Write from Dictation is one of the less complex PTE tasks. With practice and by adopting the strategies that work best for you, high scores are easily achievable. It is an important task, as it contributes to both your Listening score and your Writing score.
In this blog, we’ll discuss exactly what is involved in the task, suggest some strategies and look at some practice questions together.
What’s involved in Write from Dictation?
On test day you will be asked to complete either three or four Write from Dictation tasks. For each task, you will hear a sentence and after that you’ll need to type the sentence exactly as you heard it into the box on the screen. Each sentence will be three to five seconds long and contain between eight and twelve words.
In many ways, this is the most straightforward of all the PTE test tasks. The main tip is to practise. The more times that you practise the Write from Dictation task, the easier it will become and you’ll start to develop your own rhythm.
There are a number of strategies that can help test candidates achieve in Write from Dictation. Every language learner is different. We all find the strategies that work best for us. You might find that one of these strategies works particularly well for you or you may choose to use a combination. Three common strategies are echoing, chunking and focussing on content words.
Repeat the sentence in your head as soon as you hear it. Echoing the sentence like this keeps it alive in your head while you write it down. A spoken sentence is like a musical tune. Repeating the melody of the sentence helps you to remember all the words.
Many people find that they can concentrate better on hearing and remembering the dictation sentence if they close their eyes while they listen and repeat the sentence in their head. Experiment with what works best for you.
Remember chunks, not words. An eight to twelve-word sentence can generally be split into three chunks. A chunk is a group of words that belong together in forming the sense of a sentence. It is much easier to remember three chunks than twelve words.
Let’s look at an example sentence and break it into chunks. Here is a sentence:
Nutritionists recommend drinking at least two litres of water every day.
We can break it into three units of meaning, three chunks.:
Nutritionists recommend drinking
at least two litres
of water every day.
It is much easier to remember a sentence if we split it into parts this way. Let’s try another one:
Most airlines require that international passengers check in three hours before departure.
That is quite a mouthful and a lot of information to remember as one unit. Let’s break it down into three manageable chunks.
Most airlines require that
international passengers check in
three hours before departure.
Chunking makes it a lot easier to remember the sentence accurately. Let’s consider how we get that information from our memory into the box on the computer screen.
Some people find that it helps to write down the sentence on a piece of paper while listening and then to use those rough notes as a guide to type the sentence into the box on the screen. Others prefer to concentrate on using their memory of the sound of the dictated sentence. You might work best with a combination of both.
Another strategy is to focus on the content words, the words that carry most of the meaning in a sentence, the nouns, verbs and adjectives.
Have a look at this sentence:
Keep an eye on the clock so you don’t run out of time.
Which words carry the content of the sentence, the important meaning?
The content words are Keep, eye, clock, don’t run and time.
The other seven words ( an, on, the, so, you, out and of ) have very little meaning. We need them to form a sentence that is grammatically correct but we don’t need them to convey the essential meaning of the sentence. We can focus on remembering the important content words and then add in the functional grammar words to recreate our sentence.
By focusing on and remembering these content words when you listen, you’ll be able to convey the essential meaning of the sentence when you write it down. The function words such as articles and prepositions can be added in later when you check the dictation sentence for correct grammar.
Whether you use echoing, chunking, focusing on content words or a combination of these strategies, there is another important procedure to follow before moving on to the next task, Check for spelling, grammar and punctuation. Make sure to begin the sentence with a capital letter and end the sentence with a full-stop or question mark.
Read the sentence back to yourself with a voice in your head to make sure there are no words missing or in the wrong place. You will “hear” mistakes that your eye might skip over.
It’s time to practise. Experiment with the strategies and work out which combination works best for you. When you are ready, click the button and listen to the sentence. Focus. If it helps you, close your eyes and repeat the sentence in your head. Break the sentence into chunks. Focus on the content words. Type each chunk as you recall it and finally, check spelling, grammar and punctuation. Let’s go. Here’s your first sentence. On test day you will have five seconds to write the answer down after you hear the audio.
How did you go? Did you repeat the sentence in your head? Did you break the sentence into chunks? I would have broken the sentence into three chunks. Did you focus on the content words? Did you proofread your sentence for spelling, grammar and punctuation?
You will find that these steps become second nature and that you will become more and more confident with this task. Let’s try a few more.
The sentences are written at the bottom of the page. Do all five practice dictation sentences by clicking on each audio file in turn. When you have finished, scroll down to the bottom of the page to check your answers.
Getting better? Remembering more of the sentence each time? Good. Let’s keep practising. Number three.
Okay. Let’s do another one. Concentrate, repeat the sentence in your head and remember chunks of language. Here we go.
I hope you are getting used to the process now. The more times you do it, the easier it gets. Let’s do one more practice. Here we go.
I hope you were able to write it down correctly. You get credit for every word that is correct so don’t be too concerned if you missed out a word or got one word slightly wrong. You can still achieve a high score.
Alright, we’ve practised five Write from Dictation tasks. Practice is the key to success with this task. The process of listening, repeating, remembering in chunks, focussing on content words, writing the sentence and checking for spelling and grammar should soon become automatic and you will find that as you practise, you continue to improve.
Answers from the Writing from Diction practice
Here are the answers from the practice Writing from Dictation audio files.
1) All vehicles parked on the university campus require a valid parking permit.
2) Many governments offer incentives to encourage the use of electric vehicles.
3) Competitors are required to report to the registration desk in the hotel lobby.
4) Cash is becoming less common as contactless payment methods become more widespread.
5) Climate change has meant more frequent severe weather often affecting transport routes.
Remember Write from Dictation is a task where you can gain valuable points for both your Listening and your Writing scores. It is straightforward and it is a skill that you can develop rapidly with focussed practice. Keep practising and enjoy your progress.
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Refine your Speaking skills with our article about PTE Read Aloud.
Grow your confidence in Speaking with our article about PTE Retell Lecture.
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