PTE – Speaking Short Answer

The PTE speaking test is one of the most complicated and toughest aspects of the pte academic exam.

Answer Short Question Format

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.

There are usually 10 to 12 questions of this type during the speaking module, depending on the combination of items in a given test. All of the questions will be displayed in a single block. In some cases, an image will be displayed alongside the question

The recordings for this item type run for approximately three to nine seconds. Each question will play only once and you will only be able to record your response once.

How Will This Question Be Displayed?

Instructions for this question will be the top of the screen, followed by a two status boxes

The first status box is an audio box and the second is a recording status box.

The audio box status counts down from 3 seconds and thereafter a recording is played. Once this happens the audio box status changes to ‘playing’ and an audio progress bar will show you how much of the recording is left. When the recording finishes, the status will change to "Completed."

In the recording status box, the status will also count down at the same time as the audio status box while the recording is playing. Once the recording has finished you will have one second before the recording status box changes to ‘recording’ For this question type there is no beep before the microphone switches on. You will have 10 seconds to record your response

You have to start speaking before 3 seconds or else the microphone will automatically switch off. Make sure that you only start recording once the recording box status has changed.

Here’s how this question will be displayed:

What Skills Does This Question Test?

The short answer question assesses both your listening and speaking skills.

Here’s a list of the skills you need to score well in the short answer question type:


  • identifying the topic, theme or main ideas
  • understanding academic vocabulary
  • inferring the meaning of unfamiliar words


  • speaking for a purpose (to repeat, to inform, to explain)
  • using words and phrases appropriate to the context
  • speaking under timed condition

What Are The Questions About?

Most of the questions are related to general knowledge. There is a good chance that you have already come across such topics during your schooling career. You can expect to hear questions about

How To Answer

When listening to the recording make sure that you listen out for keywords to get an idea of what exactly is being asked and which type of answer you need to give

Many students make the mistake of thinking that their answers for these type of questions should be lengthy. However, this is not the case. You will not score any credit for longer answers, in fact giving a lengthy answer might decrease your score, if there are too many errors in your recorded response.

For example, if you come across the following question, “who attends to sick people and prescribe medicines”

Both the answers ‘doctor’ and ‘ a person who attends to sick people is called a doctor’ will receive the same score.

Make sure that you record short and concise answers and that you speak clearly into the microphone.

If you happen to make a mistake, you are allowed to correct yourself, provided you do so quickly. If you take too long, the microphone might not capture your corrected response.

Remember that there is no negative marking, so you should give a response to every single question, even if you are unsure how to answer. Try to make an educated guess about the type of information needed.

Use Your Time Wisely

For this question, there is no beep when the microphone begins recording. Make sure that you start speaking as soon as you see the status change to ‘recording’ in the recording status box.

Make sure to click the ‘next’ button once you have recorded your response. This might seem insignificant, since the microphone automatically switches off after 3 seconds of inactivity, but there have been occasions when the microphone has picked up the responses of other nearby test taker. This will obviously negatively affect your answer and your score. Therefore, its better to be safe than sorry, and click next as soon as you have recorded your response.

Avoid hesitation, as I’ve mentioned before, the microphone switches off automatically after 3 seconds. If you take too long to respond, you might lose your chance to answer. Most students hesitate to answer, because they start to overthink and overcomplicate the questions. The truth is that most of the short answer questions are very simple and require the easiest and most obvious of answers. So, in short, the answer which first springs to your mind is usually the correct one, and even if it is not, you still have the option to correct your answer.

However, if you do not answer quickly, the microphone will switch off and you will lose the opportunity to answer, altogether.

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 and there is no negative marking.

You will be awarded one point for a correct response and zero points for an incorrect score.

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.

Problems Associated With This Question


There are usually 10 to 12 of these question types in a single speaking test.  these questions are asked one after the other with no pauses in between. Usually most students have no trouble answering the first few questions, but they tend to lose focus as the questions continue.

This is usually because the environment in which the test is taken is usually busy and full of distractions. There will be so many people talking at the same time as you are and this makes it difficult to focus. You might be surrounded by other more noisy test takers or your test center might be located in a busy urban space.

The best way to avoid this, is practice for this type of question regularly.  Better still try practicing in a noisy chaotic environment and this will help you get used to speaking and focusing on questions and audio, while there is noise around you. trying practicing in a busy café or park instead of  the usual quiet places like at home or a library. Eventually you will be able to tune out the background noise.

If you are unable to acclimatise to speaking in a busy and noisy environment, you can also consider opting for a less busy test center. Of course this depends on how many test centers there are in your vicinity and how busy they actually are. You can try to find other candidates who have taken their test at a particular test center and find out what their experiences for the speaking test were like.

Know The Difference Between Fluency And Speaking Too Fast.

Unfortunately many people think that speaking quickly in English is the same as being fluent. However, fluency has more to do with speaking clearly and without hesitation and not rambling on at a 1000 words per minute!  If you speak to quickly during your test, the algorithm might not be able to understand what you are saying.

The best way to avoid this is to speak slowly and clearly into the microphone. Make sure to enunciate in the correct places and do not mumble or combine (blend)words into each other.

Of course, the speed at which you speak might naturally increase due to test day jitters. Again the best way to avoid this is to practice, practice, practice!

This will help improve your stamina when it comes to answering questions in succession and you will become familiar with what is expected of you on test day. Make sure that you practice using authentic Pearson practice materials, so that you get a real exam feel

However, I must add that continued practice without proper feedback is entirely useless. There’s no point in taking many practice exercises or mock tests, if you are only going to make the same mistakes with your pronunciation or strategies for answering.

It is very difficult for a second language learner to properly assess their own speaking 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.

Sample Question and Answers

Here are some useful sample short answer questions along with their model answers.

1. Who specialises in the study of psychological effect of words? – Psychologist
2. Who specialises in the study of earth and its composition? – Geologist
3. What emergency service is usually called when someone is in trouble at sea? – Coastguard
4. The medical graduate serving as an apprentice in a hospital taking medical training is an? – Intern
5. What crime has someone stealing items from a shop committed? – Shop Lifting
6. Treatment of diseases by drugs whose effect on the body is the opposite of the disease. – Allopathic
7. The doctor who specialises in the treatment of children’s diseases? – Paediatrician
8. What is piece of paper with official information written on it? – Document
9. What do we call the last game in a sporting competition, which decide the champion?- Finals
10. What is a series of events that happen in your mind while you are sleeping? – Dream
11. What do you call the number of people living in a specific area? – Population
12. What is the most important document you would have to show if you wanted to hire a car? Drivers Licence
13. What is a violent conflict between two or more countries? – War
14. What is it called when two or more people are speaking to each other? – Conversation
15. What is a person belongs to an organization called? – Member
16. What piece of equipment shows a person what direction they are traveling? – Compass
17. What piece of equipment would you use for floating on the sea? – Aquaplane
18. What organ controls your speech, feelings, body movement and thoughts? – Brain
19. Who is a person that makes bread, cakes and pastries? – Baker
20. What do we call a picture that a doctor takes to see inside your body? – X-ray
21. What is the name of a system of government in which the people elect their leaders? – Democracy
22. What kind of punishment is less severe, an imprisonment or community service ? – Community service
23. Where would you most likely go to buy some flour; a bakery, a florist or a supermarket? – Supermarket
24. In the animal kingdom, the purpose of camouflage to attract a mate, to find food or to hide? – to hide
25. What do we call it when the Moon completely blocks out the light from the Sun? – Solar Eclipse
26. What do you call an apartment that is below ground level? – Basement apartment
27. What word describes moving a program or other material from a website to your computer?- Downloading
28. What piece of equipment would you use to go diving in the sea, an aqualung or an aquaplane? – Aqualung
29. A disease or accident which ends in death? – Fatal
30. A person who does not believe in the existence of god. – Atheist
31. Animals that eat flesh. – Carnivorous
32. A tank where fish or water plants are kept. – Aquarium
33. Person who believes in the existence of God – Theist
34. Two children born at same time ? – Twins
35. That which is subject to death ? – Mortal
36. An assembly of listeners: – Audience
37. A person who is unable to pay his debts – Insolvent
38. A person coming to a foreign land to settle there – Immigrant
39. Building in which dead bodies are kept for a time – Mortuary
40. A person who wishes to throw his establishment – Anarchist
41. Which hospital department would you go to for an x-ray: radiology or cardiology? – Radiology
42. Which Animal is not a mammal? Butterfly, cow or Goat? – Butterfly
43. Would you measure the volume of bottle water in litres or Kilos ? – Litres
44. What do you call a system of government in which people vote for the people who will represent them? – Democracy
45. What do you call tax on goods produced and used in a country? – Excise tax
46. Whenever a person goes to an interview, would he be in an enthusiastic mood or sad mood? – Enthusiastic mood
47. A government where the power is concentrated in the hands of one person. – Autocracy
48. A country ruled by two countries. – Condominium
49. Name the device of computer having named same to that of an animal. – Mouse
50. What do you call the document that gives details about your qualification and work experience? – Curriculum Vitae or Resume
51. A long depression in the surface of the land that usually contains a river is called? – Valley
52. Where would you go to see an exhibition of sculpture? – Art gallery or Museum
53. At what ceremony, the students receive their degree or diploma at end of their study? – Graduation day/Convocation
54. If you forget the way what will you buy to find your destination? – A map
55. What’s the joint called where your hand is connected to your arm? – Wrist
56. An instrument for viewing objects at a distance. – Telescope
57. What is the study of stars and planets is called? – Astronomy
58. A person who wishes to throw his establishment. – Anarchist
59. What do we call the alphabetical list, at the end of the book, which tells you where to find specific information? – Index/Appendix
60. Which Animal is not a mammal? Butterfly, cow or Goat? – Butterfly
61. In business and advertising what does PR stand for? – Public Relations
62. Which section of Newspapers gives the editor’s opinion? – Editorial
63. What do we call the piece of paper that proves you have bought the item? – Receipt
64. How would you describe an economy based largely on farming? – Agricultural or Rural
65. How many years are in a decade? – 10 Years
66. A person who is active, lively and enjoys the company of others. – Extrovert
67. What special document do most people carry during international travels? – Passport
68. What is the name of ground military forces? – Army
69. What is someone that can’t see called? – Blind
70. What do you call the middle of something? – Center
71. Whose job is it to treat people that are ill or have an injury at a hospital? – Doctor
72. What is the process of teaching and learning called? – Education
73. What kind of book is written by a person about their own life? – Autobiography
74. What is the red liquid that flows through a body? – Blood
75. What is the payment of a student’s education by an organization called? – Scholarship
76. Simplest and smallest form of plant life, present in air, water and soil; essential to life but may cause disease? – Bacteria
77. Literary theft or passing off an author’s original work as one’s own – Plagiarism
78. One who attends to sick people and prescribe medicines – Physician
79. Anything written in a letter after it is signed? – Postscript
80. What is a violent conflict between two or more countries? – War
81. A list of books representing some scholarly work for reference – Bibliography
82. The art of cultivating and managing gardens – Horticulture
83. An event that occurs suddenly causing a great damage or suffering – Catastrophe
84. The property which a new wife brings to her husband – Dowry
85. What are the people that plant food, raise crop are commonly known as? – Farmers
86. A place where people may obtain food and refreshment – Restaurant
87. If a button has come off a shirt, what would someone most likely use to put it back on? – A needle and thread
88. Where do you pay for your purchases at the super market? – (at) checkout
89. On what geographical location would someone be living if their country is surrounded by water on all side? – An island
90. A nursery where children are cared for while their parents are at work – Creche
91. The person in-charge of library – Librarian
92. What is it called when two or more people are speaking to each other? – Conversation
93. A list of headings of the business to be transacted at a meeting – Agenda
94. What appliance do people use to keep their food cool and preventing from spoiling? – Fridge
95. One who plans and draws the design of buildings and superintends their erection – Architect
96. The chemical breakdown of a substance by yeasts or some bacteria, etc – Fermentation
97. Extreme fear from strangers – Xenophobia
98. One who studies the past through objects left behind – Archaeologist
99. To crossover from one side of the wide river to another without using boat, what is usually required? – A bridge
100. A fishes where fishes are kept – Aquarium
101. What general part of the day is known as dawn? – A sunrise
102. What is a painting of a person’s head is called? – A portrait
103. Where do we find urban area in a city or country side? – In a city
104. What we call it, when moon completely blocks out the light from the sun? – A solar eclipse / an eclipse
105. What point of the compass is directly opposite east? – West
106. Who cuts men’s hair? – Barber
107. What plan shows how much money is available and how it will be spent? – Budget
108. A plant or animal growing on another – Parasite
109. What is the name of ground military forces? – Army
110. What is someone that can’t see called? – Blind
111. What do you call the middle of something? – Centre
112. Whose job is it to treat people that are ill or have an injury at a hospital? – Doctor
113. What is the process of teaching and learning called? – Education
114. What kind of book is written by a person about their own life? – Autobiography
115. What is the red liquid that flows through a body? – Blood
116. What is the payment of a student’s education by an organization called? – scholarship
117. What is piece of paper with official information written on it? – document
118. What is the name of a building where you can borrow books? – library
119. Who is a person that makes bread, cakes and pastries? – baker
120. What organ controls your speech, feelings, body movement and thoughts? – brain