All components of the PTE Academic are assessed by a computer algorithm, including the speaking section. Due to this, it can be a little tricky to determine if your responses are going to be accurately picked up by the microphone, so that they can be interpreted and assessed but the PTE AI. Unfortunately, there are many PTE candidates who are unpleasantly surprised with their low speaking scores, and most of the time this due to them not knowing about the ideal microphone positions. The PTE academic speaking test is not like having an interview with a human examiner, who could tell you if you were audible or not. A computer will accept whatever sound is coming its way, whether it be your responses or background noise. While this can be tricky, it’s not impossible to figure out the best ways to utilise the PTE microphone so that you don’t lose out on your PTE score unnecessarily.
What Is The Ideal Mic Position?
The mic position will only really be a problem is if you have kept the microphone too close to your mouth. The best position for the microphone is about 2-3 cm away and slightly away from the front of your mouth to the side. Like in the image below. This is because the mic is quite sensitive, and if your mic is too close to your air passage it will pick up your breathing sounds, in the form of bursts of air (or plosive sounds). The computer recognizes these as incomprehensible words and lowers your score.
Placing the mic just below your chin ensures that the mic is close enough to record your response without capturing unnecessary breathing sounds.
Microphone Positions Are Not The Only Reason For Low Speaking Scores
As mentioned before, a computer can’t really tell you whether you are audible or not while you are speaking. It would be a horrible waste of time to prepare thoroughly for the exam only to be let down by a faulty microphone. Thankfully, before you actually start your speaking test you are allowed to test your microphone.
During this testing period, you can check whether your responses are recorded clearly, and you can check for the ideal mic position.
Record a small sample and listen back to it to check if what is recorded is captured correctly, without the unnecessary breathing or plosive sounds. You should also not whether other background noises are also audible or not. Try saying an entire sentence, like “Mic check 1, 2, 3. The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog”
Make adjustments to the mic position until you are satisfied with the quality of the recording. If there is a serious issue with a microphone, then you should raise your hands and immediately notify the examiner. Do not attempt to fix faulty equipment by yourself.