On August 17th I took the PTE academic again. After failing the PTE speaking section on my first attempt, my confidence had decreased substantially and I was nervous. I need a PTE 90 to get into my university program and I never thought it would be a problem to achieve it. This is a mistake that many native and near native English speakers make— and it is a very costly one at that (330 AUD to be exact)! Since my first experience with the PTE, I have spoken to an astonishingly high number of native speakers who have done poorly on at least one section of the PTE. Why is this the case?
You might be thinking, “If many native speakers can’t even get a PTE 90, what chance do I have?” Stop right there. I’m not telling you this to scare you or to decrease your confidence even more. I’m telling you this because you need to know that acing the PTE comes down to more than just your English ability. We say this every single day to E2Language students and it is absolutely crucial to remember: if you don’t know the format of the test through and through, and if you don’t use the appropriate methods in your responses, it will negatively impact your PTE result. On the bright side, knowing the format and the methods means that you can have less than perfect English and still get the PTE score you need for your immigration or study purposes!
If you haven’t already, make sure you download our PTE Academic wordlist for over 100 word combinations commonly found on the PTE!
I want to share a few PTE tips that really worked for me on my second attempt, and I hope you find them helpful too!
PTE 90 Tip #1: Use a reliable method to address the criteria in each of the PTE sections.
I’ve put this first because it is by far the most important. On my first attempt at the PTE, I thought I could just talk about a graph for 40 seconds with no problems, and I was very wrong. The graphs and diagrams in the “describe image” task can be highly complex, and I found myself not knowing where to look for information or what to say. I couldn’t even fill up the full 40 seconds because I didn’t know what points to focus on!
The second time I took the test, I couldn’t believe how easy it was to talk about the graphs and diagrams when I applied our E2Language method (which of course I should have been using all along!). If you want to find out what the “describe image” method is, you can watch our webinar below for free to find out! One of the most useful things about this method is that it tells you what to say at the very beginning of all of your responses. As Jay says: “if you know how to start, you know how to finish”.
We’ve developed a method for every single task type on the PTE and they work. We do weekly webinars detailing these methods for our students and we also have a webinar bank built into our PTE preparation courses. You can sign up for a PTE free trial here.
PTE 90 Tip #2: If you can, choose a smaller testing center.
This made a huge difference for me. The first time I wrote the PTE, I went to the busiest test center in Melbourne. It’s a beautiful location and the Pearson representatives there were lovely, but the sheer number of students writing the exam meant more background noise and nervous tension. On my second time around, I went to one of the smaller centers and there was a noticeable difference in both noise and nerve levels! Because there were fewer people, the whole process of getting set up was a lot more relaxed, and the representatives had more time to spend with each candidate to explain the rules and expectations of the test.
In addition, I felt comfortable talking to a fellow test-taker who was sitting next to me in the waiting room. I highly recommend doing this before you write your PTE. Don’t waste time talking about study tips though, just genuinely have a nice conversation with the person about why they are taking the test, what they do, and whatever else you can think of! It’s not about using your fellow PTE candidates as study resources (too late for that!), but rather creating a relaxing atmosphere for you and for them. Trust me, it does wonders for your nerves!
Finally, in this less hectic atmosphere I felt more comfortable confirming with the test moderator that my microphone was working correctly to pick up my voice. I cannot reiterate this enough: ALWAYS ask somebody for a check if you are unsure whether the microphone is picking up your voice properly.
PTE 90 Tip #3: Actually read the instructions before you begin the test.
This may seem like a silly tip, yet you would be surprised how many people go through this test without fully understanding how it works or what’s coming next. You need to be aware of how to use the equipment, how the time limits work, what order the tasks will be presented, and much, much more. I can guarantee you that there is always a piece of information in the instructions that will prove useful to you during your PTE exam.
Another reason to read the instructions is that it gets you warmed up for reading in English. The first section on the PTE is the speaking test, and this can be quite daunting for many people. Reading the instructions fully gets you thinking in English, and it gives you time to get focused and prepare yourself for the challenging task ahead!
Bonus PTE 90 tip: It pays to know the format.
Although the instructions will notify you which section you will be completing next, they don’t tell you which order the tasks will be in, nor are the tasks labeled when they are presented. This can be quite disorienting and it certainly confused me the first time I wrote the test! Here is what you can do: if you have the PTE book, make sure you look at the order of the tasks for each section and get comfortable with it.
If you don’t have the Pearson book, you can look at the order of the tasks on our blog, which matches the real exam format as well. Here is an example. Knowing what is coming next and what it looks like will make a huge difference on test day!
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Did you find these tips helpful? Let us know in the comments below!
Written by Kaia.