PTE Speaking Read Aloud

The Pearson speaking tests assesses a candidate's basic communication skill in order to determine if they are ready to integrate into an English-speaking environment. This part of the test is combined with the writing section and consists of 8 different task types. Each of these question types comes with its own unique set of difficulties that need to be overcome in order for you to score well in them. In this article we will pay particular attention to the read aloud question.

Here is a detailed look at what you can expect:

Read Aloud Format

In this question type, candidates are required to read a text that is present on the screen. The text can be up to 60 words long. This sounds simple enough, but this question actually tests more than just your ability to recognise and sound out words. When you read aloud your focus also has to be on effectively conveying the meaning of what you are reading through 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 Will This Question Be Displayed?

Instructions for this question will be at the top of the screen, followed by a recording status box. Below the box there will be a short piece of text of between 30 to 60 words. The status box will first display a countdown, which usually starts from 40 seconds and counts down to 0. Once this time has been completed there will be a short beep and the status of the recording box will change to ‘recording’

You have to start speaking before 3 seconds or else the microphone will automatically switch off. Make sure that you only start recording once you hear the beep and see the change in the status of the recording box.

Here is an example of how this question will appear on test day:

How Is This Question Scored?

This question is scored using partial scoring. The score for this question contributes to your speaking and reading scores. There is also no negative marking in this question type.

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 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.

Strategy For This Question Type:

You will be given around 30 to 40 seconds to examine the reading passage before you record your answer. Use this time wisely, by skimming through the complete passage and note the important keywords. Try to pronounce and sound out difficult words, so that you do not hesitate when giving your answer. If they seem to complicated, you can break them up and then try to pronounce them.

You should also use this time to decide where to pause during your reading. A great way to figure this out is to use the punctuation marks present as a guide. For example, commas and apostrophes require a short pause, while full stops signal that a longer pause is needed.

Speak as soon as you hear a beep sound. Remember that the microphone automatically switches off when you are silent for more than 3 seconds.

Avoid reading with a monotone voice and try to include rises and falls when you speak. This will make you sound more engaging. Figuring out which words and phrases to put emphasis on, depends on your understand of the content and the sentence structure.

Lets take a look at pronunciation features needed to score well:

Pronunciation features include a wide range of features, but I will only discuss the most important ones.

  • Intonation
  • Word Stress
  • Sentence stress

Intonation is defined as the way the voice rises and falls. It can be best described as a combination of rises and falls in connected speech makes it pleasant, melodic and easy to follow. Basically, whether your voice goes up and down in the right places, for example when you’re asking a question. Is used to convey the speaker’s mood, to support meaning or to indicate new information.

Word Stress means putting emphasis on the correct syllables e.g. COMFortable, VEGetable. All words with more than two syllables have at least one stressed syllable e.g. ADvert or adVENTure. This makes the other syllables weak/unstressed. Many second language English speakers put stress on all the sounds in a word, but that’s not how native English speakers talk.

Sentence stress is used to indicate importance by placing more emphasis on one word in a sentence. e.g. WHY is that one important? vs Why is THAT one important?

Using these pronunciation features will help listeners stay interested and help them to figure out which parts of your sentences are more important than the others.

Remember the key is to sound as natural as possible. Do not put emphasis on every single word and vary your tone.

Tips For The Read Aloud 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.
  • Do not stop if you happen to make a mistake
  • Do not repeat or hesitate. If you make a mistake, do not dwell on it but rather stay composed and carry on. It would be unfortunate to let a single blunder affect the rest of your answer and your score.
  • Speak loudly and clearly into the microphone. This will ensure that your voice is recorded correctly and that there is enough information available for the AI to assess you on.
  • Stay focused. This can be particularly difficult to do, since you will be in a testing room in which other candidates are also recording there answers. Try to focus only on your own voice and the screen in front of you.

How Can You Prepare For This Question.

Here are some useful ways to practice your pronunciation, word stress and intonation.

Try listening 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.

Listen to and examine the accents of speakers on YouTube or the news, try to think about how the features of their speech differs from your own.

Try reading for enjoyment. This will not only help you to improve your vocabulary, but it will also help to you understand basic paragraph and sentence structure.

You should also try taking authentic practice PTE academic mock tests in order to check the effectiveness of your preparation for this question type.

Consider Getting An Outside Opinion.

It is very difficult for a second language learner to properly assess their own speaking or reading ability without any bias. This is where having an experienced PTE professional as a tutor can come in handy. they can easily identify weakness and errors that are holding you back from obtaining a higher score for this type of question. They will also be able to help you improve your answers so that they meet the specific set of criteria that the PTE algorithm will assess you on during your actual test.

Let’s look at the following sample question:

Photography's gaze widened during the early years of the twentieth century and, as the snapshot camera became increasingly popular, the making of photographs became increasingly available to a wide cross-section of the public. The British people grew accustomed to, and were hungry for, the photographic image.

Here are some audio responses for the text above

The content of this response is excellent. This response is spoken at a conversational rate of speech and demonstrates good phrasing and smooth word emphasis. Additionally, there are no hesitations, repetitions or false starts. The pronunciation of most vowels and consonants is standard. Word and phrase stress is also appropriate.

The content of this response is excellent. Disconnected phrasing and uneven rate of speech prevents the response from receiving full credit for fluency. There are no hesitations, repetitions or false starts. The pronunciation of several vowels and consonants is not standard and there are also several word and phrase stress errors.

The content of this response is weak. Some words in the text are omitted, and some words that are not in the text are added. Disconnected phrasing and uneven rate of speech prevents the response from receiving full credit for fluency. There is also a hesitation and false start. Additionally, missing or incorrect pronunciation of vowels and consonants makes several words and phrases incomprehensible to most regular speakers of English.