The Definitive Guide To The Pearson PTE Speaking Module

The speaking part of PTE Academic exam tests your ability to produce spoken English in an academic environment. Most of my students in Singapore consider this part of the exam to be the toughest. This is mainly because the algorithim that is used to grade the PTE Speaking Module uses a strict set of criteria, and it is not as flexible as a human examiner might be. In this article, we will take a detailed look at the PTE Academic Speaking Test, and learn more about how you can score well in this part of the exam.

Here’s a detailed look at what you can expect to learn:

The PTE academic exam is a globally accepted standardized language exam which is designed to evaluate the level of proficiency of non-native speakers. It is offered in over 50 countries and around 250 test centres around the globe.

The exam is hosted by the Pearson PLC group, which is an internally recognised and multi-faceted educational organisation. The Pearson Language Test Department focuses primarily on preparing and conducting language proficiency tests that accurately reflect the capabilities and skills of second language learners.

SPEAKING & WRITING: (77 – 93 minutes)

  • Personal Introduction
  • Read Aloud
  • Repeat sentence
  • Describe image
  • Re-tell lecture
  • Answer short question


Speaking Format


There is no separate speaking section in the PTE exam, instead both the speaking and writing tasks are combined. The task lasts for 77 to 93 minutes and include a total of 8 tasks, 6 of these are speaking tasks.

It usually takes approximately 30-35 minutes to complete the speaking section, depending on the combination of items in a given test.

Many speaking tasks contain elements which assess a candidate listening skills as well. The brief personal introduction component at the beginning of this task will be recorded and also sent to any organisations that you have chosen to report your PTE scores to.


PTE Speaking Skills


The speaking section of the PTE exam assesses whether or not a candidate can produce natural sounding speech, with the correct pronunciation, intonation and stress, in a manner that is easily understandable by most speakers of the language.

Similarly to the writing section, you will also be assessed on your use of grammar and whether or not you possess a wide enough range of vocabulary to effectively describe certain situations or topics.

Here’s a more detailed list of what you will be expected to do:

  • speak for a purpose (to repeat, to inform, to explain)
  • read a text aloud
  • support an opinion with details, examples and explanations
  • organize an oral presentation in a logical way
  • develope complex ideas within a spoken discourse
  • use words and phrases appropriate to the context
  • use correct grammar
  • speak at a natural rate
  • produce fluent speech
  • use correct intonation
  • use correct pronunciation
  • use correct stress
  • speak under timed conditions


What Will Be Displayed On Screen During The Speaking Test?


If there is no listening component to the speaking task, there will be just 1 status box displayed on screen. If there is additional audio to be played, there will be two status boxes that display the progress of the microphone recording and the time left for the audio to play. The recording status box also informs you about when to start and stop recording. There is also a slider to adjust the volume of the recording.

Speaking item are collectively timed. A timer will be present in the upper right-hand corner of the computer screen, and this counts down the time you have left for the speaking section.

Here’s a picture of what you will see on test day:


Speaking Question Types


1. Personal introduction


The first segment of the speaking test begins with an initial 30 second personal introduction, This recording is not really a part of your assessment, but it will also be sent to any intuitions you choose to send your score reports to. Therefore, it’s important to prepare an engaging introduction that showcases your language skills and good personality traits.

A countdown of 25 seconds will begin, and you can use this time to prepare something to say. After that a progress bar will be displayed and you can begin speaking into the microphone. When your 30 seconds are done, the progress bar wording changes from ‘recording’ to ‘completed’.

Here’s how the question will be displayed:


2. Read Aloud


In this question types, candidates are required to read a text that is present on the screen. The text can be up to 60 words long.

This type of question tests your ability to read a short text aloud using correct pronunciation and intonation.

You will be given a short amount of time before you start reading to analyse the text and prepare. Once this time is over, you will here a small beep and the microphone will open, allowing you to speak for up to 40 seconds. The microphone will then automatically switch off.

There are usually 6 to 7 of these questions within a single speaking test, depending on the combination of tasks.

How is this question scored?

This question is scored using partial scoring.

The criteria used to assess this question is as follows:

  • Content: your response should include all the words from the text and only these words.
  • Oral Fluency: Your response should demonstrate a smooth, effortless and natural rate of speech, Hesitations, repetitions and false starts will negatively affect your score.
  • Pronunciation: You produce speech that is easily understood with correct intonation and stress. Responses should also be immediately understandable to a regular speaker of the language.

Tips for this question:

  • Use the preparation time to practice reading any unfamiliar words that are present.
  • Make sure you read with a pleasant and expressive tone that rises and falls. This will you’re your sentences sound more authentic.
  • Avoid reading with a monotone voice and do not stop if you happen to make a mistake.

Here is an example of how this question will be displayed:

3. Repeat Sentence


In this question candidates will have to repeat a sentence from an audio recording. You have to wait until the microphone turns red before you start speaking. You will have 15 seconds to produce a word for word rendition of the sentence you have just heard.

This question tests your ability to understand and remember a sentence, and then repeat the sentence exactly as you hear it using correct pronunciation.

How is this question scored?

  • Content: your response should include all the words from the text and only these words.
  • Oral Fluency: Your response should demonstrate a smooth, effortless and natural rate of speech, Hesitations, repetitions and false starts will negatively affect your score.
  • Pronunciation: you should produce speech that is easily understood with correct intonation and stress. Responses should also be immediately understandable to a regular speaker of the language.

Tips for this question:

  • Use the preparation time to practice reading any unfamiliar words that are present.
  • Make sure you read with a pleasant and expressive tone that rises and falls. This will you’re your sentences sound more authentic.
  • Avoid reading with a monotone voice and do not stop if you happen to make a mistake.


4. Describe Image


In this question type, candidates will have 40 seconds to describe an image on the screen. The images are usually a graph, picture, map, chart or table. You will be given 25 seconds to prepare your talk, after which you will hear a short beep. This denotes that the microphone is now on and you can begin speaking.

The describe image question tests your ability to describe an image from an academic source.

How is this question scored?

  • Content: your response should accurately describe all important aspects of the image and also contain key comparisons where possible. You should talk about the general content of the image, then summarize the most significant points, referring to details for support..
  • Oral Fluency: Your response should demonstrate a smooth, effortless and natural rate of speech, Hesitations, repetitions and false starts will negatively affect your score.
  • Pronunciation: you should produce speech that is easily understood with correct intonation and stress. Responses should also be immediately understandable to a regular speaker of the language.

Tips for this question:

  • Use your planning time wisely – familiarise your self with any headings, reference points and units of measurement that are present.
  • Determine the significant information conveyed by the image.
  • Familiarise your self with the vocabulary related to the different types of common images present for this question type.


Retell Lecture


After listening to or watching a lecture of up to 90 seconds in length candidates will have to retell that lecture in their own words for 40 seconds. There might also be an image present about the topic you will hear. The topics of these lectures are usually about academic subjects such as humanities, natural sciences or social sciences.

Once the lecture is over, there will be a ten second gap before the microphone switches on. You will then have 40 seconds to summarize the lecture.

This question assesses your ability to give a presentation on information from a lecture on an academic subject.

How is this question scored?

  • Content: your lecture should describe all main points of the lecture, and also include any other important developments or conclusions of the lecture. You should not just list a number of unrelated points.
  • Oral Fluency: Your response should demonstrate a smooth, effortless and natural rate of speech, Hesitations, repetitions and false starts will negatively affect your score.
  • Pronunciation: you should produce speech that is easily understood with correct intonation and stress. Responses should also be immediately understandable to a regular speaker of the language.

Tips for this question:

  • Notice the keywords, they can help you understand the context of the topic.
  • Instead of complete full names, you can use titles, like the Dr. Says or the professor mentions etc.
  • Try to capture the best 3-5 sentences. They should be enough to retell the lecture.
  • Use the 3 seconds before the recording plays to quickly scan any images present. The image will give you a general idea about the content of the lecture.
  • Use the erasable note board to make quick notes. Just focus on keywords and do not make your notes too lengthy, as this will waste valuable time.


5. Answer Short Question


In this question type you will see an audio recorder box on your screen. It assesses your ability to understand a question and provide a logical and accurate response. 

A recording will start to play after about 3 seconds. the recording consists of a person asking you a question. Once the recording has played, the microphone will automatically switch on and you will be required to record your answer to the questions. You are allowed 10 seconds to answer

How is this question Scored?

The scoring for this question type is different to other items in the speaking test. Your response is scored as either correct or incorrect based on the appropriacy of the words in your response. No credit is given for no response or an incorrect response. No extra credit is given for lengthy answers.

Tips for this question:

  • Listen carefully to the recording and try to determine which type of answer is needed
  • Do not say more than necessary. You will not get credit for extra words.
  • Start talking immediately after the recording plays.

How Can You Prepare For The Speaking Module?


a. Improve Your Vocabulary

Focus on improving your vocabulary. Learn words that can be commonly used in many topics. This will expand your range of vocabulary Paraphrasing (rephrasing words by using synonyms) is an important skill that will increase your score. Avoid reusing the words from the question or repeating a particular word over and over again. This is something you can only do if you have a wide range of vocabulary, which is why learning topic-specific words is a vital part of the preparation for the PTE Speaking test. 

b. Focus On Your Pronunciation

Pay attention to your pronunciation as this is one of the criteria that your speaking score will be assessed on. Listen to short audio recordings with transcripts. Try imitating what you hear in the recordings by going along with the scripts.

Practice reading out aloud while focusing on your word stress and intonation. Exaggerate your speech to enhance your pronunciation and expression.

c. Use English Everyday

Remember that during the test your English should be as natural as possible. It’s important to improve your general English language skills instead of just focusing solely on test preparation. In order to make sure that you are comfortable with the language make sure that you incorporate the English language into your everyday life. Try speaking about as much as you can in English, even if it is just talking about how your day went. As you become more confident move on to more difficult topics.

Watch English television programs. This is one of the fastest ways to familiarise yourself with the accents of native speakers. You should also read for enjoyment. Find books and articles on topics that interest you. You will find that this is one of the easiest ways to come across new and uncommon vocabulary.

Despite all of the useful information above, I still feel that enrolling in an PTE Preparation course is your best bet at acing the exam. The reasoning behind this is simple, only an PTE professional teacher can guide you and offer you valuable feedback on your weak areas, especially in terms of your writing and speaking practice answers.