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Core Skills Profile for Adults

Core Skills Profile

What is the CSPA?

The Core Skills Profile for Adults (CSPA) is a tool designed to indicate your reading, writing, and numeracy/maths skills.

What is the CSPA used for?

Ironwood uses this information to assess if you will need any learning support during your studies and to assist your lecturer in personalising your training.

Qualifications funded under Subsidised Training require applicants to complete a supervised CSPA as part of the eligibility requirements. Students are also required to meet additional eligibility criteria, to access subsidies.

What does the CSPA involve?

The CSPA is completed using a computer and is made up of three components: Reading, Writing, and Numeracy.


The reading component involves multiple choice and some text entry questions. This section asks you to:

  • recognise the correct spelling, meanings, and grammatical use of commonly used words.
  • read a short passage and demonstrate your understanding of it by answering the accompanying questions.
  • read and interpret information from tables, charts, and other sources.


The writing component has two question prompts with extended text entry fields for you to type your answers. This section:

  • requires you to write a minimum of 3 paragraphs with at least 3 sentences in each paragraph so the system has enough information to grade you.
  • looks at areas such as audience, purpose, vocabulary, grammar, language choices, sentence structure, spelling, and punctuation.


  • The numeracy component involves multiple choice and numerical entry questions, covering areas in basic numeracy which arise in normal day-to-day life.
  • The questions involve basic operations on whole numbers, fractions, decimals, percentages, and simple graphical interpretations, with higher-level indicators for problem-solving, numbers and algebra, measurement and geometry, and statistics and probability.
  • There is an in-built calculator in the numeracy section.

What support is available for applicants and students with a disability or medical condition?

Some applicants may require other types of assistance to undertake the CSPA. If you think you may need individual support, get in touch early as it may require some time to put things in place. A Student Services staff member can answer your queries and work out a plan if you need extra support.

We recommend you book an appointment at least 7 days before your scheduled CSPA session to discuss your circumstances. You can book an appointment by calling Ironwood on 08 8227 0300.

If you need individual support or adjustments for the CSPA, you will need to provide documentation from a treating practitioner. This can be a medical practitioner, psychologist, or other accredited health specialists.

How to book your CSPA

Once your application to study at Ironwood is received and assessed you will be contacted to book a CSPA assessment. 

Booking and undertaking your Core Skills Profile for Adults (CSPA)

You are required to complete the CSPA as part of your application.  The following information will help you to prepare.

It is important to familiarise yourself with what is expected of you before attending and to be aware of the options and support available to you.

The information available on this page includes:

  • Booking into a CSPA session
  • Important information to know before attending including what to bring with you, what to expect during a session
  • Getting support to undertake the CSPA
  • What happens after completion of the CSPA
  • CSPA frequently asked questions

The CSPA is completed using a computer and can take from 1 to 3 hours.

Once you are booked into a session you will receive a confirmation email advising of the campus, date, and time.

On arrival you are required to:

  • show Photo ID to the facilitator upon arrival
  • arrive ready to begin the CSPA at the scheduled time.

The facilitator will show you how to access the CSPA.  You can use pen and blank paper if required, however, no personal calculators or phones can be used. Please also bring a bottle of water, if required.

If you do not have Photo ID, you will be unable to complete the CSPA and will be rebooked into another session.

Getting support to undertake the CSPA

There is support available to all applicants who are required to undertake the CSPA. Details about the support available are outlined below.

Take as much time as you need to complete the CSPA.
On average, people spend approximately 1hr to 1.5 hrs to complete the CSPA, however you have up to 3 hours available in your booked CSPA session. If you have not completed the CSPA at the end of the 3 hours, you can book a time to come back and complete it another day.

Take breaks when you need them.
Throughout the CSPA session, you can take short breaks to have a drink, refresh your mind, use the toilet, etc. We just ask that you let the CSPA supervisor know you are taking a break.

Use the built-in calculator for the maths/numeracy questions.
The CSPA software has a built-in calculator.

Use your personal headphones to avoid distractions.
If you would find it useful, you can use your personal headphones to avoid distractions.

Support workers can accompany you to the campus.
Support workers or family members can accompany you to the campus and are welcome to wait for you in the foyer/common areas of Ironwood whilst you undertake the CSPA.

If you have any problems.
Our friendly staff provides instructions at the commencement of the CSPA, and if you have any concerns during the CSPA, just let them know and they will do their best to help.

What happens after I complete the CSPA?

Successful applicants are notified of offers via email. 

Please make sure to check the course entry requirements section on the Ironwood website for each course you have applied for to ensure you have completed all application requirements.

CSPA Frequently Asked Questions

Applications and offers

Am I guaranteed an offer after completing the CSPA?
Ironwood endeavours to offer enrolment to students who pass the CSPA and meet the eligibility criteria for each course.  However, Ironwood does not guarantee an offer.

Results and outcomes

Can I get my results?
Results are not issued directly to you, however, your results will be discussed with you during your up-front assessment of needs interview.

Do I pass or fail the CSPA?
When completing the CSPA for a subsidised course, there are ‘required levels’ that need to be met.

  • Requirement for Subsidy – If you fall below the required levels, this does not prevent an offer from being made. You may be required to complete a bridging unit.
  • Requirement for Course – If you do not meet the required level for an offer you will be contacted by Ironwood to discuss further options.

What is a bridging unit course?
A bridging unit is a course designed to increase your skill levels if you have not reached the required levels in the CSPA. For example, if you are slightly below the required level in numeracy you would enrol in a numeracy bridging unit. This is a requirement to receive subsidised funding and is used to assist you to be successful in your study. There is no charge or fee for bridging units and are arranged on an individual basis.

When will I know I need a bridging unit?
You will be informed by the Institute when an offer is made. 

Why do I need to complete the CSPA

If I don’t do the CSPA what will happen?

  • If your course fees are subsidised by the government, you will be unable to access this subsidy (which means you will have to pay the full fees for your course)
  • Your educator will not be able to identify if you will need learning support during your studies
  • You will be unable to register/enrol in your subsidised course

I have a Bachelor’s degree or another higher education qualification, why do I have to do the CSPA?
If your course fees are subsidised by the government and you wish to access the subsidised rate, the Department of Innovation and Skills stipulates that all applicants must sit the CSPA regardless of other qualifications.

I am currently in a qualification at Ironwood but need to do the CSPA again. Why?
The CSPA is required for each subsidised course studied. If you are moving from one qualification to another you may need to sit the CSPA again as the levels required are different for each qualification. For example, you may be moving from a Certificate III to a Diploma.

What to expect at a CSPA session

Can I bring my children to my CSPA session?
Attendees are unable to bring children to CSPA sessions. 

Can I go back after I have finished a section?
If you are still in a section you can review your answers, however, once you have clicked the finished button you cannot go back.

Can I resit the CSPA multiple times?
You can re-sit the CSPA after 3 months and then 3 months later if needed.

Does the CSPA cost anything to attend?
No, the CSPA is fee-free.

Additional assistance

Can someone help me to complete the CSPA?
The CSPA must be completed by you only. Your identity is confirmed upon your arrival at the session.

What if I have a medical condition?
Support is available for Applicants/Students with a Disability/Medical Condition.

Student Services are available to discuss your concerns related to health, disability, and other issues. If you think you may require individual adjustments to the CSPA, we recommend that you connect with us at least 7 days before your booked session.

I haven’t done any study for a long time and I am worried about the CSPA.

Ironwood has many students from all walks of life and it’s normal to feel nervous when starting something new. You may not have studied for 20 years, or not finished school. You may be a parent returning to work or just moved to Australia. The important thing to remember is that we are here to support you and that completing the CSPA allows us to see how we can offer you additional support.

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