How to Prepare for the PTE Academic Test in 2021

'Getting the score you need on an English test isn’t always easy, especially if you don’t take the time to practice. Even if your level of English proficiency is strong, you can still be surprised by the questions that are asked and have difficulty in managing your time or performance during a test.

This is why we’ve created a guide on how to prepare for the PTE Academic test. Below, you’ll find useful resources, tips, and tricks, which will help you excel when taking PTE.

Find out what PTE Academic score you need

PTE (Pearson Test of English) Academic doesn’t have a pass or fail grade – it gives you a score based on your responses. Each immigration department, university, or employer has different minimum admission scores. The most common ones are 50, 65, or 79.

Knowing what minimum score you need is essential, as it determines how much effort should be spent preparing for the test. It’s a lot harder to get a 79+ result than it is to get 65, so this is a great start for your preparation strategy. Of course, the amount of work you’ll have to put in also depends on the level of English you have when you start preparing for the exam.

Get familiar with the PTE Academic test format

The first obvious step when you prepare for any test is to explore and understand its structure or format. For PTE Academic, there are 3 main sections:

Clicking on the links above will take you to the official PTE web page for each section. There, you’ll find valuable information, such as:

  • The type of tasks or questions included in each section
  • Videos with examples of tasks and instructions
  • Tips and tricks for each subsection
  • Details about how your answers are scored

Take your time and go through each section without skipping any task. The videos are especially useful because they reveal how questions and answer boxes look during the actual PTE Academic test.

Check out PTE Academic Preparation resources

You’ll probably need to know more before you are ready to take the test, so here are all the materials you need to prepare:

Resources about the test format

Free official PTE Academic preparation app

  •  Score Guide – understand how each task is scored and how to compare your results to other English language tests.
  • Introduction to PTE Academic" is a free short-course which provides video guidance on how to tackle each test type.

Resources for learning and practice

When you are ready to jump into full learning and practice, PTE Academic provides a range of official, trusted, high quality, digital resources that are bundled together to save you time and money, and prepare you effectively for your test:

  • The Official Guide to PTE Academic is available in ebook or textbook format, and contains expert advice offering tips, strategies and a range of extra digital practice and learning resources
     
  • PTE Academic Question Bank is an accessible digital application that contains 300 questions, sample answers and tips all built around the task types
     
  • PTE Academic English Booster  - A digital app with 100 hours of content that includes a wide range of self-study activities and practice questions, especially created for students who are new to PTE.

Resources to use when you’re close to taking the exam

Finally, we recommend all learners, whatever your time or budget, take a Scored Practice Test. The Scored Practice Tests (normally on the same day).

  • Scored Practice Tests – your performance by replicating the test format/timing, aligned with the test scoring engine and providing a Score Report at the end. 
  • Test Taker Handbook – important information about what you should know before you take the test, including what to expect on test day and requirements.

See how others prepared for PTE Academic

You can search online and see what past PTE Academic test takers have to say. They might share useful tips about how to prepare, what challenges are worth knowing about, and so on.

Quora and Medium are great starting places, and so is YouTube. Remember to take the opinions of others with a grain of salt, however. Some are relevant, others are too emotional, and some may be completely off point. Only take what’s useful and integrate it into your practice schedule.

Make studying for the PTE a fun experience

Some people really find studying a chore. There are multiple reasons why this happens. The subject is difficult, you might simply not have enough energy or ambition, or you’re distracted by more interesting or fun activities (looking at you, Netflix).

And that’s the keyword here – fun. When something is difficult, you can always try to make it fun. Add your own spin on it. Get creative. You will come up with something.

Here’s how to improve your English language skills without turning it into a series of boring tasks:

Reading practice

Whether you’re a fan of books or blog posts, reading in English is always a great exercise. The easiest way to make this fun is by reading about things you like — sports, make-up, travel destinations, the latest iPhone — it doesn't matter what the subject is.

Of course, to prepare for PTE Academic, you should get out of your comfort zone and approach more formal articles and academic materials. See how they feel, if you can understand the author’s point, and what challenges you’re facing. Then start working on that.

A great tip is to read materials written by native English speakers. Their tone and structure are often different from those of non-natives.

Writing practice

Writing can be a discouraging task for many students, especially when it’s an argumentative or opinion essay, but there’s nothing to fear.

What many schools and universities fail to share is that writing assignments aren’t just for writing’s sake. Writing helps people organise their thoughts. It creates order out of the mental chaos and even has positive therapeutic effects.

The only way to get better is to start writing as much as you can. Start with a paragraph or just the introduction. But the important thing is to start. Then keep going and come up with a conclusion. Read it and see if you’re happy. Make changes where appropriate and congratulate yourself for a great job. Now do it again!

Listening practice

If you enjoy watching movies or TV series, I’ve got some bad news: the subtitles have to go, at least until you pass PTE Academic. This is yet another fun and practical step to improve your skills. If you find it too challenging, use English subtitles. But don’t cheat.

While you’re at it, take advantage of video or streaming platforms like YouTube and listen to different English accents. You’ll find them quite different and surprisingly challenging at first, but with enough practice, your ears will soon rise to the challenge.

Speaking practice

PTE Academic eliminates all the fear and anxiety caused by the prospect of a face-to-face talk with an evaluator. The Speaking section (part of Speaking & Writing) is computer-based, and test takers record their answers using a headset and a microphone. The only thing you need to worry about is not getting distracted by the answers of other students around you.

How can you prepare for this part of the test? Well, by speaking! Even if you don’t have friends abroad or friends who are native English speakers, you must have at least one friend who’s ready to help. Start having audio or video calls only in English. You can even do this face to face.

To make it more interesting, throw in a bet. The first one who stops or forgets to speak in English loses. I’ll leave it up to you to decide the stakes.

If you have a pair of headphones with a built-in microphone, practice recording and listening to yourself. Be careful to have a steady flow and not sound like a robot. If it brings value or feels necessary, accentuate certain words, but don’t overdo it. The idea is to sound natural and clear.

Mistakes to avoid while preparing for PTE Academic

Throughout this article, I’ve focused on what to do, good practices, valuable resources, and similar things. Now it’s time to have a look at what you shouldn’t do while preparing for PTE Academic.

Don’t think you already know everything

This is a common mistake made by people who are overconfident in their English skills. I’m not trying to discourage you but keep your feet on the ground and be aware that you don’t know everything. Keep in mind that the things you don't know or ignore can harm your score during this English test.

Don’t try to learn the vocabulary or word lists by heart

You need to encounter and understand each word in different contexts, and then use it in your own sentences. That’s how you expand your vocabulary. Learning new terms and phrases this way also ensures you’ll remember them even after taking PTE Academic.

Don’t think mastering one or two skills will compensate for the others

We all have strengths and weaknesses, but to pass PTE Academic, you'll need to step up your game and improve all of your skills, especially the ones that you're less confident in. This is the best way to ensure that you are fully prepared.

Don't leave it until the last days to prepare for the test

You'll need to begin preparing for the test in advance, not days before. Even if your level of English is strong it's important to familiarise yourself with all parts of the test and undertake practice, so you learn how to manage your time and each task during the test. If you need to work on your language skills to achieve your desired score. give yourself enough weeks before the test to improve those skills. How much time? It depends on your current language level, application deadlines, and so on.

Ready to start preparing for PTE Academic?

We hope you have found these tips and strategies helpful. There are many ways to prepare for PTE Academic, so you'll need to find the preparation study path that is right for you.

Good luck!

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