The Ultimate Guide To Pearson PTE Reading Module

The PTE Academic test is a computer-based exam that is geared towards second language learners who wish to study in English speaking countries like the UK, USA, Canada and Australia. At the moment, it can also be used for visa and immigration purposes to Australia and New Zealand. The exam consists of 3 modules – reading, listening and the speaking and writing combined module and lasts for a total of 3 hours in one complete session.

The reading section of the test is often quite challenging to students for various reasons. Read on to find out more about the structure and types of questions you'll encounter during the reading section of the PTE Academic Exam. This information is useful for test takers in Singapore as well as other parts of the world.

Reading Test Format

The reading module of the PTE Academic test assesses a second language learners ability to comprehend academic texts. It consists of a single timed section that lasts for about 32 – 41 minutes, depending on the combination of tasks that your test consists of.

It reflects some of the features of academic language and assesses whether you are ready to begin studying or training in an English-speaking country. Candidates are presented with texts similar to what they would find in an academic setting and are asked to understand complex information in a relatively short amount of time.

The PTE reading module contains authentic academic passages and questions that are meant to assess various reading comprehension skills. The texts are usually about academic subjects in the humanities, natural sciences or social sciences.  

Despite the technical nature of these texts, it is not necessary to be an expert on any of these topics. All the information needed to answer the different question types will be present within the passages. 

You are also allowed to take notes using the Erasable Note board Booklet and pen given to you at the start of the test.

Here is a brief summary of what you can expect:

READING: (32 – 41 minutes)

  • Fill in the blanks.
  • Multiple choice questions (choose a single answer)
  • Re-order paragraphs
  • Fill in the blanks.
  • Multiple choice questions (choose multiple answers)

Reading Question Types

Let’s take a look at the different types of questions you can come across in the writing test:

1. Multiple-Choice, Choose Single Answer.

Multiple-choice, choose single answer questions require candidates to choose a single correct response out of multiple options.

Skills Assessed:

This question assesses basic reading comprehension skills and tests your ability to analyse, interpret and evaluate a short reading text on an academic subject.

The text will be displayed on the left of the screen, with the options on the right-hand side. You need to simply click on the correct option and press next once you are sure about your choice.

The texts can be up to 300 words long but are usually much shorter than this. This means that you have more than enough time to read in detail and choose the correct option. You should take 2 to 3 minutes at most to solve this question.

Your response is scored as either correct or incorrect. No credit is given for no response or an incorrect response.

Here’s an example of how the question will be displayed:

Strategies for solving Multiple-choice, choose single answer questions:

  1. 1
    Carefully read the question in order to understand the instruction, and what is required of you.
  2. 2
    Make sure that you first read the main questions and skim through the options before reading the passage. In this way, you will have a general idea of what you should look for when reading the passage.
  3. 3
    Read the text to understand the general meaning of the passage. Do not focus too much on unfamiliar words. Try to infer the meaning of these words from the context.
  4. 4
    Take a look at the options and try to eliminate ones that are obviously incorrect.
  5. 5
    Now take a look at the remaining options. Try to think of the difference in meaning of these options. Now, that you know precisely about the questions and the answering options, you can try to find the right answers.
  6. 6
    Avoid merely matching words from the options to parts of the test. Examiners usually trick students by adding options that match the text exactly but are actually incorrect. Focus more on the meaning of each option rather than its key words.
  7. 7
    Once you have chosen an option, double check to make sure it is correct.

2. Multiple-Choice, Choose Multiple Answers.

This question is very similar to the single choice multiple question. The question is laid out in the exact same manner and the procedure for choosing an option is also the same. The only major difference is that candidates have to choose more than one option.

The number of options needed depends on the wording of the question, but it can be up to four options. Once you select an option it will be highlighted in yellow. If you wish to make an alternative option, you can always deselect your previous choice.

You should a maximum of 3 to 4 minutes on this question.

If you get all options correct, you will receive maximum points. However, if some of your options are incorrect, you will receive a partial score.

Here’s an example of how the question will be displayed:

3. Reorder Paragraphs Question

In this question you will be asked to reorder a group of mismatched paragraphs. There is only one correct order of sequence for these paragraphs.

This type of question tests your ability to understand the how an academic text is organized.

Answer Procedure:

In order to move a paragraph you need to click on a chosen paragraph. The paragraph will then be highlighted in blue. Drag the selected paragraph to the correct position on the right. Alternatively, you can use the arrow keys to change the position of the location.

As mentioned before to answer this question, one needs to understand the structure of typical academic text and how cohesive devices are used to link sentences between paragraphs. You will also be able to follow a chronological order of sequence.

Tips For This Question

  • Almost all paragraphs contain a topic sentence at the beginning. A topic sentence usually contains the main or central idea of a paragraph. All other sentences within a paragraph link to the topic sentence in some way. 
  • Once you have located the topic sentence, keep an eye out for time related phrases, nouns and pronouns.
  • Time related phrases can give a clear idea about the logical sequence.
  • Topic sentences that contain pronouns (he, she or it), must refer to people or things that have been previously mentioned in a text. This too can give a clue about the correct order

Here’s an example of how the question will be displayed:

4. Fill In The Blanks

There are two types of fill in the blank questions present in the PTE Academic exam.

The first type is question which has a single correct answer for each blank. You have to choose correct answers from a selection of words, present in a block. There are more options than there are spaces. You can select a word and then drag it to its correct spot.

The second type of fill in the blank question requires test takers to choose the correct word from a drop down menu where three to four other options are present. This type of question is called a fill in the blank, reading and writing question.

Both questions test your ability to use contextual and grammatical cues to determine which words should be filled in and each correct answer receives a credit.

Tips For This Question:

  • To score well in this section, candidates need to understand a range of vocabulary, collocations, grammar, pronouns and cohesive devices, as well as being able to identify when plural nouns are needed.
  • Use the words surrounding the blank to predict the type of word needed. You need to have a good understanding of how articles and prepositions are used in order to be able to predict the type of word needed. Certain prepositions signal that a date or specific place follows. articles like a and or the signal whether or not a singular or plural noun should be placed in the blank. A simple error like using a plural noun instead of a singular noun can result in an incorrect answer, so it is important to practice these grammar topics.
  • The words/answers need to fit into the blanks in such a way that the sentences remain grammatically correct. To understand how to do this, candidates require some knowledge about how sentences connect to each other or follow from each other is needed.

How Can You Practice For The PTE Reading Test?

Improve Your Reading Speed

The PTE reading test is strictly timed. In order to be able to complete every task with ease, candidates need to practice improving their reading speed. There are many ways in which you can practice this skill everyday:

  • Aim to read at least 220 words per minute
  • Read short articles of around 300 words
  • Read often regularly under timed conditions

Once you have read through a text quickly, go back to read in detail and check how much you absorbed while speed reading.

Improve Your Vocabulary

How well you do in the reading section depends heavily on your understanding of the words and phrases that are mentioned in the texts. You must have a wide range of vocabulary in order to comprehend the texts.

The best way to improve your vocabulary is to pick up words through active reading. Basically, this means finding new words while you are reading out of enjoyment rather than just to pass a test. Find some English reading material that you enjoy, such as books or magazines. This will improve your general reading skills and also help with your vocabulary. Make sure that you check out any words you don't understand and record them.

Deal With Unfamiliar Words

Many students panic during the reading test because despite improving their vocabulary, they still come across difficult and unfamiliar words. It is impossible to learn every possible word that could appear in your test, which is why it is also important to practice trying to understand the meaning of unfamiliar words by reading in context.

It might surprise you to know that most native English speakers do not understand every single word that we come across. We actually just make an educated guess about what that word means. To do this one has to look at the words and sentences around the word you don't know so you can make an educated guess as to what it means.

It is also important to identify what type of word you are dealing with, as in is it a noun, a verb or an adjective? The words surrounding the unfamiliar word will always give you clues about this. For example, an article like a or an is followed by a noun, adjectives and nouns often appear together. A good understanding of sentence structure can aid in your understanding of the type of word you are dealing with.

As you practice more and more of these skills, you will find that the speed at which you answer practice reading tests and exercises will gradually improve and hopefully your score will improve as well.

To best prepare for the reading test, it would be best to enroll in an PTE course with an experienced PTE teacher. Make sure that the course you choose also has practice tests and questions that reflect the actual levels of the PTE exam.