PTE Young Learners: Preparing for the oral test

PTE YL oral test

Younger learners may find speaking in English comes easily to them, more so than reading and writing. However, they need to be well-prepared and familiar with what they have to do in order to be successful in an exam. Let’s take a look at a few ways we can prepare our students for the Pearson Test English (PTE) Young Learners oral test and have some fun along the way!

The Test

The PTE Young Learners oral test includes two speaking tasks that have an emphasis on real-life communication. Throughout the four levels, the format of the speaking tasks remains the same, with questions and topics suitable for each level and age group.

Learners take the oral test in groups of five, with one examiner, who gives instructions and assesses the learners.

The first speaking task consists of a Question and Answer activity played as a board game. In their group of five, students take turns to throw a dice and move around the board/cards. When they land on a square, they read out a question which they should direct at another student, who then responds. Each question has a corresponding picture, which helps scaffold the task and give clues to what the question means.

In the second task, each student gives a short talk about a topic. Students take turns to pick a topic card and then talk about the topic for one minute. The other students in the group then ask questions related to the topic.

For both parts of the test students are assessed on their vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation.

For more information on all parts of the test, see PTE Young Learners Resources, where you can download guides and past papers for each level.

Classroom Activities

There are lots of ways in which you can prepare your learners for the test in class. The game-like format of the speaking test makes practicing the tasks an ideal end-of-lesson activity. Here are a few ideas:

Play board games

Playing board games will allow learners to get used to the functional language they will need to play games, e.g. It’s your turn. / Where’s the dice?

It will also give them plenty of practice in counting the squares in English, which they are expected to do in the test. You can use traditional board games, games designed for English language learners, or make your own.

Include questions on familiar topics such as family, clothes, or vacations (See the PTE Test Guides for detailed information about topics, vocabulary, and grammar structures for each level).

Make collaborative board games

Young learners love to make things so why not have them make their own board games and cards? Put students in groups to make a board game for the other groups to play. You can provide a board template and have them write questions and draw pictures in the squares.

Make sure you have students write a rough draft of their questions first, so you can check for any errors. It can be useful to write example questions and prompts on the board as a guide, e.g. What (sports) do you play at school? How often do you …?  Depending on the level, students will need to include questions in a variety of Present / Past / Future tenses.

Use student pictures

To prepare for the short talk, give students plenty of practice at speaking for one minute. One way of making this more engaging is by having the students choose their own topics by talking about pictures they have drawn or taken.

If students have mobile phones, you can ask them to choose a photo from the gallery and talk about it to a partner. If mobile phones are not an option, have them bring in some photos from home. These could be pictures taken on vacation, at birthday parties, or other celebrations. You could also write a list of topics on the board and have each student choose one and draw a picture to illustrate it.


  • Make sure students are used to playing board games and know rules and functional language
  • Practice turn taking and asking/answering questions regularly
  • Encourage students to listen carefully to questions and to read them thoroughly, paying attention to the verb forms used. They should aim to use the same verb form in their answer
  • Give learners practice speaking in one-minute turns
  • Use your course book unit topic to include similar speaking tasks in lessons
  • Make a set of laminated picture cards for students to practice both parts of the test
  • Write questions and topics on popsicle sticks or cards for fast finishers

The key to good test preparation is to make it a part of your regular lessons, rather than something you do in just the weeks before the test. The more familiar your students are with the tasks, the more relaxed they will be on the day of the test.

To find sample tests for all four levels, visit the PTE Young Learners Resources page.

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