Fill in the Blanks: PTE Reading Tips

This article provides an in-depth review of the “Fill in the Blanks” task of the PTE reading section and explains in detail a number of critical PTE reading tips that will help you score highly on the PTE reading test.

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Grammar Essentials: Collocations, Idioms & Common Expressions 

Taking a systematic approach, developing your core skills and using effective methods will definitely help you to reach a positive outcome and your desired score in the PTE reading test.

Do you know what all these expressions and pairs of words that I just used are?! They are called collocations, which are words that often occur together to form natural-sounding speech. So they could be adjectives plus nouns, such as: a systematic approach, adverbs plus adjectives, as in closely related or verbs plus noun combinations, such as gather information.

As you can see these occur naturally throughout the language, especially in academic writing. Therefore, acquiring extensive knowledge of collocations, common expressions and idioms is of vital importance in the Fill in the Blanks reading section, and is equally important as understanding the central concept of each text and having sound grammar knowledge!

Keep practicing your English grammar through trial and error 

PTE reading tips
Acquire knowledge by putting together the jigsaw puzzle of your English language proficiency.

Fill in the Blanks Task (What does it test for!)

In the Fill in the Blanks (drag and drop) reading section there are 4-5 texts of up to 80 words each with 6 ‘blanks’ or words missing. Your job is to work out the correct word choice for each one based on the part of speech that is required – so does it need to be a verb, noun, adjective, based on the words before it and immediately after it, as well as choosing the correct word for the overall meaning of the sentence and the natural collocation that it may form.

If you don’t know one, you can leave it and come back to it once you have eliminated other options by completing the ones you do know – but make sure you come back to it as you will lose a mark if a space is left blank.

Fill in the Blanks Example 

PTE Reading Tips
Here is what the fill in the blanks question type looks like.

Student Case Study

There’s no doubt about it, these short, authentic texts on academic subjects, including humanities (various aspects of human culture), natural sciences and social sciences are definitely ‘cerebrally challenging’ at times, even for native speakers! However, as a student said to me once: ‘‘You have to love PTE to get love back!” This student had been feeling quite depressed and deflated and had lost a lot of confidence after having sat the PTE test 3 times and had not been able to get the score he needed, which was 65 in each section.

As he ‘soldiered on,’ he progressed with his study and started to get more and more right answers and was making less and less errors. Then one day he announced to me: “I now love PTE because my English has improved a lot in a short time.” His grammar knowledge was much better, he knew a lot more about collocations and verb/ adjective/ noun plus preposition expressions and his vocabulary on a range of subjects was much wider.

The student felt happier and more confident in himself because of all the hard work he had put in and what he had achieved, especially in his study with the PTE reading section. He then went on to get an overall score of 72 the next time he did the test and got his permanent residency! So ‘take heed’ of those ‘wise words from this student: “You have to love PTE to get love back from PTE!’’

In other words, if you adopt a positive and committed approach to your study and use the PTE reading section as an opportunity and vehicle to improve on your vocabulary, collocations and grammar, not only will you have amazing knowledge on a myriad of subjects to impress your friends with when you go out to dinner, but your English and your overall PTE score will improve greatly!

PTE Reading Tips for Fill in the Banks (drag and drop)

PTE reading tips

PTE Reading Tips #1: Vocabulary

  • Develop a broad vocabulary by reading widely on academic topics. Read and engage with academic subjects and academic articles as much as possible every day to build up your PTE academic vocabulary. This is very important for PTE as the texts are on everything from elephant tusks to tree trunks! You can check unknown words in the dictionary and create your own vocabulary lists with the meaning and synonyms for this word and a sample sentence of how it is used.

PTE Reading Tips #2: Reading Skills

  • Read every day to increase your speed and reading comprehension ability: you need to work like a computer or a machine – to be comfortable reading fast and able to quickly take in the information. To master this you can read a text thoroughly and then see if you are able to then summarise the main idea in the text, then build up your speed each time with these reading skills. (This will also greatly develop your summarising ability, which is a vital skill for PTE also).

PTE Reading Tips #3: Collocations and Expressions

  • Learn collocations, common expressions and idioms as mentioned above. This will help a lot. A great resource for this is the PTE academic collocations list. Also, become acutely aware of which prepositions are used after common adjectives, nouns and verbs. For example: a demand for… have an aptitude for..   be interested in… an increase/ decrease  in…. be concerned about…. be concerned with….know something about….be aware of…

PTE Reading Tips #4: Grammar and Parts of Speech

    • Improve your grammar! Learn the parts of speech: so whether a word is a noun/ verb/ adjective/ adverb, etc. and the standard basic word order of English: i.e. subject + verb + object, etc. Also, make sure you have an in-depth knowledge countable and uncountable nouns and know that if it’s a countable noun, it will need to have a/an/ the in front of it and can be in the plural form with an ‘s’ at the end.


    • But if it’s an uncountable noun, it cannot have a/ an in front of it ( but it can have ‘the’) and will not have a plural form – so no ‘’s’’ unless it’s an exception, such as: news, or academic subjects, eg. politics, economics and therefore is always written in the plural form though it’s treated as a singular noun. Just as importantly, practice subject verb agreement- so if a singular noun/subject, you need to make sure the present tense verbs are also in singular form, etc.


    • Learn to recognise suffixes for the different parts of speech so even if you don’t know the meaning of the word, you can identify whether it is a noun or an adjective. For example: celebrate (verb suffix), celebration (noun suffix) and celebratory (adjective suffix). Then practice changing a word from a verb form to a noun to an adjective and even an adverb if you really want to show off! Eg.  happy, (adjective), happiness (noun), be happy (verb form), happily (adverb).


PTE Reading Tips: Fill in the Blanks Methods Webinar

Make sure you watch the PTE Reading Playlist on the E2 PTE YouTube Channel, including this one!

I hope you found these PTE reading tips for the fill in the blanks task useful! Feel free to comment if you have any of your own reading tips, or if you have any concerns about the PTE reading section in general.

Written by Danielle

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PTE Academic Reading Tips For Nervous Readers

Warning: This PTE Academic Reading Tips article contains a lot of memes. Very few of them (okay, none of them!) are going to be funny. I apologize in advance. If you don’t recognize a meme, I have helpfully linked each meme to its definition so that we can all laugh at my hilarious jokes together. 

PTE Academic Reading Tips
You’ve been warned…

Let’s face it: Reading is one of the most difficult skills ESL learners need to master for a test like the PTE Academic. Sure – it looks easy on the surface – and it’s less stressful than speaking another language confidently, but reading well is somewhat of a gift.

Don’t worry, a lot of native English speakers struggle with reading comprehension questions too- I remember that most of my university English courses involved learning how to “skim”, “scan” and “read between the lines” on what seemed like 10 million random texts.

PTE Academic Reading Tips
This was a direct quote from my University English professor on the first day of class… just kidding! I just wanted an excuse to use the “unhelpful teacher” meme!

Okay, we get it: Reading is hard. Now what? I think what is most important to remember is this: Good reading skills take time to develop. So, if you’re a nervous reader or you’re failing the PTE reading practice tests and you’re writing the PTE next week, RESCHEDULE RIGHT NOW! If reading is your weakest skill, you’re going to need at least a month of preparation if you want to give yourself a fair shot.

With this in mind, here are some PTE Academic Reading tips for all those nervous readers out there:

PTE Academic Reading Tips: Become a person that reads for interest

I know, these people are totally weird. But they’re also great readers, and that’s what you should be doing! Science Daily, BBC and National Geographic are fantastic sources of content for you to read daily. As a bonus, a lot of PTE reading material relates to history, science or current events, so these sources will also be useful in putting you in the right mindset for the PTE reading material!

PTE Academic Reading Tips
Don’t listen to the “paranoid parrot“; reading is fun!
At least once a week, complete this independent reading exercise:

Step 1: Choose an article of about 250-300 words (the same length as the texts on the PTE!)

Step 2: Quickly scan the article and try to identify and write down the keywords in the text.

These might be:

  • Words that repeat themselves (e.g. The word “sperm-whale” in an article about marine preservation)
  • Words that match or mean the same thing as the article’s title (e.g. The title of the article is “Drinking too much water can be damaging to health” and you see the word “over-hydration” in the text)
  • Words that introduce an idea or action (e.g. A word that describes what the subject of an article thought or did, like “The diver explored the most elusive caves in the Indian Ocean”, or “The author concluded that drinking more than 10 glasses of water is detrimental to the human body”.

Step 3: Now, “speed-read” the text to try to fill in some context around your keywords.

Watch out for:

  • Any sub-headings, bolded or underlined phrases in the text
  • An introductory or topic sentence, points the support the topic sentence, and a concluding sentence. Keep in mind,the information in the introduction and the conclusion will often be the most useful!

Step 4: Now that you’ve finished speed-reading, take a moment to write down what you think the most important points in the article are.

Try to answer these questions:

  • From what perspective is this article written (i.e. was it written by a journalist or researcher, or maybe by the subject of the article him/herself?)
  • If you had to choose the 3 most important pieces of information given in the article, what would they be?
  • What is the article’s main message?

Step 5: Once you have written down your answers, read the entire article slowly, paying close attention to the details. Compare what you read with your notes – do you think you captured the main points and important keywords in the text? Was your “speed-reading” process almost as helpful as your careful reading of the complete article?

This exercise will not only get you started on the path to becoming a reader, it will also let you know how much work needs to be done. If you aren’t getting the important information from an article when you try to identify keywords, speed-read and take notes, you are not even close to ready for the PTE Reading questions!

Remember to PRACTICE this exercise as much as you can.

PTE Academic Reading Tips1 (1)
If the “ancient aliens” guy know the secret to PTE success, you should too!

PTE Academic Reading Tips: Develop Your Vocabulary

I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but an extensive vocabulary is key when it comes to succeeding on a reading test like the one on the PTE Academic. Think of it this way: The more words you know, the fewer you don’t know! This means that fewer words will confuse you and take away from the overall meaning of a text. One of the best PTE Academic Reading tips I can give is to get to work on your vocabulary now. Like right now.

When improving your vocabulary, pay special attention to developing your knowledge of these word types:

Synonyms: These are the alternatives to any given word. The PTE reading section is notorious for containing synonyms of keywords in its texts, so make sure you’re prepared.

  • Vocabulary Goal: Try to learn 5-10 new synonyms from every week.

Collocations: Collocations are words that are often grouped together in the English language. The terms “abstract concept” and “critical thinking” are great examples. The PTE reading section is filled with collocations, and the more you know, the better!

And make sure you download our super helpful PTE Collocation word list:

PTE Academic Reading Tips
Seriously, if you don’t know where this meme is from, you need to click this image right now to find out!

Homonyms & Heteronyms: Homonyms are words that sound the same, but are spelled differently, like “male” and “mail”. Heteronyms are words that sound different or have completely different meanings, but are spelled identically, like “row” (line) and “row” (fight). Knowing your homonyms and heteronyms will ensure you aren’t getting words confused on test day.

      • Vocabulary goal: Memorize 5-10 words from the homonym list and 5-10 words from the heteronym list every week. Make sure you know how to use them differently!

Make sure you watch all of the vocabulary lessons on the E2 Core Skills YouTube Channel, including this one!

PTE Academic Reading Tips: Identify your reading level

Wow, I really should have put this one of the top of the reading tips list- but I’ll just hope that you have made it this far in my article (I may like reading, but I’m a lazy writer!) Knowing your reading level is crucial in knowing how to study for a reading test and build your reading comprehension skills. How can you do this?

3 word article rule: When reading an article, make sure there are less than 3 words you don’t understand in its first paragraph. If it’s a short article (300 words or less), skim the text to find all the words you don’t understand and write down their definitions. Then, read the article using your written definitions to help you get past those big, scary words!

Practice questions: Be careful with these. There are heaps of reading comprehension practice questions out there, but many of them are poor quality and are nowhere near the level of the real PTE Academic Reading questions. Practice with our free PTE materials on the blog, or sign up for a free trial of the E2Language PTE preparation course for PTE-level reading activities and questions.

Here’s the important thing: Only use practice questions to identify your reading weaknesses. You’ll learn absolutely nothing from doing the same thing over and over, so once you know where you are struggling, stop doing practice questions and start working on the skills you need to build, like your vocabulary or “skimming/scanning” abilities! If you don’t take this approach, none of the PTE Academic Reading tips or practice questions in the world will make any difference to your score. If you’re overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, drop us an email and we’ll help you get on track!

Overall, you have nothing to lose from improving your reading. Good readers are the best writers, so you’re basically getting double the profits by investing your time and effort in your reading abilities! Just don’t become like me and waste all of your time reading funny Buzzfeed listicles

PTE Academic Reading Tips
Just a reminder that I am definitely a “Socially Awkward Penguin“!

I hope you found my PTE Academic Reading tips helpful! Feel free to comment if you have any of your own reading tips, or if you have any concerns about the PTE reading section in general.

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PTE Vocabulary Tips

An extensive PTE vocabulary can make all the difference in all of the PTE tasks, and it’s crucial to make vocabulary expansion an integral part of your PTE preparation.

Vocabulary is one of the building blocks of language and a necessary requirement for success in the PTE. Being ready for the PTE requires a lot of preparation, including understanding the test, knowing the strategies, and practicing. In addition to all of that, you need vocabulary. It is essential for the reading section, the listening section, for writing a good essay and for being able to speak impressively in the speaking test. To do well, you need to know words. It is believed that it takes 15-20 exposures to a new word for it to become part of your vocabulary. So here are my top 10 methods for integrating new words into your English library.

PTE Vocabulary Tip: Read, read, read!

The more you read, the more words you’ll be exposed to. This is essential for PTE reading preparation, and for increasing your English fluency. Reading doesn’t have to be boring. Read about things that interest you: Food, gardening, fashion, celebrity news, economics, science, politics, etc. As you read, you will discover new words in context. You can infer the meaning of new words from the context of the sentence. If not, then look the word up in an English to English dictionary.

PTE Vocabulary
Reading is one of the most effective ways to expand vocabulary!

PTE Vocabulary Tip: Use an English to English dictionary and Thesaurus.

You can use hard copies or online versions such as and  When you come across a new word, look it up in the dictionary. An online dictionary will give you the definition and will let you hear the pronunciation. It’s important not to just use a translation tool. A translation may be helpful for you to understand the meaning of the word in your native language, but it will not help you integrate the word into your English mental library. You need to be able to think of the word in English, and not rely on a translation. Otherwise you will be thinking of the word in your own language and will have difficulty recovering it in English when you need it. Then use the thesaurus to find synonyms. You don’t have to memorise every synonym (there may be too many). Choose a couple of interesting ones and add them to your vocabulary journal.

PTE Vocabulary Tip: Use a vocabulary journal.

This can be a little notebook that you keep with you where you record new words that you hear or read. Steps 4-7 will explain useful ways to use a vocabulary journal.

PTE Vocabulary Tip: Organise your journal thematically.

Group words together that relate to a similar topic to make it easier to remember and relate them. These categories could be food, hobbies, nature, society, etc.

PTE Vocabulary Tip: List the different forms of the word.

For example its noun, verb, adjective and adverb form, as well as its past participle. Let’s take the word “manage”. It is a verb. The noun form is “management”, the adjective is “manageable” and the adverb is “manageably”. The past participle is “managed. Now you know five new words instead of one! A dictionary will usually give you the different word forms abbreviated as (n) for noun (v) for verb, (adj) for adjective and (adv) for adverb.

PTE Vocabulary Tip: Collocate!

List words that the word collocates with. For example, manage effectively; manage competently; efficient management; competent management, etc.

PTE Vocabulary Tip: Write, write, write!

Writing helps to ingrain new words into your memory. When we hear and see a new word, it becomes part of our passive Our passive vocabulary includes words that we can understand but not use. We want to make new words part of our active vocabulary. This means we can both understand and use new words. To do this, we need to use them! One way is to write sentences using the new word in two or more of its word forms. Even better, integrate reading with writing by writing a short summary of an article you have read using 2 or 3 new words from the article in their various forms. Remember to check your spelling! At the end of each week, go back to your list. Pick 10 words from that week and write a short story, even if it’s just 100 words. It can be a personal reflection, a review of something you read that week, or a practice PTE essay.

PTE Vocabulary Tip: Listen!

Hearing words in context will help you hear how words are used and also familiarise you with their pronunciation. Watch music videos or short movie clips on YouTube with English subtitles. When you hear a word that you don’t know, or have difficulty pronouncing, play it again and sound it out. Also, Ted ESL and Ted Ed are great sources for interesting and inspiring talks on a variety of topics. You can watch videos and read the transcripts to see the spelling of new words that you hear in the talks. This will help you understand the pronunciation of words, how they are used in context, and how they are spelt. You’ll notice the big difference this makes on your PTE Listening test, too!

PTE Vocabulary Tip: Learn a word a day.

Check the English Learner’s Dictionary word of the day for a new word each day with the definition, pronunciation, word form and example sentences. Add them to your journal list and use them in your journal writing and PTE writing practice.

PTE Vocabulary Tip: Speak!

Incorporate the new words into your everyday conversation. Talk to your friends about a movie you saw or an article you read, or a hobby you did, using new words you learned that week. The best way to remember words is to use them! This will grow your vocabulary and make the word part of your mental word bank. This will increase your speaking fluency which will help you in the PTE speaking test, and in your everyday English development.


Written by Jamal Abilmona.

Jamal Abilmona is an expert IELTS and PTE teacher, curriculum designer and language buff. She has taught English for general and academic purposes in classrooms around the world and currently writes e-learning material for