The PTE Academic exam is a fully computerized exam. Even the grading for the exam is done by a state-of-the-art computer algorithm. Due to this, many candidates are unsure about exactly how to go about preparing for the exam by themselves. They assume that it would be a highly technical process, for which they do not possess the required skills.
In addition to this, the PTE Academic exam is relatively new, and there are a limited number of authentic free resources available online.
In this guide, we will tackle everything you need to know about preparing for the PTE Academic exam using online preparation materials, as well as where to find to these resources.
Here's a detailed summary of what you can expect to find in this article:
Understand The Test Format And Skills Required
Before you dive into your PTE preparation, let’s take a few steps back. In order to score well in any exam, you first need to know what is expected of you. Take some time to analyze the test format and question types. Pay particular attention to the skills required for each task.
Here’s a small question type summary to help you familiarize yourself with each modules as well as the skill requirements for each of these sections.
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.
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.
The writing test is designed to test your ability to produce pieces of writing that are well organized, 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.
The Reading module assesses basic reading comprehension skills and tests your ability to analyse, interpret and evaluate a short reading text on an academic subject.
The ability to comprehend spoken English in number of situations that occur in an Academic environment, such as lectures and presentations.
Candidates also need to be able to understand spoken English as spoken in a variety of accents.
What Is Your Current Level Of Proficiency?
We know that the PTE Academic exam is a test of English language proficiency. Before you begin preparing for the test, it is useful to get a good idea about what your current level of proficiency is. This will help you to pinpoint exactly which skills you need to work on, instead of wasting time re-learning skills your already good at.
To help with this issue, Pearson has introduced a short PTE exam mini test, which is designed to give you an accurate idea about the level of difficulty of an actual PTE exam.
The test consists of five question types and lasts for about 10 minutes. The following questions are included in the test
This ‘taster test’ is a quick and easy way to help you understand what language level is required to score well in the exam.
Free Online Resources
Many online courses also have a sister website or blog, which also includes more general information about the PTE exam. You can use such information to get an idea about the PTE Academic test, its format and content. You can also judge by the way such information is presented, if opting for enrolling with this organization is worthwhile or not. However, do note that there is usually a reason this information is free. Most PTE prep organizations withhold their most valuable bits of information, and it is usually only available to paying students or customers.
Make sure that you always use authentic resources from trusted sources. Using practice tests from reliable sources is important because there are far too many fake free resources with badly written questions or wrong answers. Many of these resources are themselves riddled with grammatical errors and branded as high scoring materials.
Using such inauthentic materials can give the incorrect impression about the level of difficulty of the PTE exam or give you an over-inflated sense of your English Language capabilities.
Also make sure that the practice questions you use have the same structure, the same difficulty, the same marking, and the same timing as the PTE test.
Another point to consider is that there are plenty of free PTE resources available online but no matter how well – connected they might be, their information about the PTE exam will always be from an outside perspective. This is why I recommend using the Official Guide to PTE Academic exam. This is a guidebook which can easily be purchased online on the official Pearson PTE website
The Official Guide To PTE Academic
The Official Guide to PTE Academic is a book that is published and endorsed by Pearson themselves. It’s the best option for familiarizing yourself with the format of the exam. Since Pearson hosts the PTE exam, they are best equipped to understand what students need to know in order to do well in the PTE test. The guide also gives you an accurate idea about what the test entails and the true levels of difficulty.
Here’s what is included in the book:
Pearson's Official PTE Academic Mock Tests
Unlike other language tests, Pearson offers official mock PTE tests that are scored using the exact same algorithm that is used to score real PTE Academic tests. Taking one of these tests can give you a good idea of your estimated score. The tests are timed and scored exactly like the real exam. This is a useful tool to help learners understand what their official scores might look like without having to pay the full test fee multiple times.
Each test cost around 35 USD. However, there are also affordable bundle packages available in cases where students would like to purchase more than one practice test.
I recommend using these official practice test instead of many of the free versions that are available online. The reason being is it is highly unlikely that these free mock tests use the same software and AI to grade your answers. This is especially true for the unique online speech recognition software, which has quite a strict scoring criteria. This ultimately means that these free tests will probably give you a score that is not an accurate representation of your PTE Academic score.
If you are just curious about what the PTE test is like, then taking a free version of the test might be useful. You can get a good idea about the format, tasks and timings of the test and decide if this is something you are capable of doing. However, if you are serious about taking the exam then I recommend taking a paid mock test.
Enroll In An Online PTE Academic Course
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, any sort of free online PTE resource cannot provide feedback on your proficiency.
In my opinion, it would be better and more productive to invest in finding a good PTE teacher to guide you and then use the above-mentioned resources as supplementary materials. 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.
Of course, once you have decided that you need outside assistance, another question springs to mind. How do you choose a good online PTE preparation course?
Here’s what you should look out for in a good online PTE Preparation Course:
Flexible Timings Or Access To Video Lecture Recordings
Since most PTE candidates are also busy working professionals or full-time students, they do not have the time for long extended PTE lectures. Choose a course that has a flexible schedule, which allows you to choose slots that suit your daily routine. Most good coaching classes offer weekend classes as well.
Another useful option is to search for courses that allow students access to all video lecture recordings. This will allow you to fully focus on your lecture without having to worry about connection problems.
Having access to the recording is also valuable for working professionals since you will be able to access your lectures anywhere and at anytime. You'll be able to relax and listen to the lectures in the comfort of your own home.
Unlimited Support and Access
You should also check whether or not you will be given individual support, and for how long this option will be available to you.
Make sure that you are aware of the payment policies of the institute you are registering with. Some institutes only require a once off payment, while others operate on a monthly basis. It’s also wise to make sure that the package you choose also includes all of the relevant study resources and materials you will need, and that you do not need to pay for these separately.
PTE Expert Teachers
Check out the credentials of the people in charge. Make sure that the course is run by someone with vast experience in the PTE and language test industry and is considered an expert. There are far too many second-language speakers offering PTE courses. They might not have the necessary language skills to provide quality lessons, even though their English level might be better than yours.
Choose native English teachers that are Celta or Delta qualified, as this is the highest level of qualification for English as a second language lecturers.
A Good Balance Between Theory And Practice
While it is important, to have a lecturer who is well versed in all aspects of the exams, students have to also be given sufficient time to practice under supervision of their teachers. This will help develop strong exam techniques.
Most reputable online preparation courses do offer practice tests with detailed analysis and software that mimics the PTE exam algorithms. They also offer the added benefit of providing an analysis of your answers and help with improving your skills in the task types where you failed to score well.