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If you want to achieve a high score in PTE Listening, you need to learn a few listening practice skills that will help you master all of the question types in the PTE Listening test. 

In this article, we help you prepare for PTE Listening by guiding you through the essential listening practice skills to use.  

After giving a brief overview of the PTE Listening section, we will focus on:

  • how to use the preparation time before the audio starts to familiarise yourself with the questions and know what you need to listen for. 
  • how to focus, avoid distractors and stay calm during the test.
  • how to review your performance and do better next time!

You will need to practise these skills yourself using real practice questions. To get access to PTE listening practice questions, sign up to E2 Test Prep for free to begin practising today!

PTE Listening Test Overview

Part 3 of the PTE exam is Listening. This is a challenging section of the PTE test. Students find it difficult because it requires ‘keeping up’ with a few things all at once – you have to listen to the audio recordings, read and think about the questions, keep pace with the speakers and type or click the answers, all at the same time!  

For a great lesson explaining how to get a high score in PTE Listening, watch this video:

PTE Listening takes 30–43 minutes. It has eight different question types, and you will get at least one of each type on test day, so you should be prepared for all of them. The questions are based on audio or video clips.

You are given time to read the questions before you listen to the audio or watch the video. The videos will begin to play automatically though, so you need to focus quickly on the information in front of you as you won’t be able to delay the clip playing. The recordings are only played once and you are allowed to take notes if you wish, or answer the questions directly while listening.

Summarize Spoken Text

For this question type, you will hear an audio clip and then you will need to write a 50–70 word summary of the information. So you should take notes as you listen. You have 10 minutes to do each Summarize Spoken Text task. You will get 1 to 2 of this question type in your PTE exam. The PTE Listening Scoring for this question type is based on five factors – content, form, grammar, vocabulary and spelling.

Multiple Choice, Multiple Answers

For this task, you will listen to the audio, then answer a multiple-choice question. You won’t be able to remember everything you heard, so you should take notes as you listen. Remember to select all of the responses that you think are correct. You only get the maximum score if all of your selections are correct, otherwise you receive partial credit. There will be 1 or 2 of these questions in the test.

Fill in the Blanks

You will get 2 or 3 fill in the blanks questions in the PTE test. You will see a transcript of the audio clip on the screen, but it will have some blanks. As you listen, you should type in the missing words. If you fill all the blanks correctly, you get the maximum score, but if some are incorrect, you get partial credit.

Highlight Correct Summary

For this type of question, you need to select the summary that best matches what you hear in the audio. You can take notes as you listen to help you choose the correct answer afterwards. You will get 1 or 2 of these questions in PTE Listening, and they are scored as either correct or incorrect.

Multiple Choice, Single Answer

You will get 1 or 2 of these questions in the PTE exam. You need to listen to the audio and answer the multiple-choice question. For this question type, there is only one correct answer, which is scored as either correct or incorrect.

Select Missing Word

For this question type, you need to listen to the audio. At the end of the recording, the final word or few words has been replaced with a beep. You will see several options of words to complete the recording and you need to select the most appropriate one. You will get 1 or 2 of these questions, and they are scored as either correct or incorrect.

Highlight Incorrect Words

In this task, you will see the transcript of the audio clip on the screen, but some of the words will not match what is said. You need to listen carefully, and select the incorrect words as you go. You get partial credit for any answers you get correct and there will be 2 or 3 of these questions in the PTE Listening section.

Write from Dictation

For this question, you listen to a short sentence and have to type exactly what you hear. If you type all the correct words and spell them correctly, you get the maximum score. If you only get some of the words correct, you get partial credit. In the PTE test, there will be 3 or 4 of these questions.

Before You Listen – Step 1 of PTE Listening Practice

In PTE Listening, you always get some time to read the instructions and questions before the audio starts playing, but sometimes it’s only several seconds, so it’s important to know how to use this time effectively. As we mentioned, there are eight different types of questions, and each one requires a slightly different listening strategy, but there are some strategies that are important for all the question types. Learning and practising these will help you improve your PTE Listening band score.

1. Check the Instructions / Topic

Always take a few seconds to check the specific instructions for the listening task. If you are already familiar with all the task types in PTE Listening, checking the instructions will quickly orient you to the task and give you a boost of confidence that you know what you have to do. More importantly, some instructions change slightly from task to task, so you need to check them. For example, for Select Missing Word, the instructions will tell you what the audio clip is about. This can help you to think about what you might hear and understand what you are listening to. 

For Multiple Choice questions, you can also prepare before you listen by scanning the question and options. Focus on the keywords and try to work out what the topic is. Thinking about the topic activates your brain; you might start thinking about some vocabulary related to the topic, for example. This is great for your focus.

2. Know How to Change an Answer

For many of the questions in PTE Listening, you need to select the correct answer. To select it, you need to click on the option or options that you think are correct. You should then check your answer. Compare it with your notes and make sure you’re happy with it before you click Next. If you need to change your answer, you first need to click on your selection again to deselect it. Only then can you click on a new answer. Knowing this in advance will help you to quickly answer the question correctly on test day. 
If you would like to learn effective methods for approaching every type of question in PTE Listening, make sure you check out the Method lessons in the PTE courses at E2 Test Prep. You will also find many practice activities, and the more often you do PTE Listening practice using these skills, the better you will get at quickly and effectively preparing yourself to listen and successfully answer the questions.

While You Listen – Step 2 of PTE Listening Practice 

After a short time to read, the audio will start playing. This brings your next challenge, which involves listening to the audio, staying focused and keeping pace with the speaker(s) while answering the questions. Here are a few key strategies that can help you with this.

1. Take Notes

It can be challenging to read and answer questions at the same time as listening to the audio. So, for some questions (other than Fill in the Blanks and Highlight Incorrect Words) it is better to take notes as you listen and then answer the question afterwards. 

What to Practise: Use the practice questions in E2 Test Prep, and take notes on your computer as you listen. Don’t try to write down every word. Develop your note taking skills by omitting grammatical words like articles and prepositions. You can also avoid punctuation and capitalisation, and use abbreviations and symbols instead of key words. This can help make sure you capture all of the key points while keeping up with the recording.

2. Listen for Signposting

As the audio plays, listen for signposting expressions that will help you know if the idea coming next matches with the information you need to listen for. This can be especially helpful when you’re doing Multiple Choice, Single Answer questions in the PTE Listening practice test. Helpful signposting expressions include:

  • An example of this is …
  • One major advantage/issue/cause/effect/problem is …
  • On the other hand …
  • The main reason/cause/effect…
  • One aspect of …
  • In my opinion, …

What to Practise: Practise listening for signposting expressions and when you hear one, use it to focus on what is said next in the audio.

3. Be Prepared for and Avoid Distractors

Distractors are words or ideas from the question that you will hear in the audio but that do not reflect the main intention or point of the speakers. They seem like the correct answer, but if you listen carefully, you can recognise that they are wrong. For example, in the PTE Listening test several answer options will often use words that are in the recording. However, just because they use some of the same words does not necessarily mean that the meaning is the same.What to Practise: Be prepared for distractors so that you can avoid them. Make sure you’re aware of all the different types of distractors and practise identifying them as you listen. If you hear a word or phrase from the question, keep listening! The distractors and the right answer are generally mentioned very close to each other.

4. Keep Your Focus

You may lose your focus while listening to the audio recordings. This could happen for many reasons: maybe your mind wanders because you suddenly feel hungry, maybe distractors in the questions cause you to become confused about the correct answer, or maybe you get stuck on a sentence in the audio you didn’t understand and miss what the speakers say next. If you begin to doubt and panic, you risk losing your concentration altogether.

What to Practise: If you find your focus slipping while doing PTE listening practice, here’s what to do. First, remember that you don’t need to understand every single word to be able to work out what the speaker is saying, so don’t panic! Keep listening and use what you did understand to help you work out the right answer. Second, focus on note-taking. Taking notes of the main points and key details can help you to stay focused on what is being said. In PTE Listening, if you start worrying because you didn’t understand a particular word or sentence, just forget about it, look for the next key information you need to listen for and concentrate on that. The ability to move on from a problem or mistake requires some discipline, so make sure you do lots of PTE listening practice tests so you can build up this skill. You can access free practice materials at E2 Test Prep.

After You Listen – Step 3 of PTE Listening Practice

When you’ve finished listening to the audio recording, there are a couple of things you should do to prepare yourself for test day.

1. Check Your Answers

After the PTE Listening audio has finished, you should take a little time to check your answers. Remember, you need to manage your time carefully, so don’t spend too long on this before clicking Next. For Summarize Spoken Text, you are given 10 minutes for this task, so you should definitely use one to two minutes of this time to check your answer. When you’re preparing for the exam, you should practise running through a quick checklist so you can use this time effectively. You need to check:

  • your spelling – this is also important in Fill in the Blanks and Write from Dictation.
  • your grammar – check the tenses, subject-verb agreement and grammatical structures. 
  • that you have followed the instructions – for example, that you have written within the word limit.

2. Review Your Results

You might think that when you have finished listening to the audio and checking your answers, your listening practice has finished. But in fact, there is one more task you need to do to improve your listening skills and achieve your desired PTE Listening score. You MUST review your results and make sure you understand why your right answers were right and why your wrong answers were wrong. It’s very simple – if you don’t know why you got the answer wrong, it’s likely that you will make a similar mistake in your next practice. You need to work out what your weaknesses are so that you can work on improving them in your next listening practice.

For example, did you miss answers because you didn’t recognise synonyms in the audio that matched words or phrases in the questions? This could be a sign that you need to work on expanding your vocabulary before your next listening practice. Or perhaps you heard a word from the question that was actually a distractor but you thought it was the answer. If that happens often, you need to practise making sure you keep listening after you hear words from the question to check that the speaker doesn’t change their mind or give a different answer.

Always have a goal for your practice. Using the previous examples, your goal might be, ‘I want to focus on listening for synonyms’ or ‘I want to focus on listening to everything the speakers say about the question before I choose the answer’. This is the best way to improve the specific listening skills that can make all the difference to your PTE Listening score on test day.

Where to Find More PTE Practice

You now have a really good idea of how to effectively prepare for the PTE Listening test. Now you need to put all the strategies you’ve just learnt into practice. So for more PTE preparation, head to our PTE Academic page and sign up for free. We’ve got practice questions, method lessons and live classes with expert teachers – everything you need to help you get the PTE Listening score you need.

Author Bio: 
E2 is the world’s leading test preparation provider. Our expert teachers are fully accredited English teachers, with TESOL, British Council or other relevant certification, and years of PTE teaching experience. 

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