The Definitive Guide To Pearson PTE Writing Module

The Pearson’s test of English (or PTE) is a test which assesses the language skills of non-native speakers who wish to study at tertiary level in an English-speaking country. The test is owned by the Pearson PLC group, which is an internationally recognized educational organization.

The PTE exam is a 3-hour test which consists of 3 modules.

  • Speaking and writing
  • Reading
  • Listening

In this article we will take a look at the PTE academic writing module.

Let’s take a closer look at what you will learn from this article:

PTE Academic Writing Module Format

In the PTE academic test the speaking and writing assessments are combined. There is no separate section for writing, The writing test is the second part of this module. It consists of individually times tasks, which are designed to test your ability to produce pieces of writing that are well organized, on topic and accurate in terms of grammar and spelling.


What Skills Do You Need For Each Module

The writing test is designed to test your ability to produce pieces of writing that are well organised, on topic and accurate in terms of grammar and spelling. To score well you also need to be able to comfortable use uncommon vocabulary and phrases that are related to the topic you are writing about.

There are two types of questions that you can be asked.

  • An Essay
  • Summarize written text.

For both of the above-mentioned tasks the following criteria are taken into consideration:

  • Content
  • Vocabulary
  • Development, structure and coherence
  • Form
  • General linguistic range

Let’s take a more detailed look at these criteria and what you need to do in order to score well in these areas.

1. Content

Content refers to whether or not your essay or summary has addressed all points mentioned within the question. All aspects of your answer, including the supporting points and examples, have to be topic related. If you fail to meet this requirement you will receive a score of 0 for your entire essay.

2. Development, Structure and Coherence

Development, structure and coherence refers to your ability to organize and present your ideas so that your answer is easy to read and understand.

In order to do this test takers must write an answer with clear ideas that are logically laid out and easy to understand.

Coherence refers to how well a reader can understand what you write. There are several things can affect this, such as, grammar mistakes, the use of inappropriate words and phrases or the illogical ordering of sentences and ideas.

Development and structure refers to your ability to link ideas, sentences and paragraphs logically using a fixed structure and cohesive devices like linking words or discourse markers to produce a well-developed response. A high scoring essay uses a logical organizational pattern, connects ideas and explains these connections.

What Are Linking Words And Discourse Markers?

These are words or phrases that link ideas, sentences and paragraphs and help you to progress clearly from one idea to another. 

If you do not include discourse markers and linking words in your answer, it will appear illogical and be more difficult to understand.

A few examples are, Nevertheless, Particularly, Thus, Naturally, etc.

Different types of linking words are used for different functions.

Here are just a few common linking words that can be used in the PTE Writing test:

It’s important to note that these phrases should be used in moderation, otherwise your essay might seem unnatural.

3. Form

This refers to the candidates ability to write an essay within the specified word count.

Your essay should be between 200 to 300 words. Essays that are below 120 words or above 380 words will receive a score of zero.

Your Summary should be between 5 to 75 words. Sentences that are under or over the recommended word count will not be graded.

4. General Linguistic Range

General linguistic range is a measurement of how well the language used in your answer conveys or communicates your ideas. This means that whatever you write should be clearly communicated with accurate descriptions, correct emphasis, and no ambiguity.

Your responses should highlight key ideas and creatively express your opinions in a clear and effective manner.

To achieve this I recommend that you use complex sentence structures and a wide range of vocabulary to express the complexity of the subject matter. Complex ideas are often best expressed using complex sentences.

What Are Complex Sentences?

A complex sentence is a sentence that contains more than one clause. It includes more than one piece of information. For example, Mary wanted to book a PTE exam, but she was not sure if it is available in her country, so she decided to do a bit of research on the internet about it.

This sentence contains three clauses, each giving a different piece of information and these need to be separated correctly using the correct conjunctions and punctuation.

Mary wanted to book a PTE exam, but she was not sure if it is available in her country, so she decided to do a bit of research on the internet about it

5. Vocabulary

Vocabulary refers to the words and phrases you use in your answer. In order to score well in this are students must demonstrate a wide range of topic specific vocabulary that is used correctly and appropriately. They should also be able to paraphrase and use uncommon collocations with ease, and be able to spell these uncommon words correctly.

6. Grammar

This refers to your ability to use a range of grammatical structures and to use them accurately. In order to maximize your score in this particular area you must be able to produce complex and error free sentences. As well as demonstrate that you are able to flexibly use different tenses. It’s important that your sentences sound natural, so you should not attempt to use advanced grammar that you are not comfortable using as this could result in basic or systematic errors.

How Is The Writing Test Scored?

Both writing test tasks are scored using partial scoring.

What Is Partial Scoring?

Some questions do not have a simple correct or incorrect answer and these questions require subjective responses. Their level of correctness depends on a variety of factors, such a quality, task response, use of grammar or vocabulary.  These answers require a different method of scoring called Partial Scoring.

Questions that require a varied response, like essay or summary writing are scored using partial scoring. In such cases, every candidate would have a different response, but their answers still have to meet some common and fixed criteria. These question types are called partial credit questions, and the correctness of their answers are weighed against certain formal aspects like using the correct answer format as well as the quality of the candidates response. These formal aspects also depend on the type of question, for example a speaking question would depend on pronunciation and word stress, while writing questions formal aspects would include something like the correct use of punctuation.

Types of writing questions

1. Summarize Written Text

For this question you will be asked to write a summary based on paragraphs about a particular topic. The text can be up to 300 words long and you will only be given 10 minutes to complete this task. The summary should only be one sentence long. The length of this sentence should be between 5 to 75 words and it should begin with a capital letter and end with a full stop. Sentences that are under or over the recommended word count will not be graded.

Common topics for this question type include science, technology, art, history and politics. You will be assessed on the quality of your writing as well as how many keywords and main ideas you cover. You will not be assessed on your knowledge of the subject matter.

Important Points To Note

Your summary should only include the main points of text. This means you should be familiar with general paragraph structure and methods on how to locate the main ideas of a paragraph.

Your sentence should not include any supporting points of examples.

Tips For This Question

Read the question twice. Read the passage first in detail to understand what the text is about. The second time you read the text you should note keywords and main ideas. Use this time to differentiate between main ideas and supporting ideas.

Use complex sentences. Expand your sentences by using linking words and discourse markers.

Try to keep your word count between 25 to 35 words long. Sentences that are longer than this tend to be fairly complicated and there’s a greater chance for errors.

You should also use paraphrases and synonyms where possible. Avoid repeating the same words from the paragraph.

Do not quote directly from the text, as this will not be graded.

You should also only include information that is mentioned in the text. Refrain from using your own opinions and knowledge on the subject matter.

Let’s take a look at the following sample question:

2. Essay Question

In this question type you will be asked to write an essay on a given topic. Your essay should be around 200 to 300 words and you will be given 20 minutes to finish this task.

Your score for this question will be determined on your use of grammar, coherence, vocabulary, and written discourse.

Your word score will be displayed at the bottom of the screen. Essays that are under or over the recommended word count will not be graded.

You will also be allowed to cut, copy, or paste the text, which makes checking and editing your essay much easier.

Types Of Essays

There are no fixed types of essay questions, but the following are the most commonly asked types of questions:

You can be asked to

  • Agree or disagree with a statement.
  • Argue for or against an opinion.
  • Describe a situation.
  • Discuss the problems and solutions related to a certain situation
  • Discuss advantages or disadvantages.

Agree Or Disagree With A Statement.

This is usually worded as the opinion essay question. Candidates have to express their opinion on a particular topic.

For example:

Who do you think is the most influential person in the world? Support your choice with examples.


What do you think is the most important invention of the last century? Give reasons and examples where necessary.

Advantages And Disadvantages Essay

In this essay question, you will be asked to analyse the advantages and disadvantages of a particular topic or issue.

Make sure that you are aware of which type of advantages and disadvantages you are being asked to write. If you miss out on the fact that your opinion is required, then this could heavily affect your task achievement score.

Also, use separate the advantages and disadvantages into two different paragraphs and include supporting points and examples to emphasise your main ideas. This makes it easy for the examiner to understand your essay.

Sample Advantages and Disadvantages Essay:

In the future, it may be scientifically possible for people to live for 150 years. This could be good news for individuals but it may have negative consequences for our society. What are the benefits and risks of people living to 150?  

Problems And Solutions Essay

In this essay, you will be asked to identify the reasons behind a particular issue/problem and you also need to offer possible solutions to this problem.

This question asks you to describe the causes and propose solutions for a given problem.

Each solution should match with a problem. The resulting essay should not be too general or vague but should directly answer the specific issues mentions in the question. One of the main reasons students fail to score well in this essay is because despite having sufficient causes, they fail to expand on their thoughts and provide sufficient solutions.

Sample Problems and Solutions Essay Question:

Argue For Or Against An Opinion Essay

.This is called the argument essay question. In an argument essay, a candidate will have to defend their opinion on a particular topic. You will be presented with two sides of an argument and have to choose one side to defend.

Sample Argument Essay Question:

Teenage offenders should be treated in the same way as adult criminals. Do you agree or disagree?

Steps To Write A High Scoring Essay

1. Question Analysis

Every essay question has three different types of phrases/words. Topic Words which give us an idea about the general essay topic. Keywords in the question will give more details as to what you specifically have to write about regarding the general topic. Often students write a general essay about the main topic instead of focusing on what the specifics asked for in the question. Lastly, every question includes Instruction words which tell us exactly how to answer.

2. Generate Ideas

The next step in writing your essay would be to generate suitable ideas for the essay topic. It is also important to ensure that for every main idea you come up with, you have sufficient supporting points and examples to back them up with. During this stage of planning, you can also think of useful topic-specific vocabulary to use in your essay. Remember to try to replace common and repetitive vocabulary with more uncommon phrases.

Try to think of two main ideas related to this topic for the two main body paragraphs and also come up with one or two supporting points. You can also add examples to strengthen your main idea. You can use mind maps to help organize your thoughts into a more logical format. Doing this can save you time later on when you are deciding on how to structure your essay. At this stage it's also useful to think about topic-specific vocabulary.

3. Decide On Your Structure.

In general, your essay should include 4 paragraphs in total.

  • An introduction
  • Two main body paragraphs (one for each side of the argument)
  • A Conclusion

4. Write A Good Introduction

A discussion essay introduction begins with a paraphrase of the question. The ability to paraphrase(rephrase), and use synonyms, is just one of the skills that the examiner will be looking out for in your essay. Your introduction should also include an outline statement in which you provide the examiner with a brief description of what will be discussed in the essay. If the discussion essay question asks for your opinion as well then you must also include a thesis statement. A thesis statement is just a short sentence in which you state your opinion for the given topic.

5. Writing The Main Body Paragraphs

Once we have written our introductions, we need to develop our planned ideas into cohesive paragraphs using good vocabulary and cohesive devices and the recommended paragraph structure. Use one of your main ideas to create a topic sentence. The rest of the paragraph will expand on these ideas. Make sure that your ideas flow naturally from one to the next and that you use the correct words to signal what is about to follow. This means that you need to understand which linking words and discourse markers to use for different functions such as introducing an additional point or mentioning an example.

6. Write An Effective Conclusion

A good conclusion will neatly end the essay by linking all your ideas together and sum up your arguments or opinions. You should not introduce any new ideas or make your conclusion too long. Every conclusion should include only two to three sentences. The first sentence is basically just a summary of your introduction. And the last sentence of your conclusion should either be a recommendation sentence or a prediction sentence. A prediction is a statement about what you think will happen in the future. A recommendation is a statement about what you think should happen in the future.

How Can You Improve Your General Writing Skills?

1. Read Regularly.

One of the best ways to improve your writing skills is to develop the habit of regular reading. This will expose you to a wider range of vocabulary and also help demonstrate how to effectively utilize complex grammar structures in a natural way. Remember: all good writers are good readers.

2. Improve Your Vocabulary.

One of the areas that candidates are assessed on during the writing component of the exam is their ability to use uncommon vocabulary comfortably. This means that they should have a wide enough range of vocabulary to be able to write about a number of different topics. The best way to improve in this area is to source words through active reading. Try to read materials such as books, newspapers or magazines that relate in some way to the common topics that are often asked about in task 2 of the writing test. Create a vocabulary bank and categorize these words by topic. If you try to learn a few new words each day and practice writing a few sentences with them, you will find that you will learn at least a hundred words within a month.

3. Write In English

Practice writing in English as much as possible. Start of small by writing a few sentences with the new words you learn during your preparation time. You can also consider keeping a daily journal. Reviewing daily events can help you to write more comfortably using different tenses.

4. Improve Your Speed

Improve your writing speed by taking timed tests. The average person writes at a speed of 100 words per minute. So it should take you around ten minutes to write out a 200-word essay. This leaves plenty of time to plan and recheck your work.

5. Get An Outside Perspective

Many students overestimate their language skills. Getting a second opinion on your practice essays might open your eyes to errors and gaps in your understanding. This is especially necessary when it comes identifying grammatical errors. Many students are unaware of the level of grammar needed to produce complex sentences, and they often waste time learning unnecessary grammar topics.

Since writing tasks involve producing language, it is very difficult to for second language learners to objectively assess their own work. This is where having a trained PTE professional tutor comes in handy. Not only will an PTE lecturer be able to tell you about the estimated scores for your practice answers, but they will also be able to point out your mistakes and help you improve on them as well.