Welcome to this brief overview of the PTE Academic exam. (also known as the Pearson test of English)
We answer questions like:
- What exactly is the PTE Academic exam (Pearson test of English)?
- Who accepts it?
- What is the format of the exam?
- What questions are you going to get in each section of the exam?
- How is the scoring done in the PTE exam?
- What are the advantages of the PTE over other exams?
Don’t worry, we’ll take it one question at a time 🙂
1) What exactly is the PTE exam?
The PTE Academic stands for Pearson test of English. As the name suggests, the PTE Academic is a test used to determine your English language level. The type of material that you get in the exam is usually the type of material that you would encounter in a university setting abroad where English is the primary language of instruction. The test tries to assess how well you would be able to interact in English with those around you, if you were to get admitted into a university or live in an English-speaking country.
2) Who accepts it?
The Pearson test of English is currently accepted by around thousands of universities abroad. Some of the prominent ones are Yale, Harvard. The Australian government currently accepts the test to fulfil the English requirement for their visa applications. Always check the website of the organisation, university or immigration department to confirm whether the test is accepted or not before proceeding to apply.
3) What is the format of the exam?
The PTE Academic is a three-hour computer-based exam that has automatic scoring. For other exams such as IELTS, in the speaking and writing section, there would be a person assessing your speech and writting task. In the PTE academic, it’s done by the automated software that Pearson has developed. Automated test’s mean faster results.
The entire test is taken on a computer in a secured test center.
PTE Academic has three main parts:
1. Speaking and writing (77 to 93 minutes)
2. Reading (32 to 41 minutes)
3. Listening (45 to 57 minutes)
Speaking and writing have been clubbed by Pearson for some reason, but you can think of them as two separate sections.
4) What questions are you going to get in each section of the exam?
Let’s go through each section and the questions types you will encounter in the exam so you know what to expect.
- 1.1 Personal introduction: This is a non-scored part of the exam were you have 30 to 40 seconds to give a brief introduction about yourself. This may be used by universities to get to know you better.
- 1.2 Read Aloud: In this section, you are given a text on screen. You get 40 seconds to read through the text and understand the content before the time starts. You then have another 40 seconds to read aloud as naturally and clearly as possible.
- 1.3 Repeat sentence: In this section, you will be played an audio recording of a short sentence. You have to listen to the phrasing of a short sentence as it is and read aloud
- 1.4 Describe image: You are given an image such as a graph, map, chart, table, flowchart or picture. You have 25 seconds to observe it and need to then describe the image in about 30-40 seconds.
- 1.5 Retell lecture: In this section, you will hear a lecture. After listening to the lecture, in 10 seconds you need to speak into the microphone and retell the lecture in your own words. You will have 40 seconds to give your response
- 1.6 Answer short questions: In this section, you get a general knowledge question and you need to answer it using one or two words.
- 2.1 Summarize written text: In this section, you are given a passage on screen and need to summarize it using one sentence. You have 10 minutes to finish the task.
- 2.2 Essay: In this section, you have 20 minutes to write an Essay on the topic given. Your essay should be between 200-300 words.
- 3.1 Multiple choice questions (Single Answer): You are given a passage of text and have a question based on the text. You have multiple options(4-5) to choose from. Only one answer is correct.
- 3.2 Multiple choice questions (Multiple Answer): Similar to the above, however, more than one option is correct.
- 3.3 Reorder paragraph: You get five sentences that are jumbled. You have to read through all the sentences and then reorganize them into the correct order.
- 3.4 Fill in the blanks (Drag and Drop): In this section, there will be a passage of text given, where some words are missing. Drag words from the options given to the appropriate place in the text.
- 3.5 Fill in the blanks (Select from list): Similar to the above. In this section, there will be a passage of text given, where some words are missing (blanks). Click on each blank, a list of choices will appear. Select the appropriate answer choice for each blank.
There is a 10-minute break after the reading section. It’s optional, but I highly recommend taking it.
- 4.1 Summarise spoken text: In this section, you will hear a short audio lecture. You need to write a summary for a fellow student who was not present. You should write 50-70 words. You have 10 minutes to ﬁnish this task.
- 4.2 Multiple choice questions (More than one answer): In this section, you will hear a recording and will have to answer the question given by selecting all the correct responses. You will need to select more than one response.
- 4.3 Fill in the blanks: In this section, a transcript of a recording appears on screen with several blanks. After listening to the recording, type the missing word in each gap.
- 4.4 Highlight correct summary: In this section, you will hear a recording. Click on the paragraph that best related to the recording.
- 4.5 Multiple choice questions (choose single answer): In this section, you will hear a recording and will have to answer a multiple-choice question by selecting the correct response. Only one response is correct.
- 4.6 Select missing word: In this section, you will hear a recording. At the end of the recording, the last word or group of words has been replaced by a beep. Select the correct option to complete the recording.
- 4.7 Highlight incorrect words: In this section, you will hear a recording. The transcript (text) of the recording appears on screen. While listening to the recording, identify the words in the transcript that differ from what is said. You need to click on the words that are different.
- 4.8 Write from dictation: In this section, you will hear a sentence. Type the sentence in the box below exactly as you hear it. Write as much of the sentence as you can hear. You will hear the sentence only once.
Hope that short summary gave you a bird’s eye view of what to expect in the exam. I suggest doing a few PTE practice questions so that you are more familiar with the pattern and have a better understanding of the exam.
5) How is the scoring done in the PTE exam?
The scoring of the PTE academic exam is on a scale of 10 to 90. You must be asking why not 0 to 100? Well according to Pearson, there is no one so poor at English that they cannot communicate their basic needs.
For example, If a person gestures with his hand towards his mouth holding an imaginary cup. You could understand that the person is asking for water.
Similarly, no person is so good at English that they would be rated a 100 because there is always an opportunity to improve. Even a person scoring a 90 won’t know all of the words in the English language. There are still words that I come across every day that I have to look up and learn myself. Thus, the scoring is on a scale between 10 to 90.
The score you require is going to be different from person to person. The score will differ for a university application and a visa application.
For example, If you’re applying for an Australian Permanent visa which is a point-based process, the below is how many points you get depending on your score.
A 50+ score in the PTE Academic would rate you as ‘competent English’ with 0 points for your Visa application. This is the minimum requirement for a PR Visa for Australia. That translates to a 6 band score in IELTS.
A 65+ PTE score is equal to 7 in IELTS that is known as ‘proficient English’ and you get 10 points for migration.
A 79+ PTE score is ‘superior English’ which is equal to 8 in IELTS and you get 20 points for the Visa. That’s how the scoring works to get your points for applying to a university or Visa.
Note that the above points are the requirement for all sections in the exam. For example if you need 65+, you need to get that score in all parts of the exam such as speaking, writing, reading and listening.
6) What are the advantages of PTE over other exams?
One of the major reasons why people choose the PTE academic exam is because the results and the scheduling is quick and convenient.
In some countries, you can get a test date for the PTE Academic relatively quickly compared to other tests.
Since the PTE has an automated scoring mechanism, the results come in within 5 business days.
Another advantage is that the test is computer based. If you have good typing speed that’s going to help you in the PTE Academic exam. This could be a disadvantage for those who are not familiar with typing on a computer. Whether this is an advantage or disadvantage depends on how familiar you are with working on a computer.
A disadvantage is that during your exam, for the speaking section, you have other students speaking as well. While your headsets are designed to accept your voice, you may hear other students talking in the background that can be distracting. This is something that you should keep in mind and be mentally prepared for.
When I had to choose between IELTS, PTE, TOEFLS and CAE, the PTE exam made more sense mainly because it was computer-based and the results were received relatively quicker than other exams.
If you decide to go with the PTE, click the link below to receive some free preparatory material for the exam. I’ll also keep in touch and send you tips/updates via email!