The Maryland State Board of Education today designated 156 skills from writing a job application to using a television guide, that students will be required to master before they can graduate from high school.

The new requirements are scheduled to go into effect in 1986, but state Superintendent David W. Hornbeck said they could start a year or two earlier if problems in devising the tests are resolved.

The list of skills, which took a public opinion poll and 2 1/2 years to develop, will be enforced by a series of four statewide tests, lasting a total of about seven hours.

A competency test in reading was first given last year to ninth graders, and must be passed by all students graduating from high school, starting in 1982.

The other areas, for which tests have not yet been devised, are mathematics, writing, and "life skills." Among the items in the last catergory are first aid and basic nutrition, "factors influencing human sexuality," explaining property rights, and evaluating the actions of public officials.

Maryland's "index of competencies" for high school graduation and the tests to enforce it are part of a nationwide movement to raise school achievement by requiring students to pass uniform tests as well as get passing marks from their teachers.

Since 1976, 38 states have adopted some sort of competency test requirement, according to Chris Pipho, associate director of research for the Education Commission of the States. Eleven states have adopted statewide tests for high school graduation, Pipho said, the first of which is scheduled to be enforced this spring for seniors in North Carolina.

Virginia is among four states that plan to require graduation tests in reading and mathematics starting in 1981. In the District of Columbia the school board has endorsed the concept of having a graduation exam, but no date has been set for requiring it.

Hornbeck stressed that his state not only is establishing a list of skills that students must master before they can get their high school diplomas, but is preparing sample lessons for teaching all the required skills. Hornbeck said the lessons have been tried out during the past year in 30 pilot schools around the state, using a preliminary list of skills that the state board adopted last summer.

He said lessons based on the final list of skills, adopted today, will probably be taught next fall in about half of the state's 1,300 schools.

As a result of the tryout, Hornbeck said, 27 of the proposed skills were revised in the final version, and one was dropped.

Before the board voted unanimously to approve the new list, member Mary E. Ellis remarked, "the only comment I've heard from around the state, 'keep them simple, keep them simple.'"

Board President William G. Sykes interjected, "'simple' as distinguished from 'easy.'"

Later Hornbeck explained that virtually all of the skills on the list would be taught in elementary and junior high schools so that most students who take the tests for the first time in ninth grade will be able to pass. For those who don't there will be remedial work and the chance to take the tests again each year until they pass.

The required reading skills adopted yesterday focus on everyday tasks such as interpreting road signs, following directions to play a game or reading a map or a bus schedule.

Besides using a television guide, the section on "locating references" includes using phone books, newspapers, catalogues and dictionaries.

The list of writing skills ranges from "writing a sentence that makes a statement" to writing a letter of complaint to a company.