Do you need to clear the PTE Academic exam no matter what? Are you looking for a score of 50, 65 or 79 plus?
If you are just getting started and are looking for a clear direction on what you should be doing or if you have already begun your preparation and are just confused on what approach you should be taking, then you are going to find the below useful.
If you are like me, the real reason you are taking this exam is that you probably have a goal of living or studying abroad. You are reaching up for more in life. That’s great, give yourself a quick pat on the back…go ahead
Now before you realise this goal of yours, there’s this English exam that you need to take and clear.
But how do I get started? What does it really take to get the score I need? Well, I’ve cleared the exam with an overall 90 score so allow me to break it down for you.
More importantly, I’ve helped hundreds of people clear the PTE Academic exam as well through my resources. I’ve also seen a few test-takers failing to make it.
What have I learned from all of this?
I’ve realised that there are only two things that really matter when it comes to getting your desired score in the PTE Academic Exam:
Two Factors to PTE Success:
How good your actual English language skills are.
How well you practice, prepare and make use of strategies to answer different question types.
Both these factors are important for a good score. If you lag behind in any of them, it will reflect in your exam scores.
Let’s dig deeper into these two points to see how this impacts you and how you can improve upon them.
1) How good your actual English language skills are:
At the end of the day, the PTE Academic exam is an English test, so the scores will be a reflection of your English Skills.
If your base level of English is relatively low getting higher scores is unlikely.
Let’s look at an example:
In the reading section if you get a fill in the blank wherein you do not know the meaning of all the options given, the chances of you getting it right is reduced. Similarly, in the listening section, if you come across words that you have not heard before, it will be impossible for you to understand it directly impacting your score. No amount of quick ‘tips’ is going to help you in the exam when you face questions like this. In these situations, you are most likely going to be relying on guesswork.
But here’s the thing:
Not everyone will need to work on improving their current level of English.
It really depends on how much of high quality English have you been consuming till date and how high of a score you require. So to get a higher score of 79+(band 8 or superior English) will typically require a good level of English to begin with. For those that do not have exposure to English on a frequent basis and require higher scores, it’s not going to be easy.
It will take a relatively long-term investment of your time and noticeable improvements may only be seen months after making a conscious decision to improve. If you fall in this category, remember that just because it’s not easy, it does not mean it can’t be done.
What are some of the things that can raise your level of English?
- Reading English books/articles.
- Listening to good English via Audiobooks/Podcast.
- Talk/communicate with others who are good in English on a regular basis.
Doings these things on a consistent basis will drill good English into your head which you will subconsciously pick it up, and improvements will show in your score. Some of these activities like reading/listening can be done passively while travelling to work, etc. so it doesn’t feel like you are spending extra time.
You might be wondering:
What material should I read/listen to?
The answer is anything that interests you as long as the English is of good quality. Your main focus here is to be consistent in your actions. It is unreasonable to expect your English skills to improve overnight.
Let’s get to point number two which if tackled properly is something that you can see improvements in as little as a month.
2) How well you practice, prepare and make use of strategies to answer different question types.
Point two is something that can be ‘learned’ relatively quickly and is where the use of strategies will help you.
If you don’t know how to break down the PTE scoring system and understand what you should be doing to get the best score, you are going into the exam with a disadvantage, and this too will reflect in your score.
Let’s look at an example:
The essay section of the PTE Academic exam looks at 7 different parameters to come up with your score. If you don’t know what are the elements you should be including and focusing on in your essay to score high in the PTE Academic, you may be missing out on some valuable points. Every question type in the exam has different parameters that you need to be aware of.
For those of you who are looking for a resource to help on this point you may find my Ebook or Video course useful. If you are not short on time and want to do it out by yourself, I’ll lay out a basic structure that you need to keep in mind during your preparation.
Understand the Automated Scoring System of the PTE Academic Exam.
Unlike other tests, the PTE Academic Exam is a test that is scored by an automated scoring system. So instead of human assessing your writing and your voice, it’s done by an automated computerised scoring system.
If you have a basic understanding of how the system is designed and what the system is looking for when assessing a good Essay or what aspects are they looking for in judging your speech, you are going into the exam with an advantage over others.
This is particularly applicable for the Speaking and Writing section. For the most part, the Reading and Listening sections are objective is nature. i.e you only have one correct answer or set of answers. For the speaking and writing section, however, you can have 100 different set of responses that could be rated as a good response. If you understand exactly what the system is looking for in a highly rated response, you can see how this gives you a slight edge.
But here’s the thing:
Pearson who run the PTE Exam, have spent a lot in research and developing in creating the software, so the exact details are not something that they are going to be sharing with everyone. If they did, there probably would be other competitors trying to use it and come up with their own English test.
Even though the information is not directly disclosed, they do have detailed research papers on their website on the exam. So you can get a fair idea of what they are looking for in your response. You can find the research papers over here.
The thing is, there is a lot of information to digest. So while this can help, it’s probably going to take a fair bit of time to figure out and extract useful information by yourself. So if you are hard pressed for time skip this point.
Understand how the scoring works for each question.
Ok, so details for this one is a little more easy to get your hands on. Pearson has published an official score guide which breaks down on how each question is scored. You can get it below.
Click here to get the PTE Score Guide (Free download – Page 1 to 37 is what you need to know).
This breaks down how each question type is scored. It will be a good idea to browse through this to make sure how you think you are scored and how you are actually scored are the same.
Identify the best way to answer each question.
So now you have the score guide and know how each question is scored. You now want to figure out what’s the best way to answer each question, so you maximize your ability to select the correct answer.
How do you do it?
One way is trial and error. So for objective type questions in reading and writing, this can be easy to do. You just do some practice questions and see what approach is working for you. You need have a certain level of awareness during your practice. So while attempting questions try different approaches and see what works.
For example, In the Reading ‘Multiple choice – choose single answer ‘, you need to read a passage of text and answer a question asked based on the passage. Try different approaches. In one question try skimming the passage. In another question read the questions and answers carefully before reading the passage. In the next question read only the passage carefully first and then move towards the question and answers. While you do this make a note of what approach is working best for you and use that in the exam.
So Pearson has been kind enough to offer scored online mock exams for the PTE Academic. These mock tests can be taken from home over the internet. You receive scored results similar to what you would receive in the actual exam. This is highly recommended, as this is as close as you can get to the actual exam at a fraction of the cost. It makes sense to go for this and know where you stand rather than spending $150-200 and reappearing for the exam.
Know for sure the right approach.
The exam is not a place where you want to be testing strategies and be hoping for the best. You want to know for sure that they way you are answering a question is the best that you can answer it. So make sure you are going into the exam with a right approach and a right mindset on how you plan to tackle each and every question type based on what you have experimented during practice.
Let’s move onto the last point which is one of the most important ones.
So the more you practice, the better it is going to be for you. I think we can all agree that if you do any task repeatedly, you are going to get better it. As you start solving many questions, you start getting more used to the task at hand and your mind automatically starts to pick up on it needs to be looking at when you face a particular type of question. Speed and managing time is something that many test-takers struggle with. Repeated practice will also help improve upon this aspect as the more questions you solve the better you tend to get at solving them quickly.
Even a person with excellent English will face difficulty in answering some questions if he hasn’t put in any practice. Going into the exam with minimal practice questions under your belt is asking for a score less than your potential. The questions in the official Pearson mocks and Practice plus tests is probably as close as you can get to the actual exam and is a good place to start.
So to summarise, there are two important factors in getting your score. If you are lagging behind in any of these areas, it is going to show in your scores. The two factors are:
- How good your actual English language skills are.
- How well you practice, prepare and make use of strategies to answer different question types.
Not everyone needs to work on point 1. If you do, remember that it is a long-term approach and you will see improvements only with consistent exposure to English.
Point 2 in the above is something that can be picked up relatively quicker. The key points in getting better at this are:
- Understand the Automated Scoring System of the PTE Academic Exam.
- Understand how the scoring works for each question.
- Identify the best way to answer each question.
- Know for sure the right approach.
So there you go, you now have a clear understanding of what are the important factors when it comes to getting your desired score and clearing the PTE Academic Exam. You also have a basic framework on how to prepare for the PTE Academic Exam and what are the key things you need to keep in mind.
Good luck with your preparation. Let’s nail this Exam!