Everything You Need To Know About PTE Academic Vocabulary

Vocabulary refers to the words and phrases you use. Having a wide range of vocabulary that you can use flexibly and comfortably is a core skill that will enable you to score well on test day.  In this article we will take a look at what kind of vocabulary you need to score well in the PTE Academic exam, as well as tips on how to improve your vocabulary.

Here is a detailed look at what you will find in this article:

What Kind Of Vocabulary Do I Need For The PTE Academic Exam

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. Having a wide enough range of vocabulary is crucial to score well in the reading section, the listening section, for writing a good essay, and for being able to speak impressively in the speaking test. Therefore, expanding your vocabulary should be an integral part of your PTE preparation

Many students make the mistake of thinking that you need to use long, complicated words to score well in the PTE Academic exam. This is not the case. You just need to use the right words correctly. You must also be able to spell them correctly.

How To Improve Your Vocabulary

It takes about 15-20 exposures to a new word for it to become part of your vocabulary. Here are some methods you can use to widen your range of vocabulary.  

1. Read often

One of the best ways to improve your vocabulary is to source words through active reading, instead of just memorising lists of words. Doing this will give you a better understanding of how a word should be used. 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. Read about things that interest you. The more you read the more you will be exposed to new and uncommon vocabulary that is used in a natural-sounding way.

2. Try To Understand A Word’s Meaning Through Context

Try and work out what they mean from the context. Practice using them repeatedly until you can use them in a natural way. Record new words and phrases in a way that’s easy for revision. Make sure that you jot down a few sentences that include the word or phrase to show its meaning and in what situation you could use it. Remember to practice its pronunciation as well.

3. Use Dictionaries And A Thesaurus

Once you have done tried to understand a word meaning through context, you can look up the word in a dictionary. I think it’s best to use online dictionaries like Collins or Longmans since these dictionaries offer a wide variety of useful phrases and synonyms related to each word.

A dictionary will give you the definition of a word and if you use an online dictionary, you will also have the option to hear the pronunciation. You might also be able to translate the word into your native language. However, it is important to note that simply looking up a word in the dictionary will not be enough to ensure that a word is stored in your long-term memory.

4. Create A Vocabulary bank

Many of the topics in the speaking section of PTE Academic relate to academic topics. Work to build academic vocabulary that will help you better understand the items and respond to them more easily.

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.

When you learn new words, make sure that they are common topic-related words. You should also choose words that can be used in lots of different situations.

You should include more than just the word and meaning. Apart from just recording the word, you should note:

  • Meaning
  • Pronunciation
  • Synonyms
  • Collocations
  • Idioms related to the word/phrase
  • The tense or grammatical structure of the word or phrase.

For example if you were noting down the meaning of a word like the problem, you would note it down as follows:

Word: problem

1. noun      /ˈprɒb.ləm/

2. Meaning: a situation, person or things considered to be unwelcome or harmful and needing to be dealt with, overcome or solved.

3. Examples:

I’m having a problem with my car.

The problem of how to dispose of waste plastic has become a major global concern.

4. Synonyms: issue, dilemma

5. Idioms: 

5a. Root of the problem

Meaning: The underlying cause or basis of a problem.

Example: We can’t start working on a solution until we get to the root of the problem.

5b. Teething problems

Meaning: Short-term problems that occur in the early stages of a new project or situation.

Example: Although the new design is now in full production, there were some teething problems with the manufacturing process.

Make sure that you jot down a few sentences that include the word or phrase to show its meaning and in what situation you could use it. Remember to practice its pronunciation as well. You will be more likely to remember and internalize the new words by doing this.

If you learn just five new words every day for five days a week, you will add nearly 100 new words to your vocabulary each month.

5. Listen To Native Speakers

Apart from reading you can also try listening to native speakers in order to understand how certain words are pronounced. Watch or short video clips on YouTube or ted talks with English subtitles. Keep an ear out for those words which are new to you and listen especially to how difficult words are pronounced. You can also go through the transcript to understand how these words are used in context as well as learn about their spelling.

6. Use New Words In Your Conversations

Practice using the new word repeatedly until you can use them in a natural way.  Try incorporating them into your daily conversations. The best way to remember words is to use them! Doing this will also help you improve your fluency and confidence as well.

What Are Collocations?

A collocation is just a common grouping of words that native English speakers use. There is no real reason behind these groupings. A good example of this is the phrase ' fast food'. We wouldn’t say 'quick food' even though the words quick and fast mean exactly the same thing. Some other common collocations include 'heavy rain, strong coffee' etc.

Common types of collocations

1. Adjective + Noun

Correct: deep sleep

Incorrect: low sleep

2. Noun + Noun

Correct: round of applause

Incorrect: group of applause

3. Noun + Verb

Correct: cats purr, dogs bark

Incorrect: cats bark, dogs purr

4. Adverb + Adjective

Correct: fully aware

Incorrect: outright aware

Pearson’s has an official collocations list of 2496 collocations which can be downloaded from their official website.

However, it can be quite difficult to memorize long lists of collocations, which is why I recommend learning them through active reading. When you read try to pay attention to which words are naturally combined together. Take note of the different patterns and as you read make a note of the different word types. Try to find all the nouns or verbs etc.

When you do memorize or learn new collocations, make sure you practice using them, by jotting down a few sentences. This will make it easier to commit them to memory.

What Are Idioms?

An idiom (also called idiomatic expression) is an expression, word, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is conventionally understood by native speakers. Their meanings are different from the literal meaning of the idiom's individual words. Example, it's a piece of cake or don't jump the gun.

The use of idioms during your speaking test can help you to sound more like a native speaker, but be careful, if you use them incorrectly, they may actually lower your score!

Unfamiliar Words

What Happens If You Come Across Words That You Don’t Understand During Your PTE Exam?

Many students panic during the reading test because despite improving their vocabulary, they still come across difficult and unfamiliar words. It is impossible to learn every possible word that could appear in your test, which is why it is also important to practice trying to understand the meaning of unfamiliar words by reading in context. It might surprise you to know that most native English speakers do not understand every single word that we come across. We actually just make an educated guess about what that word means. To do this one has to look at the words and sentences around the word you don't know so you can make an educated guess as to what it means. It is also important to identify what type of word you are dealing with, as in is it a noun, a verb or an adjective? The words surrounding the unfamiliar word will always give you clues about this. For example, an article like a or an is followed by a noun, adjectives and nouns often appear together. A good understanding of sentence structure can aid in your understanding of the type of word you are dealing with.

Question Specific Vocabulary

Certain questions require certain types of vocabulary. The speaking describe image is one such question.

Vocabulary For The Describe Image Question

There are different types of words and phrases that can be used for different types of images.

It’s important to familiarise yourself with the vocabulary related to the different types of common images present for this question type.

Let's take a look at some useful types of words that can be used for the common types of images.

a. Verbs and Nouns

For line graphs, being able to describe, you will have to report the main features as well as make comparisons between different sets of data. You have mention periods of stability, upward or downward trends, or periods of instability (fluctuations in the graph or charts) To do this you need to have proper knowledge of which vocabulary to use for different types of changes To do that you can either use verbs or nouns:

I’ve compiled an easy-to-understand table, that contains synonyms for commonly seen trends that appear in the academic writing task.

You can always make the above-mentioned verbs and nouns sound more engaging by adding the correct adjective or adverb to go along with it. Remember that adjectives follow nouns and verbs are usually paired with adverbs.

There are also other instances when it is difficult to determine the exact figures mentioned in the graph. In such cases, you might have to use approximations instead.

Here are some useful approximations vocabulary that can be used for line graphs and bar charts

b. Time Connectors:

Since a process is a series of events, one taking place after the other, you will need to connect your stages, you should use ‘ time connector linking words '. Time connectors are linking words that signal that a sequence is being followed, such as:

  • To begin
  • Following this
  • Next
  • Then
  • After
  • After that
  • Before
  • Subsequently
  • Finally

c. Location and Place Vocabulary

For some describe images you will be given an image of a map. The map might be of a large area of a continent or a smaller location. For these types of questions, you will need to be able to describe these locations and the key features within them.

You will also need to be familiar with key vocabulary such as.

  • near
  • between
  • next to
  • beside
  • in front of
  • across
  • turn right
  • turn left
  • go straight on
  • head south
  • head north
  • north
  • south
  • east
  • west
  • At the bottom of
  • Clockwise/ Anticlockwise
  • Just next to/ Adjoining
  • In between
  • At the end of
  • On your left/ right
  • Opposite/ In front of
  • Over the …
  • Above
  • Downstairs
  • The next lane
  • In the southwest/ northeast
  • Left-hand side/ right-hand side
  • Facing …
  • Take a left/ right
  • Go straight up

Other questions that require summaries like summarize spoken text or summarize written text require a working knowledge of connectors.

What Are Connectives?

Connectives are words or phrases that connect and relate sentences and paragraphs.

They help to build the logical flow of ideas as they signal the relationship between sentences and paragraphs. Without them, both your written and spoken sentences will sound disjointed and illogical.

It's important to be able to understand the meaning and function of each of these words or phrases and how they will bind the information that you provide in your answer responses.

Here is a list of common connectives and their functions