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.
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.
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!
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 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 thesaurus.com 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!
- Vocabulary goal: Learn 10-20 collocations every week. Complete these collocation practice activities to get started!
And make sure you download our super helpful PTE Collocation word list:
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.
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…
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.