What influences how well-prepared student teachers feel towards working in schools upon completion of their initial teacher preparation (ITP)? In order to investigate this question, we used a path analysis using data from a longitudinal study investigating the experiences of trainee and early career phase teachers in England. The data were generated via self-complete questionnaires and follow-up telephone interviews with 1,322 trainees. Those on undergraduate or school-based programmes felt better prepared to work as teachers than one-year postgraduate trainees, perhaps because the former give higher ratings of the quality of assessment of, and feedback received on, teaching practice, and because of the clarity of theory-practice links in programmes. Across different kinds of ITP programme, good relationships with school-based mentors significantly boosted trainees' confidence that their ITP had effectively prepared them for teaching. Trainees' motives for entering the profession and their initial concerns about and expectations of ITP also affected their perceptions of its effectiveness, by shaping the way they experienced aspects of their courses. Implications of these findings for policy and practice in teacher preparation are discussed.