PTE Academic Exam Preparation Tips

Recently complete my PTE Academic exam and spent few weeks preparing for the same. I did much research and search before the exam and would love to take this opportunity to share my research with other fellow students learning for PTE exam before making it for the big day. I will try to include all the resources, tips, and techniques that I used to study here. If you would like to learn more about what to do and what not to, let me know.

A basic introduction about  PTE academic exam

PTE Academic (Pearsons Test of English) is  a popular choice for both students and residency applicants to fulfil their criteria of English competency like the IELTS exam. In my personal opinion after attempting both the tests, I found PTE to be quite consistent and slightly easier in practically achieving the score you might want to. Based on your score in each of the sections, you are awarded points towards your residency application and this could really be a game changer. For example, you get 20 points for 8 points each in every section, 10 points for 7 each in each section etc.

The exam tests 4 sections of your English skills

  • Reading, Writing, Speaking, Listening

And the questions in each of these sections are placed through a combination of tasks that includes several tasks. The most important tasks for each section which I can remember are:

PART 1: SPEAKING & WRITING (77 – 93 minutes)

  • Personal Introduction
  • Read aloud
  • Repeat sentence
  • Describe image
  • Re-tell lecture
  • Answer short question
  • Summarise written text
  • Essay (20mins)

PART 2: READING (32 – 41 minutes)

  • Fill in the blanks
  • Multiple choice questions
  • Re-order paragraphs
  • Fill in the blanks
  • Multiple choice questions

A ten-minute break is optional

PART 3: LISTENING (45 – 57 minutes)

  • Summarise spoken text
  • Multiple choice questions
  • Fill the blanks
  • Highlight the correct summary
  • Multiple choice questions
  • Select missing word
  • Highlight incorrect words
  • Write from dictation

Recommended preparation approach & materials

There are several books and resources available as of today in the market for the PTE exam and with limited time it makes it crucial to choose just the right preparation and materials. Below are the key resources I have used to prepare for my PTE Academic exam and it worked out fairly well.

Basic English grammar, spelling, and vocabulary preparation:

I can’t really stress enough on the importance of this part of your PTE exam preparation. Start with the basics and avoid jumping on to the books straight away! Identify the most common spelling mistakes you could make and practice them writing (I’ve compiled a list of common spelling mistakes here). Try practicing reading, speaking and also writing especially with the right grammar usage and spellings. In addition, I also recommend practicing with Grammarly add on installed on your browser that points out basic grammar and spelling mistakes while free writing.

Books and reading material for preparation

pte academic practice test plus bookThe only book I used for the preparation of the PTE academic exam was the PTE Academic practice test plus, this book gives you an overall idea about the exam, the different sections, the strategies and tips to use in each section, and finally 3 practice tests that with the expected answer keys (also includes a CD ROM). The book prepares you in general for the exam and you will know where you stand with respect answering real questions when at the exam and what is expected of you. If you manage to thoroughly complete this book, then as additional reading, I also recommend the Macmillan PTE Academic Testbuilder, which again gives you a better grip on the exam.

YouTube Videos I used for the exam and found immensely helpful

Below are 4 YouTube videos that I found to be really practical and very helpful for PTE Academic exam and these were the only videos I really watched over and over to gain practical tips to tackle questions when constrained by time.

Practice Exams and More Practice

Can’t stress enough on two important aspects of the preparation – 1. getting accustomed to the exam format 2. timing your efforts and practicing. After practicing with the PTE academic practice test plus, Mcmillan test builder (if possible), then I recommend registering for the official scored PTE practice test online. These exams are priced at $39 USD (when am writing this post), was immensely helpful for me as it gave me a very realistic gauging of where I stand after my preparation as per PTE standards. In fact, the exams were an eye opener helping me realize the area I had to improve on.

In addition to the actual practice test online, the login gives you couple of questions in different formats helping you prepare and understand the other types of questions in various categories. Find the sample questions, interface and the results from my first online scored test.

pte online practice scored test interface
(above) the online login you purchase gives you online practice tests, sample questions and also a result section to see where you scored well and what requires improvement
different question options
(above) The login & account also gives you samples of other timed questions that lets you understand how to face the music while at the real exam place.
online scored test results
(above) the first scored test result after all the preparation shows which area you need to improve. For me, it was clearly the “reading” section and after this, all my efforts were in improving the questions including fill in the blanks, multiple choice and read aloud.


Tricky Areas of the exam that needs attention

There are a few areas of this exam that you need to be really prepared for no matter how good your English skills and confidence levels are. They are the explain the diagram, fill in the blanks, multiple choice sections and reorder paragraphs.

Tips for the Speaking / Explain the Graph Section

In my first PTE attempt, I scored horribly in this section and found it REALLY hard to crack this one as each time the graph, diagram, process etc. was different and complex. Later during my first practice test and with some online tips, I tried out something different. Whatever the graph was I created a pattern and strictly stuck to the pattern and below are the rules that helped me get full marks in the graph bit of the reading sections:

  • REMEBER this is a test of SPEAKING and not your analytical skills
  • Ensure to have a flow in speaking even if you are not explaining the graph 100% correct
  • Remember to start with an Intro of what the graph is about, what’s on x-axis and what’s on y.
  • Explain the highest, lowest and trends if any.
  • Conclude with a simple note. Also include words like in comparison, in contrast, on the other hand etc.
  • Also, view the below video, will help.

Fill in the Blanks / Choose right word

Practice this really well. Basically, this is deep rooted to pure English grammar and how good the sentence sounds with the right word. Practice well and get your grammar basics, tenses etc. all right and should be fine to judge the right word even if you don’t really know the meaning you can eliminate and answer other questions. Do not leave any options blank as you are losing mark there.

Multiple Choice – Choose one / Choose Multiple right answers

The main key in this one is to ensure you do not have to read the paragraphs multiple times. That means, read the question once, then read the paragraph once and then you can read answers multiple times as it does not take much time. Also, remember that this section can get you negative mark if wrongly answered, so choose the right one.

Reorder paragraphs

This one used to be so hard until I discovered the tip that you have to simply look at each paragraph and see if the paragraph is referring to any other paragraph / sentence or any person, incident mentioned in other paragraphs (this city, the emperor etc.) Then choosing the order becomes simple, see the below video you will get it right easy.