PTE General: How the Writing Paper is marked

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writing paper pte general

At all levels of Pearson Test of English (PTE) General there are three sections which count towards the writing mark. Here’s some information on how these sections are graded and some strategies to help prepare your students.

Section 2 – Dictation

In the second part of the written paper, there is a dictation task which is marked for both listening and writing ability. The mark for writing is scored out of five and calculated by comparing the number of words correctly spelt in a student’s dictation to the total number of words in the text.

Here’s how you can help your learners prepare:

  • Do lots of dictation activities. You can find short audio clips online or record them yourself. Give students a copy of the transcript so they can mark their own tasks, or alternatively they can swap with a partner.
  • Train your students to read through their dictations with a critical eye, paying close attention to simple grammatical errors like plurals and verb forms (e.g. third person -s and -ed endings).
  • Remind them to look at the whole text for contextual clues, such as time markers, when they check their work.
  • Have regular spelling tests of commonly misspelled words and dictate sentences with frequently confused words, for example: They’re visiting their cousins in London because they’ve never been there.

Sections 8 and 9

In both the longer writing activities, there’s a maximum of ten points per task. In both sections, three areas are assessed: language control, task completion and meeting formal requirements. There is also one area of assessment which is specific to each part (see below).

Language control

Students are marked out of five in each of the following areas:

  • Range – grammatical and lexical variety
  • Accuracy – grammatical and lexical control
  • Coherence – use of linking words and clear structure of the ideas in the text
  • Orthographic control – spelling, punctuation, use of paragraphs and a clear layout

Here are some tips to help your students improve their marks in language control:

  • Remind students that while their grammatical control is important, they could just as easily lose points for being too cautious and writing with a grammatical and lexical range which is below the expected level.
  • Work on linking words and provide students with a variety of words and phrases they can use to connect ideas and structure their texts.
  • As students move into higher levels, work on topic sentences – these come at the start of a paragraph in more formal texts and helps to summarize the ideas of the paragraph into a single sentence.
  • Just by looking at a piece of writing, you should be able to tell what type of text it is (letter, report, essay, etc.). Remind them first impressions are important for the examiner as well and work on the aesthetic quality of their texts as well as the language.

Task completion

In each section, students are awarded zero, one or two marks in this area. Train students to highlight the information which needs to be included in their text and to make sure they cover the content points in detail to get the best mark possible in this area.

Meeting formal requirements

Students are again given zero, one or two marks for using the appropriate format and keeping to the word limit, so it’s important to train your learners to keep to a strict word count in all their texts.

The total scores for language control, task completion and meeting formal requirements are then calculated to become a mark out of five. The remaining marks come from written interaction (in section 8) or written production (in section 9).

Section 8 – written interaction

In section 8 five marks are available for written interaction. This assesses students ability to select appropriate information from Task 7 and to successfully convey that information in a piece of correspondence, such as a letter or email.

Section 9 – written production

A maximum of five marks are also awarded in section 9 based on students ability to produce a cohesive text. At lower levels, students should write simple texts using basic connectors, then as they move into higher levels, they should start producing more complex language.

You can find more information in the Score Guide, along with sample texts and the rationale for the marks given.

And we always say, “practice makes perfect” – the more writing your students do, the better prepared they’ll be for the exam!

For more writing tips and activities read our article: How to develop writing skills for PTE General.

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