your specific PGCE on your chosen institution’s page. 

We can help

Here at The Profs, we have excellent, talented, and expert PGCE tutors with tonnes of experience. We have the knowledge and resources needed for success. So, if you feel like you need some help to ace your QTS and/or PGCE, allow us to help you! 


What is the PGCE?

The PGCE (Postgraduate Certificate in Education) is a postgraduate qualification in the UK that prepares individuals for a career in teaching. It combines academic study with practical teaching experience and usually leads to qualified teacher status (QTS), allowing graduates to teach in primary or secondary schools.

How long does the PGCE course last?

The duration of the PGCE course typically spans one academic year, although this can vary depending on the university and programme. It is a full-time course that includes both classroom-based learning and teaching practice in schools.

Do I need a specific subject degree to pursue a PGCE?

No, you don’t necessarily need a specific subject degree to pursue a PGCE. While some PGCE courses are subject-specific, such as English or Mathematics, there are also general PGCE courses that allow graduates from various disciplines to become qualified teachers. However, having a degree related to the subject you wish to teach can be advantageous.

What is QTS, and how do I obtain it?

QTS stands for Qualified Teacher Status, which is the professional accreditation required to teach in state-maintained schools in England and Wales. To obtain QTS, aspiring teachers need to complete an approved teacher training programme, such as the PGCE, and meet the specified standards of teaching competence and professional conduct.

How can I prepare for the PGCE course?

To prepare for the PGCE course, it is recommended to gain some experience working with children or in an educational setting. This can include volunteering in schools, tutoring, or assisting in extracurricular activities. Familiarising yourself with the national curriculum, educational policies, and teaching methodologies can also be beneficial. More information on this is available in this article. Alternatively, reach out to our expert PGCE tutors.