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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39 thoughts on “2 Secrets You Should Know Before You Take the PTE Exam

  1. Thank you for the suggestions.. I have my exam this coming Wednesday on 12th October.. I have gone through the material you guys have posted on the website and it has been a great help.. will let you know how it goes.

    Thanks Again!!!

      1. Hey Kaia,

        It’s a good news.. I got my PTE result today and I got 90 in speaking. Thank you so much for your help!!!

        Overall my score is 79 which is exactly what I wanted.

        Thanks again..

        1. Hi Navdeep,

          CONGRATULATIONS! Well done, that’s amazing news! No problem whatsoever, I’m so glad you found my tips helpful. Good luck with everything in the future! 🙂

  2. Very Valuable Secrets. Thank you. I am preparing for PTE exam and enrolled to Package 1 in E2Language. I was thinking of Secret 1 to execute it but I was not sure whether I am right or not. But now got confidence to execute it after reading your post. Do keep posting. 🙂

    1. Hi Ram,

      I’m so glad to hear that! Best of luck with your preparation, we are thrilled to have you with us! 🙂

  3. Hi, thank you for the suggestions. I wrote PTE thrice 😔 But couldn’t achieve my desired score, again m going to appear on 19th of October . I need 65 in each and overall 65. Can you please suggest me something. I have gone through most of the webinar

    1. Hi Janet,

      I’m so sorry to hear that! What areas are you struggling most in? If you let me know, I can try to provide tips for those specific tasks.

      Have you signed up to our free trial and done all the practice questions there? If not you can do so here:

      You can also talk to a teacher through our “whiteboard” feature and ask them specific questions about what your difficulties are! 🙂

      Good luck!

  4. Hi Kaia,

    Thanks for your sharing. Just add one point for your second bullet of secret #2 regarding sensitisation and habituation.

    Although it worked for me from the outset, this method had a minor shortcoming when it came to the final minutes of the speaking section. I started later than others. Things were going right with me used to the chaotic noise in the test room, when near the end of the re-tell lecture suddenly everything around turned silent. I was like… scared of the awkward silence and my mind wandered for a moment. After realising everyone else had done their parts, I gained my concentration back and finished mine. But then again, I might have missed some points in the final lecture.

    In short, it is essential that we practise to be familiar not only with noise, but also with quietness.


    1. Hi Hao,

      This is a really great point, thanks so much for writing your comment! You are absolutely right, silence can be just as awkward and distracting as loads of noise. Sometimes it just comes down to a timing game I suppose. Let us know how your PTE goes, and thanks again for the valuable insights!

      1. Hi Kaia,

        Thanks for your comment.

        My scores, just delivered, go like this:
        L-R-S-W 68-72-68-71
        G-O-P-S-V-W 90-51-78-90-86-90
        which are far below my target of 79+.

        Still, I knew right after the test that I performed poorly in the listening and reading parts. However what I couldn’t expect is that those integrated sections would affect my writing score, like R&W Fill In The Blanks. that much. Besides, the fact that I couldn’t get many points in Re-tell Lecture section influenced my fluency.

        In fact, I’m preparing to sign up for your course today mate.

  5. Hi Kaia,
    Thanks for sharing your all valuable posts which I have been notified recently.
    Today I get my PTE result which is, in fact, disgusting news for me. I know I have limitation on speaking section and I have also missed a lot in the exam time which reflect my speaking part. But I can’t map with other 3 sections outcome. I have some queries:
    i) Is ‘Read Aloud’ part connected with reading section marking rather than only speaking?
    ii) Is ‘Repeat Sentence’ part connected with listening section marking rather than only speaking?
    iii) Is ‘Retell Lecture’ part connected with listening section marking rather than only speaking?
    iv) Is ‘Answer Short Questions’ part connected with listening section marking rather than only speaking?
    v) Is ‘Summarize Spoken Text’ part connected with writing section marking rather than only listening?
    vi) Is ‘Write From Dictation’ part connected with writing section marking rather than only listening?
    And How “Written Discourse” works?
    If those are really relevant for marking, then it is tough to gain good score without performing well particularly in speaking section.
    Though I am fed up with my result, but I am not giving up. I will register with ‘E2 Language team’ very shortly after identifying my appropriate package.

    1. Hello there,

      I’m sorry to hear about your PTE results! To answer your questions all together: yes, although there are separate sections on the test (speaking, writing, reading, listening), more than one skill is often assessed at the same time (i.e. “summarize spoken text” assesses your listening AND writing as you said). It seems like you have a good understanding of the multiple skills being tested at the same time! This is why it’s so important to develop a method for answering each question that will address ALL the criteria being tested.

      As for “Written Discourse”, this essentially means the overall quality and coherence of your writing. You can have grammatically correct sentences that are too basic, too short, or are all the same! This is where the “writing discourse” score comes in. To improve your written discourse, you have to not only improve your grammar and sentence structure, but your ideas and organization as well.

      Don’t give up!! We would love to help you reach your goal. If you’re not sure which package you need, you can set up a free consultation with one of our PTE experts here:

      We can take a look at your scores and figure out how much one-on-one time and assessment support you will need! You can do this!! 🙂

        1. Hi Roma,

          I’m sorry to hear that- it must be due to the busy time of year! Please send us an email at with an overview of your previous scores (if any) and what you think you need to work on, as well as any questions you may have. An E2Language tutor will get back to you within 24 hours with information and answers to your questions! 🙂

  6. Hi,
    I did Ielts academic three months back and got 8 for speaking and listening 7 for writing and reading. Then I did pte academic on last week and my results are unbelievably law. I got speaking 46, reading 59 , listening 69, writing 75. I am desperate now what to do. I need each 8 or equivalent in pte. In pte, I hv to improve more than 30 points for speaking, while 1 total band for writing if it is ielts general. Please what is your suggestion. My speaking is natural in front of a person than in front of a computer.

    1. Hi Sith,

      It sounds like you did very well on IELTS- why did you take the PTE academic? Are you not able to use your IELTS scores?

      If you can use IELTS scores for your requirement, it really sounds like you should try again with IELTS. It’s obviously more suited to you and you already have a good sense of the format.

      If you have no choice but to take PTE- it sounds like you need to do some serious research about the PTE format and methods. A lot of the reason why people find it hard to switch from IELTS to PTE is because of the format switch and a lack of understanding about how it works. I’ll give you some resources below, but I also really recommend that you look into one of our PTE courses to help get you on track with boosting your scores.

      PTE Youtube Videos:

      PTE Practice Activities:

      Helpful Blog Posts and Videos:

      Again- if you have the chance to take IELTS, it sounds like a better option. 1 band improvement in writing shouldn’t be too much of a stretch with practice.

      Here is our E2 IELTS YouTube channel if you decide to stick with IELTS (it has some useful writing webinars):

      And our Free trial IELTS course.

      Good luck!!

      1. Hi Kaia,
        Thank you very much for the reply . The reason I did switched was I need each 8 to get higher points for immigration . the results that I got from ielts academic was enough for my skill assessment, luckly two 8s and two7s just minimum requirement for teaching occupation. It was third time I tried and finally got it. But now I need each 8 in ielts general. I was doubting when I switched to pte. But everyeone get what they want from pte results. That’s why I also tried. I have never heard anyone got each 8 in ielts .Anyway, do you have a course for ielts general. Letter and essay in particular. I saw you have ielts academic. In ielts, i hv issue only with writing. But in pte, everythin except writing . totally opposite..I have also booked a pte test again for 15Feb as difficult to get a test date if I do it. I feel getting ready for both ielts and pte and try. Do you think it is a good idea. I will have to focus on both at the same time.
        Thanks a lot!

        1. Hi Sith,

          Sorry I missed this earlier! I’m not 100% sure that it’s a great idea to study for both tests at the same time because they are so different and it might get quite confusing! I would focus on PTE first, then study of IELTS after if you feel PTE didn’t go as well as you hoped. I think one at a time is a better way to go.

          We are working on a course for IELTS general but don’t have one just yet. We do have PTE right now though, so please feel free to set up an information session with one of our teachers if you want to chat about setting up a study plan for your Feb. 15th test! You can click here to set one up:

          Good luck!! 🙂

    1. Hi Nitin,

      Unfortunately not. I think Pearson’s mentality is that if they allow that provision to one person, it’s unfair to the rest. I completely agree that noise cancellation headsets would be ideal- but until Pearson decides to implement them for everyone, they won’t be an option. 🙁

  7. Hi Kaia,

    I love your writing its very neat and easy to understand.
    I can see why you scored 90 in PTE. Even reading your writing I can improve mine. So many collocations and nice vocabulary.
    bustling café, tuning out irrelevant information, a cramped cubicle, frantically tapping keyboards, to dispel this myth
    to try out some more practice questions, a nifty trick, etc.

    Thank you for the video, your ideas clearly reflect what happens in the exam.

  8. Hi Kaia,

    I took Pte test yesterday and received the score today. I was aiming for 79 in each module and my scores are below.

    Listening – 78, Speaking – 87, Writing – 78, Reading -80

    This is my first attempt and I prepared for about a month using the help of E2language.
    My enabling skills scores are below
    Grammar -90
    Oral fluency -72
    Spelling -78
    Vocabulary -90
    Written discourse – 70

    I would like to redo the test again.
    Could you please guide me on the areas which require improvement.

    1. Hi Nikhil,

      Can you please send us an email at If you are a paid member of E2Language, you’ll get a free post-test follow-up with a teacher to make a plan of action and determine where to focus your improvement efforts! If you are a free user, you can send your report card to us and a tutor can make a recommendation to you about which or our courses best suits your needs and how we can direct you to the most useful resources!

      Just from looking at your scores (you are INCREDIBLY close), I would say that if you took our most basic package and had the opportunity to create a study plan with your teacher and have a one-on-one tutorial on top of using practice materials, webinars and exercises- you could easily boost all your scores well past the PTE 80 mark. It looks like you just need a bit of direction, method and strategy guidance and support from a tutor.

      Make sure you take advantage of all of our free resources too (like upcoming webinars for free members, youtube videos and blog articles).

      Good luck to you, you are almost there!!

      1. Thanks Kiai for your quick reply. Yes, I am a paid member and i have already booked an appointment for a post test follow up with a teacher on the coming Monday. Hopefully will crack it this time after my follow up session. 🙂


  9. Hello Kaya,
    I am a paid member of E2Language basic package. I have practiced all the materials the E2L site and followed all the processes during my first test. Still I scored L- 71 R-69 S- 67 W-74 . I need min 79 each. Now I have upgraded to the maximum package “I’m desperate” and going through sessions with Lee, Sasha and David but not getting enough confidence in scoring 79 in actual test. I’m very nervous though..

    1. Hello there,

      It sounds like you are in good hands, those tutors are excellent and know their stuff! Besides having those great teachers to support you, here are some other things you can do to get the most out of our course and get that PTE 79:

      1. Attend every webinar and PTE live mock test we offer (or watch the recorded versions afterwards!)

      2. Don’t forget to use all of your speaking and writing assessments. The feedback you will get from your submissions is very valuable!

      3. Subscribe to our YouTube channel so you can keep up to date on new PTE tips videos like this one.

      4. Subscribe to this blog to make sure you follow all the latest PTE articles.

      5. Never be afraid to email us ( with questions or ask us using your Whiteboard. Someone will always get back to you within 24 hours! Remember, you’re part of the E2Language family and we are here for you! Don’t hesitate to contact us with your questions and concerns so we can support you in the best way possible!

      Good luck!

      1. Thanks a ton Kaia for all your valuable feedback. It would be great if you could let me know the links to get all the recorded versions of the webinars and live mock tests.


        1. Hi Soumi,

          It’s my pleasure! Are you a paid member with us? If so, you can request access to all recordings through your whiteboard or by emailing us directly ( and the tutor on duty will provide you with access! 🙂

      2. Hello Kiaya,
        Where do I get all recorded mock tests? I didn’t all in YouTube channel.
        BTW, I’m a paid member on E2L

    1. Hi Umesh,

      Yes, that’s right. The PTE has negative marking for Listening & Reading Multiple Choice Questions. 🙂

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