PTE General: ensuring quality and fairness while meeting international standards

Ensuring Fairness PTE General international standards

Pearson Test of English (PTE) General tests real-world English. It offers English language learners the opportunity to work towards competence in the core skills of reading, writing, listening and speaking and also demonstrate their level of English with a fully-accredited and internationally recognized qualification.

The test is aimed at students who want to achieve a high quality English language qualification. It is recommended for learners aged 14 and up.

For younger students see the Pearson Test of English Young Learners exam.

How is the exam structured?

PTE General covers six levels, including; A1, 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. It is carefully designed to test practical skills and language functions that students need in their everyday social, academic and professional lives.

Across two exams (a written test and an oral test) candidates must complete tasks with practical applications, including message writing, comprehension of articles, understanding presentations and taking part in conversations. Tests are organized thematically, and topics carry across the different skills being tested, such as listening and reading, or reading and writing.

In lower levels, students are generally tested on familiar themes like family, home and shopping. As the levels progress, themes become more complex and cover areas like the environment and pollution.

Read more about PTE General in this introduction post.

How is the exam standardized?

PTE General is offered in partnership with Edexcel Limited, a UK awarding body for academic and vocational qualifications and is accredited in England, Wales and Northern Ireland by Ofqual, the Welsh Assembly Government and CEA, ensuring that it meets international standards. The qualification is accepted by places of work, universities and education authorities in many countries as proof of a student’s level of English. Students who need a qualification for immigration purposes should take PTE Academic.

The levels of the PTE General are aligned with the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). This framework establishes levels of language proficiency through standardized competencies in listening, reading, speaking and writing on a six-level scale; A1–A2 (Basic User), B1–B2 (Independent User), C1–C2 (Proficient User).

PTE General corresponds to the CEFR accordingly:


How do test centers ensure accessibility?

Candidates with physical or learning difficulties can be catered to on a case-by-case basis.

While the content of the test will not be altered and no unfair advantage can be given to candidates, the format of the test and the physical environment of the test center can be adapted to allow easier access to the test.  Up-to-date medical evidence must submitted to Pearson within the deadline for accessibility options to be approved.

Candidates can be given:

  • A maximum of 25% extra time to take the test
  • Colored overlays
  • Low vision aids
  • Amplification equipment
  • Supervised rest breaks
  • Separate invigilation
  • Transcripts where a test taker’s handwriting is illegible

See the Test Center Handbook for further accessibility options.

How do test centers ensure fairness?

Pearson has a number of strict guidelines when it comes to preventing cheating. Controls are in place to ensure question papers are not opened before the day of the test – and test papers should be opened in the presence of the test takers when possible. CDs and other materials should be kept in a secure location, preferably locked in a safe until test day.

If confidential materials are opened in advance of the test, they must be kept securely and should not be removed from the test center under any circumstances.

See the Test Center Handbook or visit the resource section on the website for further information and guidelines.

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