Need to pass the PTE Academic exam no matter what? Looking for PTE coaching or classes to help get you through? Before you proceed, take a look at the top 7 factors you must consider.
1) PTE Academic- Unlike other tests. What it takes to succeed?
What most people fail to realize is that the PTE Academic exam is unlike most tests that you might have taken.
Most tests you might have encountered are knowledge or information based. For example, if you have taken a biology exam in college your score in the exam would be based on the information you have studied during the months(or days) prior to the exam.
The PTE Academic exam is different because there are no textbooks that you need to memorize or study from prior to taking the exam.
The score that you get is primarily dependent on your English skills. Studying for the test in a traditional sense does not usually get better results because there is no specific content to study.
What you can do, is work to improve specific skills relating to English that are tested in the exam.
For example, In the speaking section, there is a task called the describe image where you need to talk about an image/graph for 35 seconds. The key skill that contributes to a high score in this section, is your ability to talk about an image you have just seen without hesitations or pauses. Talking without pauses is a skill which you can get better at with practice.
Searching for quick tips on the internet will not improve this skill. You need to do the practice to improve.
2) Do you need coaching?
The truth is not everyone needs coaching to succeed in the PTE Academic exam.
If you have good English skills, depending on the score you need, you may even pass the exam without much preparation.
However, some people require help to improve their score. If it’s your first time taking the exam do not even think of spending a lot of money on coaching. Take the official mock test first and follow the guidelines given here on how to prepare for the exam.
If it’s your first attempt and you don’t know where to start, you can refer to this low-cost guide on the PTE Academic that gives you a quick overview of the exam and things you need to take care of.
In case you have taken the exam and fell short of your desired score by 0–7 points, usually all you need to improve is a little more practice. If you are several points behind this range then the right coaching can help you improve at a quicker rate.
The right coaching can help you improve your score the most in sections such as speaking and writing section. These sections are scored by an automated scoring system. A person with a deep understanding of how this works can give you a few tweaks you need to increase your score.
3) Can you do it on your own?
Yes, you can do it on your own. However, it can involve a lot of trial and error. Taking the PTE exam is not cheap, so you want to keep the number of attempts you take to a minimum (ideally 1).
For certain sections, such as writing and speaking, it helps to get expert feedback on what you are doing right and what you are doing wrong.
For example, in the writing section, you may be having grammatical mistakes that do not get picked up by traditional spell checkers or tools like Grammarly. You might even have structural issues in the way you write your essay or summary that you are unaware of.
In sections like these, it can be difficult to self-identify the mistakes you are making.
It’s like when your car is giving you issues. Maybe it’s making a few funny sounds. You know there’s an issue, but aren’t too sure what it is. You could spend days researching about it or trying to fix it yourself. The other option is show it to a good mechanic, who will tell you what the issue is within a minute or two.
Similarly getting an assessment done for your writing and speaking is often the only way to know what you are doing wrong.
For sections like reading and listening you can improve to a certain extent by doing practice questions. Make sure that they are high-quality and include explanation for answers so you can learn when you get answers wrong.
4) What exactly do coaching institutes provide?
-Most class based coaching institutes provide a general overview of the exam.
-They will provide you instructions on how the scoring works.
-They might provide you with a few tips on how to do well in each question.
-They might even provide practice questions for you to improve.
The question you need to ask yourself is do you really need to go to a physical institute to get all this information? Would it be more convenient for you to have access to all this and more from the comfort of your home? If yes, then consider doing an online course if you need help in passing the exam.
If you are a working professional or a full-time student, just doing your work/studies can eat up into most of your day. Fitting in time for traditional classes would be an added burden. Ask yourself if preparing for the exam on your own schedule is something that would be better.
5) How much personal attention do you get?
Consider the personal attention you will receive when you join a coaching institute.
Taking an example of the speaking section, if no one is going to be individually assessing your speech and pointing out your mistakes, you aren’t going to know what you are doing wrong.
With large batch sizes seen in most coaching classes, providing this is often difficult. Ensure that you will receive personal attention when required.
6) Who are the trainers will you be working with?
This is probably the most important point for you to consider. A right coach can teach you more in 5 minutes then what a friend or stranger can teach you in 5 years.
Many people who come to me for coaching and share stories of how they tried taking help from a friend or someone’s advice online and it didn’t help them. In some cases people, I was shocked as they had been advised to do the complete opposite of what they were supposed to do in the exam.
Where you choose your information from is very important. Be sure that the person training you has testimonials from other people they have helped in a similar situation to yours.
As an example, Hozefa came to us for help with the speaking section. He needed a score of 79+ in all section to proceed with his visa application. He had scores of 79+ in all sections but the speaking section, where he consistently scored in the mid 60’s for the last few attempts. We had a coaching session and I asked him to do a few samples questions from the speaking section. Within the first minute, I knew exactly what the problem was and what he needed to change. During the rest of the call, I explained the issues he had. He knew what he needed to do to improve his score. A week later he took the exam and emailed me back with his results!
The most shocking part?
The reason he scored less in the previous three attempts wasn’t his fault. He followed advice on forums online. Most people trying to help other in forums mean well.
But here’s the thing:
They often just speak from their own experience of what has worked for them and not from the collective experience of what works for most people.
For example, in the speaking section, a person might have used some sort of structure for the describe image. He also got a really high score. Now this person goes around telling everyone that if you want a good score use this structure.
What this person may not be aware of, is that his recordings had other characteristics relating to oral fluency and pronunciation that helped him more than the structure.
A person following his advice and not getting a good score, might get frustrated as he used the same structure. What he doesn’t know is that he is missing certain characteristics in his recording that’s causing his score to drop.
There are also people who have grossly underestimated what it takes to succeed.
Nita came to us with an overall 45 score and she needed 79 to succeed. She was under the impression that she could improve her score within a month with some quick tips. After explaining to her what she needed to do to improve, she got a realistic understanding of where she stood and an action plan of how to proceed. Whether she wanted to carry this plan or not was up to her, however, she stepped up to the challenge.
Know the trainer well if possible. A person with the right experience can give you a realistic picture of what’s required to meet your target score. Whether that is a few easy tweaks or a long-term action plan, getting this information from the right trainer/coach can save you from a lot of pain and frustration.
7) Is there a cheaper alternative available?
The going price for coaching in cities that have a physical location can be anywhere between $500 to $2000. Again these institutions with large batches that may not offer you the personal attention that you need. This is not to say that there aren’t any genuine institutes that provide good quality training. If you decided to opt for one, be sure that they satisfy the checks mentioned above.
If you want to save some money and get the same benefits then consider an online course class. Don’t expect it to produce magic. Do not expect a change in your score unless you are ready to work and implement the advice given.
Whether you choose online coaching, offline coaching or prepare by yourself, get started now and take the next step! Good luck for your exam. Let me know how it goes.