Good PTE speaking preparation involves practicing your pronunciation skills and applying a strategy to each specific task.
This article from E2Language explains what essential speaking skills you need to practice and how to improve these skills for test-day.
Did you know that five different tasks contribute to your speaking score? However, PTE Describe Image is the only one that tests speaking alone. The others test both speaking and another skill.
PTE Speaking Test Overview
|Answer Short Question|
There are strategies you can use to approach each PTE task that will help you to maximise your mark– and we’ll look at some of those later.
However, if your fundamental speaking skills are not strong, you will always score poorly. So you need to make sure that you are communicating effectively in English.
For speaking this involves your pronunciation, intonation, speed, word and sentence level stress and where you pause. Of course it also involves your confidence and anxiety levels.
For tips on increasing your oral fluency, read our PTE oral fluency blog!
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You need to work on all of these elements in your PTE speaking preparation.
Let’s look at each one of these elements in more detail!
PTE Speaking Preparation: How can you improve your pronunciation?
You need to identify any problem areas in your PTE pronunciation and oral fluency. This can be hard to do on your own. Asking a native speaker to help you can be very useful.
It is also helpful to look at common errors made by speakers of your first language. Some examples are listed below.
Arabic speakers: frequently have problems with v/f, b/f and with the long /a/ sound in ‘came’
Hindi speakers: v/w, t/d,s/z
Mandarin speakers: l/n and l/r as well as several vowel sounds
Cantonese speakers: l/r, /v/f, s/z, th/s,th/f, th/s, th/d
Urdu speakers: ch/k, ch/sh, c/s
Check to see if you are making errors typical for speakers of your first language.
You can also watch this E2Language Pronunciation Video on Word Stress and Emphasis!
Can imitating native English speakers help your intonation?
Yes. ‘Shadowing’ is a useful way to manage this.
- Find a TED talk on a topic that you enjoy.
- Listen to the speaker for a minute.
- Then click the ‘interactive transcript’ button below the video.
- Read the script aloud.
- Next play the video again and speak at the same time as the speaker (shadow the speaker).
It’s not easy, but it will help you to focus on when the voice goes up and down. Good intonation will help your speaking sound more English-like.
You can find some short TED talks here. You only need to use a paragraph at a time.
Speed of Speaking
Is speaking too fast a barrier for your communication?
If you already have problems with your speaking, then speaking quickly will make it even harder for other people to understand you. It adds another barrier to communication.
The normal speaking speed for a native English speaker is between 140 and 180 words per minute. Some people speak more quickly, but even with a fast native English speaker, the listener needs to work hard to catch it all.
In some languages, such as Hindi the ‘normal’ rate is much faster than English. So, when a Hindi speaker speaks English, they need to consciously slow down.
How can you slow down?
To slow down your speaking read a paragraph aloud and record it while you are reading normally. Then record it again while you deliberately slow down. Check it.
Does it sound better? Usually there is an immediate improvement to your communication as soon as you learn to slow down.
You need to practice this. It is achievable.
Word and Sentence Level Stress
Does stress really matter?
Yes! Incorrect stress is definitely a barrier to communication and many experts believe it is more important than pronunciation. It is a key part of your PTE speaking preparation.
Imagine you create a sentence like;
The water DEEpens as you go out further. (correct word stress)
If you mis-stress the key word, the listener will become confused.
The water deePENS as you go out further. (incorrect word stress)
The listener will be thinking, the water depends on what?
There are some basic rules for word stress. For example most two-syllable nouns and adjectives are usually stressed on the first syllable (CLImate, KNOWledge) while most two-syllable verbs are stressed on the second syllable (deCIDE, reQUIRE). The rules are not perfect, but they cover a lot of situations.
Do you want to learn more tips for PTE speaking preparation? View the E2Language Core Skills Pronunciation video here:
Sentence Level Stress
English is a stress-timed language as opposed to a syllable-timed language. In some languages such as Cantonese, each syllable in a sentence is equally important and is stressed.
However, in English we only stress the words that carry the meaning. We don’t stress words that are structural (eg. of, the, and). Sentence level stress helps convey a lot of the meaning in English.
Look at the sentence below which shows the words a native speaker would stress. Non-stressed words are spoken more quickly while stressed words are louder and longer. Practice saying it. Does it sound natural to you?
“The RAINFALL in the last MONTH has been much HIGHER than would NORMALLY be expected at this time of year. In PAST years this has been quite a DRY MONTH.”
How do I know when to pause?
You need to pause at every comma and full stop, but if they are the only places you stop, you will soon run out of breath. So you also need to stop after each unit of meaning or phrase. This helps you to manage long pieces of text, but importantly, it also helps the listener to follow you. If you don’t pause, the listener has problems understanding.
You can practice this by using the ‘interactive transcript’ for a TED talk (the button below the large picture and descriptive paragraph). Print out the transcript and mark where you think the pauses should be. Then listen to the speaker to see if you are right. Develop a feel for where the pauses should be.
Look at the text below to see where a native speaker would pause.
“Cats were first domesticated / thousands of years ago in Egypt. / It was a symbiotic relationship. / The cats benefited from living with humans / because it meant that they were fed / and had warmth and shelter. / People benefited from the relationship too / because the cats were useful for catching mice. / This meant that stored grains / and food supplies generally / were safer.”
Confidence and Anxiety Levels
What can you do to increase confidence and reduce anxiety?
There are two main things you can do:
Firstly, work on the general skills we have been talking about, and PTE Read Aloud is a great way to do that. Take a paragraph of text and read it aloud. Check your speed; especially if your first language is a fast language like Hindi. Then work on other areas like pronunciation, intonation and word stress. Focus on the areas you do need to improve.
Secondly, prepare carefully for the various PTE tasks. Understand the techniques and practise them.
PTE Speaking Preparation For Specific Tasks
Let’s look at PTE Speaking Test tasks now.
PTE Repeat Sentence
A good place to start is the marking criteria. There are 13 possible marks.
Note that to get 3 marks for content you need to get all of the words, but if you can’t, don’t panic! Any two words in row that are correct can count toward the 50% which will enable you to get 2 marks out of 3.
#1 Memorize the phrases
#2 Relax and focus
Watch this video from the E2 PTE Academic playlist for more ideas!
PTE Describe Image
Take note of the marking criteria:
You will be given 6 or 7 different images to describe which may include:
- bar charts
- line charts
- pie charts
- two different charts in one image
#1 Break it down into 3: introduction, body and conclusion
# 2 Introduction – describe title and x-axis
#3 Body – talk about differences (high/low) & either similarities or something interesting
#4 Conclusion – can be a summary, reason or prediction
#5 Speak for 30 – 35 seconds.
#6 Remain calm
#7 Be flexible
#8 Do lots of practice so you can be confident
PTE Describe Image Example
Try this example, then check the answer below:
“This image represents sugar cane production in Queensland from 1997 to 2003. The highest amount of sugarcane was produced in 1997 whereas the lowest amount was produced in 2001. Cane production figures fluctuated throughout the period but remained in a low range from 1998 through to 2001. A possible reason for the lows in this period may be related to drought or other weather conditions prevailing at the time.”
Learn more PTE speaking preparation tips by watching this PTE Describe Image video!
Be sure study hard on PTE speaking preparation, both general and task specific, in order to improve your communication in general and your PTE speaking test skills in particular.
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Written by Melinda G.