While many students eventually become confident speakers of English, some still struggle to develop strong English language writing skills. Unfortunately, it’s a skill that sometimes gets neglected in the classroom, because teachers often favor more communicative activities that they can monitor and give immediate feedback on, like speaking, listening and task-based reading.
Nevertheless, writing is an essential language skill and one that Pearson Test of English (PTE) General examines.
So let’s take a look at the exam and dive into some dynamic activities you can use in the classroom to help your students improve this valuable skill and pass their exam with flying colors!
PTE General Writing Section 8
The writing parts come at the end of the written exam – in sections 8 and 9.
Section 8 involves writing a piece of correspondence; such as an email, a formal or an informal letter. In this they must express their thoughts, describe experiences, feelings and events. The subject matter will be based on the task and information from section 7 of the exam, where students have to complete a detailed reading task and fill in a gapped text.
Students are assessed on a number of criteria, across all levels. In summary, students should have enough vocabulary to express themselves on a range of topics, including family, hobbies and interests, work, travel and current events. They must be able to use the target language for their level accurately, and write a coherent and cohesive text, with accurate spelling, punctuation and an easy-to-follow layout.
You can find some practice tests and guides which include specific examples for each PTE General level on the Pearson website PTE resource section.
Student success in section 8 of the exam will depend on their comprehension of the task in section 7 and their abilities to express themselves clearly.
You can get the students to practice this in class in a number of dynamic ways, using authentic material. Short texts on travel, eating out, reviews, and news stories will all work well.
It’s a good idea to grade authentic texts ahead of time using a language analysis tool like the Global Scale of English (GSE) Teacher Toolkit to identify words and phrases that might be too complex for lower level learners. You can either pre-teach higher level vocabulary, or paraphrase it.
Classroom activity 1 – language maze writing
Before class, choose a level appropriate article on a topic you think will appeal to your students. Print enough copies so there’s one per student plus an extra one for each group. Cut these extra articles into 5 or 6 sections, making sure that the text is divided by paragraphs and that these paragraphs aren’t too long.
During class, split your students into groups; distribute one cut up article per group, making sure each student receives at least one section of the article. They should then read their section and paraphrase it in their own words. Monitor and offer students support.
Once they have done this, they should work together to assemble the paraphrased article in the right order. Afterwards, redistribute the original article, so students have one copy each. Have students check the paraphrased article against the original text and correct the order if necessary. Read the article together in class and ask some basic comprehension questions.
Finally, have students write a piece of correspondence (the word length will depend on student level) relating to the article. This response will vary depending on the article topic. Examples of responses could include:
- An email to a friend describing an experience.
- A letter of complaint or praise to a hotel manager.
- A letter to a newspaper offering an opinion on a recent story.
When marking your students’ work follow the PTE General Score Guide. Ensure students keep to the word limits and work on problem areas in subsequent classes, following up with individual students where necessary.
PTE Writing Section 9
In Section 9 of the PTE General, students must write a short text from their own experiences, knowledge or imagination. This is a piece of free writing (word length will vary according to level) from a choice of two given topics. They may have to produce:
- A factual piece: a blog entry, article, or instructions
- A critical piece: review, report, or essay
- An analytical text: essay, analysis of issue or argument
Classroom activity 2 – wandering writers
Distribute a square white sticker (or post-it note) to each student in your class and have them write a topic that they are interested in on it. Examples could include; travel, the environment, politics, sports, photography, films, etc.
Together, mind map some ideas for some level-appropriate questions the students could ask each other about their topics. Come up with 5-10 questions and leave them on the board. For example:
- What is your topic about?
- How long have you been interested in this?
- What should other people know about it?
- Name something surprising about your topic.
- How can I get involved in this?
Have the students put on their stickers and mingle. They should talk to each person and ask the questions. After you see that students have spoken to most people in class stop them and tell them to form a pair with someone they thought had an interesting topic.
The students should then work together to plan a blog entry (you may adapt the type of writing to suit you students’ needs) based on their partner’s topics. If necessary, let students research their topics online using age-appropriate resources (such as Wikipedia or Schooltube). Once students have finished planning, they should write about their partner’s topic.
As with the Section 8 writing activity, when marking your students’ work be sure to follow the PTE General Score Guide and remind students keep to the word limits.