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Are you taking the Pearson PTE exam (Pearson Test of English) in the near future? If you are, you need a PTE test preparation plan. Your aim, of course, is to get as high a PTE score as you can. To get that high score, you need to understand how the test format and the different PTE question types will influence how to prepare most effectively.

In this article, we focus on PTE test preparation planning and strategies. First, let’s look at how the PTE test structure and your level of your English skills will determine your personal PTE exam preparation strategy.

What is the Pearson Test of English (PTE)?

The PTE Academic exam is designed to test your level of English proficiency. It is used by universities for academic admission purposes, governments for immigration and permanent residency applications and by businesses and professional bodies to assess peoples’ ability to communicate in English for hiring and promotion.

For a helpful lesson and overview of the PTE Academic exam, take some time to watch our comprehensive PTE overview video lesson:

What is on the PTE Exam and PTE Score Report?

The PTE exam contains the following sections: 

  • Part 1: Speaking & Writing
  • Part 2: Reading
  • Part 3: Listening

A good place to start thinking about the best way of preparing for the PTE exam is by looking at how you will be scored. An official PTE score report, which you will receive after you complete the test, looks like this: 

Pearson PTE Academic Score Report showing Overall Score, Communicative Skills Scores and Skills Breakdown.Pearson PTE Academic Score Report showing Overall Score, Communicative Skills Scores and Skills Breakdown.

PTE Scoring: Overall and Score by Skills

The PTE score report gives you five different scores – an overall score and four separate scores for your speaking, listening, reading, and writing skill performance. The overall score is shown like this:

Pearson PTE Academic Score Report showing Overall Score of 72.

Your overall PTE score is calculated using a 0 to 90 scale, with a perfect score being 90. In the report above, the candidate did well with an overall score of 72, which is equivalent to a high B2 CEFR level. Your overall or combined PTE exam score is calculated using a formula that is an average of your separate skills scores. In other words, the most important score for preparation purposes is not the overall score, it is your performance on each of the separate skills scores.

The PTE score report will give you a separate score for each of your speaking, listening, reading, and writing skill levels, also using the 90 point scale. Note that in the example below, the test taker received a perfect score of PTE 90 for reading but did not do so well for speaking. The difference in your skill levels will impact on your personal exam preparation strategy which we will discuss further below.

Pearson PTE Academic Score Report showing Communicative Skills Scores of 78 for Listening, 90 for Reading, 64 for Speaking and 82 for Writing.

PTE Exam Preparation Tip 1: Know your Skill Levels Before you Begin Preparing

It is important to know your skill levels BEFORE you begin preparing for the PTE exam. This information will give you the core of your exam preparation strategy. Knowing your strong and weak skills is essential information. The big problem here is that you won’t receive your PTE score report until after you have taken the PTE exam. 

The good news is that you can get an estimate of your PTE skill levels before you begin your PTE Preparation. Just sign up to E2 Test Prep and use our free PTE score calculator to test and measure your skill levels. An example of your free pre-test prep score report will look like this:

E2 Test Prep Skills Score Report showing indicative PTE range for each skill.

PTE Preparation Tip 2: Learn the PTE Question Types and their Difficulty

Knowing your strong and weak skills is just a first step. It gives you an indication of which skill you should focus on improving first and most. But, the PTE exam is divided into three Parts with a total of 20 question types. Some question types are harder than others. So, not only do you need to focus on improving your weak skills, but you need to master the hardest question types.

Here is our assessment of question type difficulty, based on our research and experience, student feedback and our score calculator scores (this is a useful guide only, and individual opinions may vary).

Part 1: Speaking & Writing is 54–67 minutes long and contains seven different question types.

Part 1: Speaking & Writing
Summarize Written TextChallenging
Write EssayChallenging
Re-tell LectureChallenging
Describe ImageModerate
Read AloudEasier
Answer Short QuestionEasier
Repeat SentenceEasier

Part 2: Reading is 29–30 minutes long and contains five different question types.

Part 2: Reading
Reading & Writing: Fill in the BlanksModerate
Multiple Choice, Multiple AnswerModerate
Reorder ParagraphModerate
Fill in the BlanksModerate
Multiple Choice Single AnswerEasier

Part 3: Listening is 30–43 minutes long and contains eight different question types.

Part 3: Listening
Summarize Spoken TextChallenging
Multiple Choice, Multiple AnswerChallenging
Write from DictationModerate
Highlight Correct SummaryModerate
Multiple Choice Single AnswerEasier
Select Missing WordEasier
Fill in the BlanksEasier
Highlight Incorrect WordEasier

PTE Preparation Tip 3: Prioritizing Weakest Skills and Hardest Questions

By now, you should be able to see the basis of your study plan begin to take shape. The question is how to easily combine this information in a way you can use it to learn and practice effectively.

If you use E2’s free PTE score calculator, it generates a study pathway that is personalized just for you. You can see what your study pathway looks like in the image below. The study pathway ranks your skill levels from weakest to strongest. Within each skill level, it also ranks the hardest to easiest question types and gives you video lessons and practice activities in an optimized learning sequence designed to lift your PTE exam score in the most efficient way.

E2 Test Prep Study Pathway showing personalised results for the order in which to complete tasks for each skill.

PTE Exam Preparation Tip 4: Follow this Five-Step Prep & Study Plan

There is no secret formula to getting a good PTE score. It requires learning the PTE exam, mastering all the question types, and doing a lot of practice with high quality practice questions. Here is a five-step study plan:


Pre-Prep Skills Calculation
Use E2 Test Prep’s free PTE score calculator to receive an estimate of your skill strengths and weaknesses.Sign up to E2 Test Prep for our free trial and use our PTE score calculator to measure your skill levels.

Create Your Study Pathway
Use E2 Test Prep’s free PTE study pathway tool to generate a study plan optimized just for your study plan.Sign up to E2 Test Prep for our free trial and use our PTE score calculator to generate your personalized study plan.

Learn & Practice Each Question Type
Learn how to master each PTE question type for all skills using E2’s highly successful methods lessons. Then, practice, practice, practice with our online resources.Sign up to E2 Test Prep for our free trial to access PTE video lessons and high-quality practice questions.

Get Expert Feedback
If you are struggling with Speaking and Writing skills, seek expert help and feedback from a trained PTE teacher. Do a writing or speaking intensive assessment or sign up for a 1 to 1 tutorial with an expert to get help and guidance.

Practice doing mini and full mock tests
Do not jump into doing full PTE mock tests at the beginning of your preparation. It is best to learn about your capabilities and the format of the PTE exam first.  Sign up to E2 Test Prep and take the free guided mock test.

Find out how much time you need to prepare for your PTE exam here.

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 examiner or PTE teaching experience.