The PTE Listening Test: Tips for a PTE 90

The PTE Listening Test can be tricky if you don’t pay attention to the prompts and lack good preparation. If you are looking for PTE Listening material to study with, this article will be a good guide for you. 

I also recommend the E2Language Mini Mock Tests and PTE listening practice tests to develop useful methods and practice for all the PTE tasks.

The PTE Listening Test tasks:

  • Summarise spoken text
  • Listening multiple choice, choose multiple answersPTE Listening Test
  • Fill in the blanks
  • Highlight correct summary
  • Listening multiple choice, choose single answer
  • Select missing word
  • Highlight incorrect words
  • Write from dictation

Each of the 8 tasks on the PTE Listening Test focuses on testing different skills.

Summarise spoken text 

It is what it says: a 35- 40 second summary of a spoken text. It tests your ability to take notes; identify a topic; summarise the main ideas; organise your sentences and paragraphs in a logical way; use correct spelling, punctuation and grammar.

Actively listen from the first word—not wait until it makes sense! It may not make sense until the end, in which case at least you will know what the topic is. So, note the keywords from the moment the speaker starts speaking. A keyword may be a single word or short phrase.

Listen for keywords …

Keywords may include main ideas, dates, people’s names, place names, statistics and numbers. Write these down on your erasable notepad.

After you have listened to the spoken text and taken notes, you will have ten seconds to organise them. Group similar ideas together. You need 5 to 6 good keywords and you probably have more notes than you need. Be selective to capture the main ideas from the text.

E2Language members are provided with a framework to use. Select your keywords from your notes and insert them into the framework. Elaborate on one or two sentences.

Watch the time …

Keep a strict eye on the time and aim to finish at 35 seconds. Practise watching the time as you speak. This will let you know that you need to shorten your sentences or elaborate a little on your keywords. The more good practise you do, the more prepared you will be, so ensure you practise the tasks under Listening, Summarise Spoken Text on the E2language website.

You will be awarded marks for content, form, grammar, vocabulary, spelling. Marks count for Listening and Writing.

Listening multiple choice, choose multiple answers

In this task, you will be tested on your ability to comprehend the main ideas in a text and determine which connections between pieces of information. There is negative marking where points are deducted for incorrect options. So, if a test taker scores 2 points for correct options, but the scores -2 for two incorrect options chosen, they will score 0 points overall for the item.

Skim the possible options. Listen very carefully. You may take notes to help you focus and remember, especially names and numbers. Read the options and eliminate the incorrect ones, select the correct ones. Check your answers and submit.

You will be scored 1 for each correct response and -1 for each incorrect response. 0 is the minimum score.

PTE listening test checklist

Fill in the blanks

This task tests your ability to understand academic vocabulary and identify words and phrases appropriate in a context.

The best way to improve your score in this section of the PTE Listening Test is to improve your vocabulary. Read three articles from daily and use the E2Pronounce app as a dictionary to find the meaning of words that you are unfamiliar with. By reading you will increase your vocabulary which will improve your reading as well as your listening comprehension.

You will be scored 1 for each word spelled correctly, with 0 the minimum score.

Highlight Correct Summary

This task tests your ability to identify a topic, follow a sequence of information and comprehend a different accent.

You will listen to a text of 60-90 seconds. You will then select the correct summary from a list of possible options. Only one summary will be correct. The other options may be similar but there will only ever be one correct option.

Read every word in each option before you make your selection. Sometimes some words or phrases that you heard are in each option, but do not be tempted to select the first option that you think is correct on this basis, but rather read each option from the first word to the last. The meaning may change during the sentence!

Marks are awarded as 1 for a correct response and 0 for an incorrect response. These marks count towards both your PTE Listening Test and PTE Reading Test results.

Multiple Choice, Choose Single Answer

Similar to the Multiple Choice, Choose Multiple Answer, in this task, you will be tested on your ability to comprehend the main ideas in a text and determine connections between pieces of information. Skim the possible options. Listen very carefully. You may take notes to help you focus and remember, especially names and numbers. Read the options and eliminate the incorrect ones, select the correct one. Check your answer and submit.

Marking is 1 for correct response and 0 for an incorrect response.

Select Missing Word

In the PTE listening ‘select missing word’ task, you will be tested on identifying a topic, theme or main ideas and form a conclusion from what a speaker says. As the instructions state:

You will hear a recording about (topic). 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.

Do not take notes. Listen for meaning. You will either know or not know the answer.

Practise often from the E2Language site to build your confidence.

Marks are 1 for a correct response and 0 for an incorrect response.

Highlight Incorrect Words

You will hear a recording and read a transcript of the recording which differs from what the speaker says. You will click on the words in the transcript that are different.

Negative marking applies. So, if you score 2 points for correct options but then score -2 for two incorrect options you will score 0 points overall for the item.

Listen and be prepared to act quickly. If you are uncertain about whether to click on the word or not, do not click on the word.

Write from Dictation

Here you will be tested on academic vocabulary, follow an oral sequencing of information and use of correct spelling.

You will be asked to listen to a sentence and type the sentence in a box exactly as you hear it. You will only hear the sentence once, so listen very carefully and write as much of the sentence as you can.

Listen carefully and write the sentence down on the erasable pad. You can then type the sentence on to the screen. If you are a very good typist then you can type directly on to the screen as you listen. Work quickly and accurately.

Marks are awarded as 1 for each word correctly spelled. 0 for each incorrect or misspelled word. Marks count towards the PTE Listening Test and PTE Writing Test.

To do well in the PTE Listening Test, register and attend the E2Language Live Listening Classes. This will give you a chance to complete a PTE listening practice test.

Our E2 PTE YouTube Channel has some useful PTE Listening  videos, including this one:

Remember to familiarise yourself with each part of the PTE Listening Test and practise to ensure that you know what each section is asking you to do. Understand the marking, and work as accurately and efficiently as you can.

Feel free to leave a comment and I look forward to seeing you in a live class or a tutorial!

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Written by David Williamson


PTE Exam Tips: How Music Can Improve your PTE Score

It’s time for some creative PTE exam tips!

When studying for the PTE academic, you will do everything you can to achieve the score you need.

This blog will look at a more creative approach that will improve your English language skills and confidence before you write the PTE exam.

What is it? It’s listening to music and singing your heart out!

PTE Exam Tips
“Where words fail, music speaks” (Hans Christian Andersen)

PTE exam tips: POP music

Songs are often very repetitive, which can aid long-term memory. Just think about all those times you got a song stuck in your head! The rhythmical aspect of music also aids rote memorization.

Research shows that students may retain more vocabulary when it is presented through a song. In the early 90’s, Murphey (1992) conducted research on the effects pop song lyrics had on ESL learners. He discovered that the songs had many linguistic features that enabled learners to acquire the second language of English more readily.

The songs contained common, short words and a lot of personal pronouns (94% of the songs had first person, I, and were written at the level of a fifth grader). The language used was good to start conversations (imperatives and questions made up to 25% of the sentence structure) and the songs were sung at a slower beat, making it easier to understand the lyrics. Murphey thought these factors helped the adult learners to connect with and understand the songs.

The results of Murphy’s research suggested that using pop songs to learn English in the ESL classroom is a successful tool as it can create a stimulating learning environment to develop listening comprehension, speaking, reading and writing skills.  

Here are examples of pop songs that can improve your Language Skills:

“California Dreaming” by The Mamas and the Papas

Who doesn’t dream of sunny California on a cold winter’s day? With lyrics like “All the leaves are brown and the sky is gray,” this short song is great for learning vocabulary about the weather and seasons. It also demonstrates some good examples of conditional expressions.

“All the leaves are brown and the sky is gray.

I’ve been for a walk on a winter’s day.

I’d be safe and warm if I was in L.A.;

California dreamin’ on such a winter’s day.”

“Manic Mondays” by The Bangles

This song is a little complex, and the vocabulary is a little advanced for beginner English learners, but the content is right where it needs to be to benefit English learners just starting out.

The song outlines typical daily routines, and has helpful day-to-day routine vocabulary. And besides, who doesn’t wish it was Sunday? It really is the fun day.

This song is also good for seeing the past tense and the past progressive in action. The past progressive is formed with the past tense of the verb to be plus the present participle (a verb ending in -ing). An example of this is in the first verse: “I was kissing Valentino by a crystal blue Italian stream.”

PTE Exam Tips: Vocabulary building

Music is a great teacher when it comes to learning vocabulary.

A recent study took place to see the effectiveness of music on vocabulary acquisition, language usage, and meaning for mainland Chinese ESL learners, and the results were very clear in identifying that English language achievement scores in the area of vocabulary were much higher in the subjects who were exposed to the most music. 

Practice activity:

Go to this link to practice your listening skills through song:

PTE Exam Tips: Pronunciation

Turning up the music and singing along is also a great way to work on you language fluency. You don’t have to be the next Elvis Presley, just try singing along to some of your favourite tunes! This will help you to loosen up your vocals and find rhythm within the language.

Top reasons to use songs when learning English:

  • Songs are accessible examples of spoken English.
  • The rhymes in songs provide listeners with repetition of similar sounds.
  • You may feel more fluent singing along to song lyrics than speaking a foreign language, so it’s a way to build confidence.
  • Music with lyrics stimulates both sides of the brain, helping you become more engaged in your English learning.
  • Most lyrics need to be interpreted, and regular practice of this may improve prediction and comprehension skills.
  • Music can help language learners to learn good pronunciation. Melodies and rhymes guide learners to speak in a native cadence.
  • A range of colloquial language can easily be introduced through songs.

Music may not teach you the methods you need to pass your PTE exam but it is a fun way to improve the language skills you’ll need to achieve your desired score!


Written by Michelle Anderson.

I’m Nervous About my IELTS Exam

So I’m taking my first IELTS exam this weekend…

I have a Masters degree in linguistics from a top university. I’ve been teaching English for nearly 10 years. I know my grammar inside out and back to front. I have a large vocabulary because I read widely; I studied English literature in my undergraduate degree and English teaching as a diploma. I read in English constantly. Not only that, but I’m a native English speaker. I was born and raised in Australia.

But you know what? I’m nervous… I’m nervous because I’m taking the IELTS exam on Saturday and I don’t know what to expect. I’m worried about the question types. I’m worried what the exam paper will look like. I’m worried about the answer sheet. I’m worried about the pencils. I’m worried about the essay question I will get – will it be an advantages / disadvantages essay?

(For me, I’m not so worried about the English language content part of the exam – that should be easy for me. What I’m more concerned about is the test format.)

IELTS exam
Here I am..looking nervous!

Nervousness is a funny thing. It’s feels the same as anxiety and I think it comes from fear. What should I do to relieve it? I want it to go away… I can ignore it and hope that it will go away but I don’t think that will work. I’ve tried that before – many times in fact! The thoughts will come creeping back no matter how much I tell them to leave. And each thought about my IELTS will be accompanied by a feeling – a feeling of nervousness, a feeling of unknowing. I don’t think ignoring the thought of my exam will help me. It’s not possible. These thoughts are telling me something.

What are they telling me? They’re telling me to prepare. That’s the only thing left to do, actually. But to prepare I need to stop being lazy. So I’m stuck with a choice. I can live with my anxiety and ignore it, which I know will be awful, or I can stop being lazy, put pen to paper and prepare for my exam.

Let’s talk confidence!

Confidence is interesting. Where does it come from? How is it that some people are confident while others struggle with their fears? Confidence, as far as I am concerned, comes from knowledge which produces ability.

Think about the first time that you drove a car. You were nervous. It was new. It was challenging. You didn’t know how to indicate, turn the wheel and use the accelerator. After driving for some time it becomes easy. It becomes easy because you are able. When you are able you have no fear anymore. The fears dissipate and you are left with confidence – confidence because you CAN DO! And the funny thing is about fear and nervousness is that once they are gone you forget that you actually had them!

Being able to do the IELTS exam is the same thing. Not knowing what the test will look and feel like brings about feelings of nervousness. But you know what? I’ve decided to prepare. Even though I’m a native English speaker I’ve started working through the content on

I’ve started doing the practice tests because A) they are of the same level of difficulty as the actual IELTS exam, and more importantly for me, B) they look the same. The YES / NO / NOT GIVEN reading question for example looks like it will in the actual IELTS exam. If I practice it, therefore, I will not be scared of it. I will have a ‘game plan’. has even built an ‘answer sheet’ that looks exactly like the actual IELTS answer sheet. So when I practice, I practice with the next best thing.

IELTS exam

In addition to knowing what the test format will look like, which greatly relieves my nervousness, the IELTS content on also gives you METHODS.

Here is an example of one of our IELTS exam methods videos:

That’s what I’m talking about!

Put simply, the teachers tell you exactly HOW to answer each of the questions – step by step. This is gold. Really. I mean, could it be any better than A) knowing exactly what you are going to see and B) being told how to answer each of the questions step by step?

Most people freak out about IELTS Writing Task 1 – where you need to describe a graph. Without a model answer and a method to writing this, most people are terrified. I’m not. I know exactly what to do as soon as I see the graph… Step 1… Step 2… Step 3… etc. Done.

Good-bye nervousness! Hello confidence!

Another part of the IELTS that scares me is some of the reading questions, such as Yes / No / Not given… and True / False / Not given. They’re tricky! But the same rule applies… I know what to expect and I know how to do it.

24 hours ago I was nervous. But now I’m not only confident, I’m excited! Admittedly, there’s still a bit of fear there, but I’ll use that to motivate me on test day; I’ll use it to concentrate.

If you’re nervous you have two options: 1) You can choose to ignore your feelings and suffer or 2) you can start preparing now and start feeling confident. The good thing is about the second option is that not only will you feel a lot better but you will also score a lot higher as well.



Written by Jay Merlo.

The Truth About “PTE Hacks”

One of the things I have noticed most since beginning my journey with is just how obsessed people can get with finding PTE “hacks”. What are PTE hacks, you may ask? They are so-called secrets and tricks that will supposedly help you pass the PTE with minimal time and preparation. They are also usually written by people who have attempted the test a number of times. In fact, I’ve seen dozens of forums, videos and blogs promising all PTE hopefuls that studying and hard work is not as important as knowing the right PTE hacks and implementing them.

Now, as somebody who has taken the PTE (twice), studied the PTE format extensively and contributed to developing our E2Language PTE methods, I have something to say that will likely disappoint many of the people reading this. I hate to say it, but it’s the truth: you can’t “hack” your way through the PTE. And honestly, I often wonder why people spend so much time and energy looking for hacks when they could be preparing properly for the PTE instead!

PTE Hacks

With this in mind, here are 2 things that will get you a heck of a lot further to your goal PTE score:

Give Yourself Enough Time to Prepare.

Something I notice with many people who sign up with E2Language is how little time they have given themselves to prepare for the test. Many new students will say to me, “I’m writing my PTE next week and I am scoring in the 50’s on all my practice tests. I need a 75! HELP!” Now, I absolutely understand that people lead busy lives and can’t spend their whole lives buried in PTE materials (unlike me!), but you need to know that giving yourself such a restricted timeline is a massive mistake. Here’s the vicious cycle that I see happen to many of our time-pressed students:

  • I booked my PTE for next week. I’ll do all the studying I can and do my best. If I don’t get the score I need, I’ll just retake it a few weeks later.
  • I did a couple of practice tests and got discouraged. I’m taking the test tomorrow and I keep scoring 15-20 points lower than what I need. I need tips fast!!
  • I found some PTE hacks and memorized them. I figure this is better than nothing.
  • I took the test and didn’t achieve my score. My confidence is hurting and I’m really shocked at how badly I did. I’m going to book another test in 2 weeks and try again.
  • Repeat. I have now taken the PTE 6 times.

Unfortunately, what often happens here is that students will continue to write a PTE every couple of weeks until they either give up, or finally achieve their score after 5-10 attempts. In both scenarios, these students end up hundreds and sometimes even thousands of dollars poorer.

Even if you have high English proficiency and use English in your everyday life, you should be giving yourself at least a month to practice and prepare for the PTE. You need time to pinpoint and practice your weaknesses, learn the format and methods, get comfortable with time limits and build your confidence. Even for native speakers, a week or two to prepare is pushing it.

How do you know how much time is enough time? Well, our E2Language tutors can help you with that! We work with our students to create realistic, personalized study plans that suit their specific needs and goals. You can learn more about our PTE course packages here.

Learn a Method, Not a “Hack”.

I say this so much that I feel like a broken record, but here it is again: you need to develop and perfect a method for each PTE task. A so-called PTE hack like “just keep talking without stopping” is not actually helping you build any skills. What you need is a step-by-step method that gives you confidence in your ability, not tips that worked for one random person, one specific time! Take a look at one of our webinars on YouTube if you want to have an understanding of how you can develop useful methods that work. For example, here is our “Reading and Writing: Fill in the Blanks” webinar:

A Few “PTE Hack” Myths:

The Myth: You should try using a variety of accents (i.e. American and British) to maximize your chances of the computer picking up your pronunciation correctly.

The Truth: This is a suggestion I saw on a PTE blog awhile ago, and it is just completely untrue. The PTE software is designed to pick up a vast variety of accents, so stick to whatever is comfortable to you and don’t worry about having to sound a certain way.

The Myth: You should skip any difficult words in “read aloud” so that you don’t say them incorrectly and lose points.

The Truth: Skipping words on the “read aloud” task will lose you the same amount of points as mispronouncing words. It’s better to at least attempt to pronounce a difficult word in this scenario; you may actually get it right and keep all your points!

The Myth: For the “multiple choice, choose multiple answers” tasks, you should select all the answer options when you don’t know the correct answers. This way, you’ll get full points.

The Truth: This myth is absolutely ridiculous and I hope nobody has fallen for it! If PTE questions were actually scored this way, everybody would be using this trick! In actual fact, you will get zero points if you select all the options on “multiple choice, multiple answer” questions.

Instead, I would suggest that you be as conservative as possible. If you are certain you know one answer, but are unsure about the other options, stick with the answer you know and leave the other options blank. You get a point for every correct option you choose, but you lose a point for every incorrect option you choose. Therefore, if you have one right answer and one wrong answer, they cancel each other out. Thus, it’s better to pick one you know is correct than to take a chance on one that might be wrong.

So there you have it. We all want the magic formula to help us answer hard questions, but the truth is that practice, realistic goals and sufficient time are the true magic formula to success. They may take longer and be more work than hoped, but they will not fail you. Unfortunately, PTE hacks will.

Do you have a question about a PTE “hack” you’ve heard about? Ask me about it on our free online forum!

2 Secrets You Should Know Before You Take the PTE Exam

It has now been a couple of months since I took the PTE exam for the second time, but I still find myself thinking about it quite a lot. It’s not so much a test as an experience— one I am not likely to forget anytime soon! My PTE adventure was a bit of an emotional roller-coaster (read about how I failed the PTE and then got a PTE 90), and in the end I took away two very important lessons. I would like to share them with you here, because I think they’re important to consider before you go in. I sure wish I had known them before I wrote the PTE exam for the first time!

PTE Exam Secret #1: You can’t just “wing it”. 

The first time I took the PTE exam, I assumed that as a native speaker I could just “see how it would go” and still come out with top marks. Unfortunately, I was very wrong, and this was reflected in my scores. Here is the problem: many people think to themselves “I speak great English, I have top marks in English at school and I practice with my friends all the time! An English proficiency test should be a piece of cake!” Here is the problem with that logic: English proficiency tests are not just about English.

PTE exam
My PTE Scores on My First Attempt.

There you have it, the secret is out! Remember, the PTE exam exists to assess your ability to operate in a completely English environment, be it a workplace, a university or a training program, and to do this you must be skilled at critical thinking, social interaction and problem solving. My old French teacher used to say, “it’s one thing to speak another language. It’s another to be yourself in another language”. I don’t think truer words have ever been spoken. Not only do you need to prove your proficiency, you need to prove your skills and strengths in a language that is not your own.

What you can do:

You’re smart. I know you’re smart. You know you’re smart. You can do this, even if it seems frustrating and discouraging. All you need to do is skill build and practice, and all that takes is time, patience, and a bit of determination! Here is a magic formula that will help get you get there:

1. Assess your skill level. Find practice questions and material (a great place to start is our PTE free trial) and get a sense of what the PTE exam questions will look like and what you find challenging. One thing that we see a lot at E2Language is people who are unrealistic about their skill level and their timeline. They are completely lost and confused about the PTE test format, yet they’ve booked their test for the next week and are determined that they can improve in an extremely short period of time.

IF YOU ARE IN THIS SITUATION, PLEASE RECONSIDER WHAT YOU ARE DOING!! This kind of thinking is a recipe for disaster. I know there are deadlines, I know you think you need to do it sooner rather than later, but it is NOT worth failing the PTE and losing confidence just because you wanted to get the exam over with.

2. Stop doing practice questions immediately! Now that you know where you stand with your level, it’s time to work on your weak points. Our PTE experts can help you with this. Not only can they work with you to create a realistic study plan that suits your needs and timeline, they can provide support in the areas where you struggle most. Many people don’t realize that they struggle in a broad area like reading or writing because they lack or have forgotten the building blocks (like basic grammar, sentence structure or format) that these broad skills are based on.

Our teachers can identify the missing building blocks and help you add them to your repertoire. Practicing questions over and over won’t help you improve. Building on your knowledge will. If you’re looking for free resources, check out our free PTE webinars and the PTE activities available on this blog!

3. Reassess yourself. After you’ve worked on your skills, you’ll need to know where you stand again. Feedback from your E2Language tutor is an excellent way to assess your new level. Now is also the time to try out some more practice questions and get a sense of your improvement. Once you are comfortable with your improvement in your weaker areas, it’s time to get serious about practice questions.

A lot of people think that mock tests will get them to PTE success. I have to dispel this myth. Mock tests are useful WHEN you know what you are doing. When you are using them as your only means of preparation, they are a complete waste of your time.

PTE Exam
My PTE Score After Skill Building and Using the Methods!

PTE Exam Secret #2: Surviving the PTE testing environment is half the battle.

I really don’t want to scare you, but I also want to be completely honest; the PTE exam centers are not even a little bit fun. They are stressful environments filled with nervous people, security measures, and (most importantly) lots of NOISE. 

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it over and over again: most of us do not prepare adequately or appropriately for this environment. We are trained to find quiet, comfortable places to study, and PTE exam centers could not be further from this setting. You must sit in a cramped cubicle for over 3 hours with the deafening sounds of other voices and frantically tapping keyboards surrounding you. You can’t eat or even drink water during this time, and any stretches or excessive movement you make could put you under suspicion of cheating.

What you can do:

1. You need to get used to studying in chaos. Record yourself practicing a speaking task in a bustling café, try a reading exercise on a noisy tram, or listen to fascinating podcasts in a public park with an outdoor band playing 10 metres away. It sounds a bit silly, but I promise you it will pay off. Your brain will start to get used to tuning out irrelevant information and focusing on the task at hand. It will be frustrating at first, but you will notice a difference in how you handle distractions.

PTE Exam
Try studying in a busy café to get used to noise.

2. Along the same lines as training your brain to tune out chaos, you can try a nifty trick I learned back when I worked in a neuroscience lab. Instead of rushing through the PTE instructions and starting the speaking section as soon as you can, take your time. Wait until you hear people around you begin their speaking tasks, and give yourself another minute after that. Your brain will do this amazing thing called “habituation”, or in other words it will get accustomed to the sounds around you and will start to ignore them. This will make it a lot easier for you to focus on your own task at hand.

When I wrote the PTE for the first time, I was the first to begin the speaking section. It was going okay until other people started speaking, and then I was completely thrown off. Why? My brain did something called “sensitization”. As soon as a new stimulus was introduced (in this case, 5 other voices booming through the small space), my brain fixated on it and allowed me to become distracted. The second time I wrote the PTE, I was the last to begin the speaking section and I noticed a significant difference in my level of concentration and focus.

PTE Exam
Wait to start the speaking section until you hear other people begin.

3. Take the PTE earlier rather than later. Again, this is basic neurobiology. Your brain activity is at its peak in the early morning, and around lunchtime it declines rapidly along with your body temperature, making you sleepy and less responsive and productive. Jay and I took our first PTE at 12 pm after eating lunch and I’m pretty sure I almost dozed off by the time I got to the listening section! I did my second PTE exam attempt at 9 am and I felt sharp, alert and ready.

I hope my insights can help you on your PTE exam day! Best of luck!

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I’m Going to Sit the TOEFL iBT!

A funny thing is happening to me this week.

After eighteen years of giving TOEFL classes and helping students on three continents pass three different iterations of the TOEFL test (pen-and-paper, computer-based and internet-based), I am going to go down to the local test centre with my colleague Jamal and actually sit the TOEFL iBT. That’s right, I’m dedicating four-and-a-half hours of my precious Sunday afternoon to find out first-hand just what it is that my students have been making such a fuss about all these years.

I should point out that Jamal is much keener on this than I am. To start off, she loves doing tests. (Just between us, I think she might be a bit soft in the head!) It’s not that I’m afraid of the TOEFL iBT – heaven knows I’m more familiar with this test than anything else I’ve ever worked on – but now my knowledge is being put under the microscope. I’m getting butterflies just thinking about returning to the office with a lower than expected score. How on earth would my ego cope?


Wish us luck!

So, which areas of the TOEFL iBT am I most worried about and why? It’s a question that does not have a simple answer. Broadly speaking, I’m a little worried about all of it, so I’ll touch on a few things in each section that are going to make the next few nights a bit more restless than they ought to be:

1) TOEFL Writing

I am a fairly confident writer, though being a pedantic fellow, I am happier to proofread other people’s texts. Small grammar mistakes bother me to an irrational extent. For example, at my daughter’s school there has been a sign offering “Hot Meat Pie’s” since the start of the year. It’s all I can do to stop myself from spray-painting it out. I’ve complained to the administration, to no avail.

My concern about the writing in the TOEFL iBT is time management. There are two pieces of writing to get through in a total of 45 minutes. How will I manage the planning, writing and proof-reading under such pressure? I have been timing myself this week under virtual test conditions and I can see some improvement, but I am still dissatisfied with the quality of my essays.

2) TOEFL Listening

The TOEFL iBT is more “international” than its predecessors. In a previous post I wrote about how it’s being accepted by the Australian immigration authorities as an alternative to the IELTS or the PTE. This means that there are now a wider variety of accents being heard in the test itself. Still, it is undeniably a North American test which is chock-a-block with North American accents. Exposed as we are to such accents through television, movies and music, it is not the biggest challenge to understand what they’re talking about. Even so, I am a native speaker of The Queen’s English (the capital letters are intentional!) and can find some ‘Americanisms’ both confusing and annoying.

The TOEFL iBT listening section includes conversations between two or three people, so I’m a bit worried that the way they speak to each other might cause me a few headaches.

3) TOEFL Reading

I have been out of the university system for quite a few years, and this test is very much academically-focused. The reading for the TOEFL iBT is fairly extensive – each text is around 700 words in length – and it goes into quite a lot of detail on a wide range of topics. There’s no denying that, in order to do well in the TOEFL iBT, you have to be a bit of a Jack-of-all-trades.

Someone who is used to the reality of university life where lectures, seminars and research are a part of their day-to-day routine would not be overawed by the prospect of reading through page after page of different articles. Needless to say, I have already taken a TOEFL practice reading test online, and plan to do so again before next Sunday.

4) TOEFL Speaking

Like most native speakers who find themselves taking a high-stakes English test, we almost resent being asked to prove how well we speak our own language. I mean, really! Talk about adding insult to injury. As a teacher of English as a foreign language, though, I can see the trap that so many of my peers stumble into. More often than not they fail to speak to the test. What does this mean? In the TOEFL iBT it means addressing the topic, referring to the theme throughout and speaking in a manner that is clear and comprehensible to anyone listening in possession of a reasonable level of English.

On top of this, there is the added anxiety of having to talk to a machine. I have every sympathy for test-takers who complain about this aspect of the test, but in truth it is a valid skill. Think about how many times we have to communicate over the phone or leave recorded messages. I’ll do my best to come over well in the speaking, but I am already starting to squirm at the thought of how silly I’m going to sound.

I’ve been taking my preparation for the test seriously. In fact, I have been going over a TOEFL mock test paper this very evening. Also, with all of my professional experience, I am very familiar with what I need to study for the TOEFL iBT. Referring to our TOEFL materials doesn’t hurt either!

So think of me next Sunday as I head down to the TOEFL test place with my colleague: I promise I’ll let you know how I get on (even if it’s bad news!).



Written by Colin David.

The Importance of Good PTE & IELTS Preparation

When it comes to PTE or IELTS preparation, good teaching, good materials and good methods are absolutely crucial.

Some of the stuff I read on the internet about how to pass the IELTS or the PTE is astonishingly bad. Plus, some of the material that I see on the internet is completely wrong – not to mention confusing!


IELTS Preparation

If you are preparing for your IELTS or PTE then you need to be very, very careful about whom you are getting your advice from and where you are getting your practice materials from. Taking the wrong advice and practicing using the wrong materials can do much more damage than good.

PTE & IELTS Preparation: The Importance of Good Teaching

It’s easy to become an English teacher, especially for a native-English speaker in another country. In many countries the so-called “teacher” only has to speak the language to become a teacher. Many of these people have never studied English language and do not know their own language the way that an English teacher should.

You have to be critical when it comes to choosing your teacher. Your test is extremely important. Teachers need to be trusted, but you shouldn’t trust all teachers. How would you know if the teacher is giving you the right advice?

At E2Language we only use experienced and well qualified teachers. But more than that, we use teachers who have experience actually taking the PTE.

Here’s my report card from the day I sat the PTE:

IELTS Preparation

If you’re thinking of doing an IELTS preparation course or a PTE preparation course, ask your teacher if he or she has ever taken an English test – even if they are a native English speaker. Don’t be shy. It’s extremely important that your teacher has the experience necessary to teach you properly. And, please, don’t listen to non-English teachers tell you how to do the IELTS or the PTE or any other test. Just because someone aced the PTE does not mean that they know how to teach it to you. Doing and teaching are very different things!

PTE & IELTS Preparation: The Importance of Good Practice Materials

The other day a student sent me an email asking if his answers were correct. His answers were fine but the questions were wrong! The questions, in fact, did not resemble the actual PTE practice questions at all. I asked him where he got them from and he told me they were free on the internet…

It’s not only a waste of time to practice bad questions, but it can actually be deleterious – or bad for your progress.

Imagine you are preparing for PTE Speaking: Answer Short Question and you come across this question:

Please talk about a time when you went to the seaside.

Well, it’s wrong and it will teach you a bad habit: to answer in more than one or two words. You need to be skeptical of anything that is floating around on the internet. Just because it is free does not mean that it is good. This is an important test and you should ‘invest’ in your preparation – not be stingy.

Writing good quality test questions is incredibly difficult. Did you know that it takes a team of experts about three months to write a recent IELTS exam? That’s right. It has to be written and checked and double checked ad nauseam.

When you get practice materials from the internet you do not know who wrote them and 99% of the time the person who wrote them does not know what they’re doing. You may get a rude shock when you walk into the exam and the exam questions that you see are far different from the ones that you were practicing!

PTE & IELTS Preparation: The Importance of Good Methods

Methods are critical. If you have a method then you can go into your test confident because you will know what to do. However, if you go into a test with the wrong method, then you may go in confident but you may come out shattered. I’ve seen some bad methods getting around, especially in PTE. I once saw a “tip” from someone saying that you should read as quickly as you possibly can. WHAT?! That’s crazy. That’s a recipe for a low score. That is NOT how the PTE scoring works.

The methods that E2Language devises are solid. We spend hours reverse engineering the PTE score guides and IELTS criteria to determine the best way to answer the questions. Plus, our methods are tested. Not only have our teachers scored straight 90s in PTE but we are now getting HEAPS of testimonials that the methods work for our students as well.


In short, you need to make sure that you have a good teacher, who uses good materials and teaches good methods. It is these three things that will get you the PTE test result or IELTS results you need. If you cut corners and try to save money by using free materials from the internet then you will probably do more harm than good. You can trust the teachers, materials and methods at E2Language because they are tried and tested and they work. Our E2Language reviews speak for themselves. We are a team of experts who have cracked the code of the IELTS and PTE. 


Written by Jay Merlo

IELTS Reading Advice: Strategies and Tips to Help You Succeed

How does one prepare for the IELTS Reading section?

Picture this, a cold winter’s night, you’re sitting by the fire with a hot cup of cocoa in one hand and a great book in the other. Reading in this romantic setting is enjoyable and enriching. Now picture this, a cold exam room, you are sweating from nerves and fear, the text you are trying to read doesn’t make sense and the words seem jumbled. Reading in this stressful setting is unbearable and unsatisfying. Never fear, this doesn’t have to happen to you. There is a way to find a happy medium between the above two examples. All you need to do is prepare yourself and take on some good advice.

Here is some advice.

IELTS Reading Strategy 1

Don’t over romanticise, in other words be realistic. The chances of you understanding every word you read is just as unrealistic as you running into your dream partner, them dropping to the floor and declaring their undying love for you. IELTS texts are full of wonderfully specialised vocabulary. Don’t be afraid to skip a difficult word, as long as you get the overall meaning that’s what counts. You can practice trying to guess the meaning of unknown words by looking at the overall context of the text and sentence as well as word form- e.g. is it a verb or a noun?

Tip: Build up a vocabulary list

Buy a little book from the $2 shop and name it ‘The vocabulary book’. Keep it with you every time you read. Write down words you don’t understand and look the meaning up later.

IELTS Reading Strategy 2

This one may come as a surprise… but I suggest you READ! Yes, read in your free time, choose a variety of different reading materials, such as the National Geographic, the New Scientist, the Economist, news online, short stories, etc… And don’t forget to invite your new friend ‘The vocabulary book’!

IELTS Reading Strategy 3

This one is important. CATEGORISE. Learning to recognise the type of text you are reading will allow you to answer the question more quickly.

There are four types of IELTS texts:

Analytic texts, which discuss the reasons why something happened, make recommendations or explain a concept.

Descriptive texts, which describe a situation, explain how something is done or categorise something.

Discursive texts, in which different opinions are expressed about an issue.

And narrative texts, which explain a chronological sequence of events.

IELTS Reading Strategy 4

Become a skim champion. Skimming is basically reading quickly, jumping over unimportant or unknown words in order to get a quick overall understanding of what the text is about. You can do this when trying to understand the general idea of a paragraph or to find the answer to a question.

IELTS Reading Strategy 5

Scan. Scanning is useful when you are looking for something specific. You can scan to find the location of answers in the texts by looking out for words, numbers, dates and words beginning with capital letters such as place names.

IELTS Reading
Become a skimming and scanning champion!

IELTS Reading Strategy 6

Focus exactly on what you are asked to do in ‘completion’ type questions.

If the question asks you to complete the note ‘in the…’ and the correct answer is ‘evening’, just use ‘evening’ as your answer; note that ‘in the evening’ would be incorrect

IELTS Reading Strategy 7

Read the IELTS Reading instructions carefully. Don’t try to save time by skipping this part. The instructions give you critical information about how many words the answer should be, what exactly you need to do and so on.

IELTS Reading Strategy 8

Learn to identify parallel phrases. These are different ways of expressing the same thing, such as, “I like to read” and “reading is enjoyable”. Many questions, e.g. YES NO NOT GIVEN questions and gap fills, test your ability to match up a similar phrase in the task with its equivalent in the text.

IELTS Reading Strategy 9

Manage your time. Each text should take you roughly 20 minutes. Try not to spend too much time on one question. If time is running out, do the gap-fills before answering the easy to guess questions such as YES NO NOT GIVEN

Use your time wisely!
Use your time wisely!

IELTS Reading Strategy 10

Last but not least, check your answers. Once finished, if you have time, go over your answers because sometimes you may have missed something.

When learning to read in another language, studies have shown that we abandon most of the micro skills we use for reading such as skimming and scanning, and instead we focus on each and every word. In doing so we become frustrated and therefore the pleasure of reading diminishes.

So my advice is to employ micro skills and take on the above advice. That way when it’s time for you to sit down and take your IELTs test, instead of sweating, you will be smiling.


Written by Michelle Anderson

How to Succeed on the TOEFL iBT Speaking Section

Is it just me or is the TOEFL iBT harder than it used to be?

No, not really. It’s just got a speaking section. The TOEFL iBT speaking section has added a new level of complexity to the TOEFL in recent years. In the late nineties, preparing people for the TOEFL paper based test (PBT) was a relatively uncomplicated task. A teacher could take a group of willing, hard-working students and work your way faithfully through a fairly dry TOEFL preparation book, set them a number of mock tests then send them in for the real deal after 10-12 weeks. One of the main attractions of the PBT form of the test for the insecure test-taker was the fact that there was no speaking element. Scoring a TOEFL 550 – the equivalent of what used to be the minimum score required by many US universities (about an 80 on the TOEFL iBT ) – was less of a challenge than getting a top score in the IELTS or the other Cambridge exams. For test-takers worried about their TOEFL grades, it was one less skill they had to worry about.

That all changed about 10 years ago with the arrival of the TOEFL iBT (internet based test). Suddenly your ability to speak well in English mattered and people started to worry. To make matters worse, you had to speak to a machine: there was no human interaction, no visual cues, no interpretation of body language. Anyone who has learned a foreign language before will tell you that having a meaningful conversation on the telephone is much more difficult than a face-to-face interaction. Conference calls are the bane of many an executives’ existence. Listening to the radio is more difficult than watching television.

TOEFL iBT Speaking tip: Buy a decent TOEFL book

How then does the modern test taker get to grips with the spanner in the works that is the TOEFL iBT listening section? The first thing one must do is get familiar with the many TOEFL speaking samples that can be found all over the internet. If you’re willing to go the extra mile, an up-to-date TOEFL iBT preparation book will provide you will a plethora of speaking samples to help you model out your answers.

Be careful about using out-of-date and hand-me-down material you get from your friends and acquaintances. It might be tempting to cheap out and download a 300-page pdf, but apart from being theft of intellectual property, more often than not you cannot be certain of its origin or usefulness.

TOEFL iBT speaking tip: Record Yourself

It is a devilish thing to try to self-study this part of the TOEFL test, since meaningful feedback is what will push you away from forming bad habits. In the absence of a teacher or study partner, you must get into the habit of recording yourself and listening back to the result. Most PCs come with pretty decent Voice Recorder software, and Apple users have the same benefits from QuickTime.

Although this is not tested in the TOEFL iBT, you should find articles from academic or scientific journals and read them aloud. Record your efforts then listen back to them. You’ll start to get a good feel for crucial elements that will count towards your score in speaking, such as tempo, enunciation, whether you are mumbling (an easy way to losing crucial marks) and pronunciation. It’s worth noting that makes an excellent app, called E2Pronounce, available to anyone who signs up for one of our TOEFL iBT preparation programs.

TOEFL iBT speaking tip: Book time with a teacher

No one should ever consider getting behind the wheel of a real car without first having some on-road experience. I wouldn’t be happy boarding a plane flown by a pilot who’d done 100 hours on the flight simulator. Similarly, sitting down to do your TOEFL iBT without ever having spoken to a teacher is a risky business! I wouldn’t even recommend a native speaker go into the TOEFL iBT and attempt the speaking section without consulting a teacher.

TOEFL iBT speaking tip: slow it down!

I recently attended a conference where a variety of experienced, international speakers presented. The most disappointing of these talks was given by a middle-aged man – a native-speaker of English – with a very impressive resume who spent 50 minutes talking at such a high speed that almost nobody in the auditorium could keep up. This should stand as a warning to all TOEFL iBT test takers: quality is much more important than quantity.

If you were to reach for a comparison between your real life experience of speaking and the TOEFL iBT speaking section, addressing a group in a public situation would be it. Speak clearly, steadily and enunciate to a degree that feels almost unnatural. It is very important that your audience understand every single word of what you’re saying. Leave aside your usual, chatty tone in favour of the disciplined discourse you reserve for public speaking.

TOEFL iBT speaking
Is talking to a computer easier than talking to a crowd?

It’s also useful to reflect on speakers we have personally found interesting to listen to in the past and mimic their style. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!

Have you taken the TOEFL internet test before? What did you do to prepare for the speaking section?


Written by Colin David

IELTS speaking tips: how to prepare yourself for the General IELTS Test

Okay! Another tips article… and this time we will discuss IELTS Speaking Tips!

The time has come, you are about to be tested on your spoken English skills for the IELTS exam. In your head you sound great, you’re basically fluent but the moment you open your mouth, the words don’t come out, or when they do it sounds like “blah blah blah.”

What to do? One of the greatest painters of all time, Leonardo da Vinci, said the success of his works were due to the amount of preparation he put into them first.

So in other words, it’s all about the preparation!

What is the IELTS examiner looking for?

Fluency, this doesn’t mean you need to speak with a perfect British or American accent, but you should speak clearly and pronounce your words correctly.

IELTS Speaking Tips: Pronunciation

The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog, Peter Piper picked a pickled pepper! These are some of the sentences Australian kids practice in the classroom to help them with articulation and pronunciation. Pronunciation is sometimes a tricky thing to practice, especially if you don’t have access to conversing with an English speaker. But where there’s a will there’s a way. How? Pick an English speaking series and watch it regularly. When I was learning German I ended up with a southern accent because the soap opera I used to watch was set in southern Germany. It’s a great way to learn how to pronounce words, listen to the experts. Now, I suggest you don’t pick a Scottish series, as even the best of us struggle to understand those guys!

Read out loud. Read out loud to yourself when you can, this will help identify words you find difficult to pronounce and it will give you more confidence reading in English.

Sometimes getting stuck on the way you pronounce a word can really affect your confidence, the best way to avoid this is, PRACTICE of course. But if you do stumble on a word, don’t let it put you off and keep going. If you show confidence in your speaking the examiner will not focus so much on little slip ups.

Show your confidence and don’t forget to smile! The IELTS examiner is human too!

IELTS Speaking Tips: Grammar and vocabulary

Grammar and vocabulary are also important and count for around 25% of your speaking score. In the IELTS test, you will be giving your opinion a lot, talking about your likes and dislikes. The IELTS examiner basically wants to know if you can use a range of functional vocabulary such as opinion language to express yourself. For example:

As far as I know …

I agree with the opinion of …

I could be wrong, but …

I’d definitely say that …

I’d guess/imagine that …

I’d say that …

I’m absolutely certain that …

If you want to brush up on your grammar, have a wide range of grammar exercises and I highly recommend using them to brush up on your grammar before the test.


IELTS Speaking Tips: IELTS speaking topics

Pick out the topics you might talk about (everyday ideas) and practice them in a conversation with someone you know, or record yourself and listen back to see how you sound, and what improvements are needed. Remember it’s not an academic discussion (UNLESS you are doing the academic IELTS test), they really don’t need to hear you express your opinion about the latest research in Quantum Physics, it’s about you being able to communicate in English with confidence. Use Natural English short forms like “it’s” and not “it is”, and commonly spoken phrases like “I guess” and “I suppose”. Prepare a list of Linking Words and practice using them before the test, for example:

Adding more information:

  • And
  • Also
  • As well as
  • Another reason is

Make sure it’s not too short and sweet.

For example:

Question:” Where did you grow up”

Answer: “In my parents’ house”

Better would be:

Answer: “I grew up in Finland, and I had a lovely childhood. I lived in an old cottage just outside Finnagoo Forest, with both my parents, two brothers and a dog called Pablo.”

Remember, however, that very long answers are not always good answers. It’s rather easy to go off topic and lose coherence. It is ok to give short answers sometimes too.

If you happen to get a question you don’t know very much about, just give a short answer by saying you don’t know a lot about that topic and then wait for the next question.

A great way to give yourself time to think about the question is to repeat/reformulate the question.

For instance in In parts 1 and 3 you are not given any thinking time: you are supposed to start speaking immediately, so a way to give yourself a bit more time is to just repeat the question. “What did I enjoy about my last holiday? Let me see…”

Another great tip is to give examples, this allows you to talk about something you know and gives you the opportunity to add detail to the discussion.

IELTS Speaking Tips: Some extra little tips and hints!

  • Be sure to correct your mistakes, if you notice you made a mistake correct it straight away (i.e. “I was getting for the train, I mean getting on the train…”)
  • If you don’t understand the question to be sure to ask the Examiner to explain further.
  • Make eye contact, make sure you don’t end up having a conversation with the table, acknowledge the Examiner and look at them during the conversation.
  • Speak ONLY English immediately before the exam. Try to talk to someone or talk to yourself (ideally in your head) “man this is nerve-racking, I can’t wait to go for a victory coffee afterward.”
Practice English with a friend before your IELTS Speaking evaluation, and remember to include them in your ‘victory coffee’ afterwards!

If you are really serious about getting the best possible result for your IELTS test, I would highly recommend signing up to You will have access to one on one IELTS coaching. Our IELTS teachers are very qualified and passionate about getting you the score you need. You will also have access to a wide range of test questions, grammar exercises, IELTS secrets to success, webinars and much more.

For some more secrets to success check out this link:

Remember the right preparation can get you the right results!

Have you taken IELTS? How did you prepare for the IELTS Speaking Section?


Written by: Michelle Anderson