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This guide will contain PTE Reading tips you MUST know about before sitting the PTE exam. After this article, you will be able to identify the different question types, learn about negative marking and manage your time better when in the exam and more. With these vital bits of expert advice you will be on your way to PTE success.


Know each question-type by sight. In the test there is no announcement that now you have finished one question type and the next group of questions are beginning. This can be confusing if you are doing Multiple choice, choose single answer and you don’t realise that the question-type in front of you has changed to Multiple choice, choose multiple answer. If you just choose only one answer, you won’t have a chance of getting full marks. There is a key visual difference between single answer and multiple answer that you need to know. The single answers will have radio buttons (circles) in front of each answer option while the multiple answers will have boxes. Learn that difference.

Be aware that the question-types are grouped together. For example, all of the Multiple choice, choose single answer will come in one group. Once you have finished that group, that’s it. There will be no more of them.

Negative Marking

Be aware that some of the questions have negative marking. There are only three of them in the whole test. In the Reading section the only one is Multiple choice, choose multiple answer. If you get a correct answer, you will get one mark. If you choose a wrong answer, you will lose one of your correct answer marks – but for each individual question, the lowest mark is zero.

Just to remind you, the other two negatively marked questions are both in the Listening section – Multiple choice, choose multiple answers and also Highlight incorrect word.

Five Key Areas

Pearson (the creators of PTE) note five key areas you need to develop your skills in; Text type, Topic and gist, Purpose, Structure and content and Writer’s point of view. So, you can expect to see some questions based on some of these areas.  

What are they?

Text type is about recognising what kind of text you are reading. For example, if it is about abstract concepts, it is likely to be an academic article. If it is formatted in a particular way, it could be a report or a newspaper article. You need to match your reading style to the text type. So, for an academic article (most PTE reading involves academic articles) start by quickly reading the introduction, opening sentence of each paragraph and the closing sentences of the conclusion. (Look at the example below.) Then go back and read for more detail according to what the question is asking.

Topic & gist – focus on the last sentence of the introduction and the first sentence of the body paragraphs.

Purpose – work out what the writer is aiming to do. Are they telling a story, describing an experiment, presenting an argument, discussing a problem, trying to persuade you?

Structure and content – the text will be structured differently according to the writer’s purpose, but generally, the first part will provide background information while later sections will provide argument, examples, reasons, steps and so on. Try to get the meaning even if there is new vocabulary. Note the words down to look up later if they seem important, but try to read despite not knowing the meanings. Understand referents and pronouns. For example, what does ‘his’ or ‘in this way’ refer to?

Writer’s point of view – look at how the argument is organised. Look at the last one or two sentences. Look at vocabulary signals (eg. However, a more compelling argument is … / despite some clear advantages, overall lowering the driving age will result in numerous problems). Consider which side of the argument the writer is placing themselves on.

PTE Reading Tips to remember during the test

Maintain your energy

The reading section is the third part of the test. You will have finished Speaking and Writing, so at this point you need to maintain your energy for just a bit longer. Take a few calming breaths before you begin and remember that you can and should take a break after this section if you are getting tired.

You don’t need to be perfect

Remember, you’re going to make mistakes and that’s okay. You don’t need to be perfect. You can make mistakes and still get 65, 79 or 90. So keep a positive point of view even when you know you just made a mistake. Really, it’s okay.

Read: Ace the PTE Reorder Paragraphs Test with this Secret Method

Time Management

This is one of the PTE Reading tips that most often goes underappreciated. Time management. Time management is key if you are going to succeed in any of the PTE sections. You are given between 32 and 41 minutes to complete the reading section and you can expect between 15 and 20 questions. You need to aim to finish all of the questions in the allotted time. So work through them fairly quickly and aim for a ‘pretty good’ score. Sometimes you will need to make your best guess and move on.

Check the table below to see our recommended times for each question type.

Multiple choice, choose single answer2-32 mins each
Multiple choice, choose multiple answers2-33 mins each
Re-order paragraphs2-32 mins each
Reading: Fill in the blanks4-51.5 mins each
Reading & Writing: Fill in the blanks5-62.5 mins each

Quiz time!

  1. In the reading section there is only one question-type that has negative marking.
  2. It is possible to get a final score of -1 (negative one) in a negatively marked question.
  3. If you have just done three Re-order paragraphs questions, you will not get any more in the test.
  4. You should spend the least time on the Reading: Fill in the blanks questions.
  5. You can have a break before you do the reading section of the test, so you can come to it feeling fresh.
  6. If you get 90, it means that you got every question right.
  7. The reading test will be 15-20 minutes long.
  8. Look at the image below. This is a multiple answer question, not a single answer question.
Question 8.

9. What is the best way to find key ideas in an academic text?

a. Read the whole text carefully from start to finish, but read it quickly.
b. Read mainly the first paragraph and then look quickly at the rest while noting key words.
c. Read the end of the introduction, the opening sentences and the last sentence of the conclusion.
d. Read each body paragraph and note down the key words, but do it quickly.

Check your results!

Click to show/hide answer

1. True

2. False

3. True

4. True

5. False

6. False

7. False

8. True (it has boxes in front of each option)

9. C

How’d you go? Remember to follow all of our these PTE reading tips to improve your reading skills and your test score. A few more tips that I’ve saved for the very end: eat well before the test; have a positive mindset and; last one… drum roll … make sure that you attend our PTE live classes (there are two different classes running each day from Monday through to Thursday), do the practice and follow all the tips you get. That’ll put you on the road to PTE success!

PTE Reading Tips

PTE Expert
MA Applied Linguistics, G Dip TESOL

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