PTE Young Learners: Preparing for Breakthrough (Level 4)

Prepare for PTE YL Breakthrough

Pearson Test of English (PTE) Young Learners is designed for students aged 6-13. It assesses their understanding and use of real-life, practical English.

Each of the four different exam levels (Firstwords, Springboard, Quickmarch and Breakthrough) integrates listening, reading, writing, and speaking skills, with an emphasis on completing fun communicative tasks in age-appropriate contexts.  

For further information, read An Introduction to Pearson Test of English Young Learners or visit the PTE Young Learners website.    

Breakthrough (Level 4)

  • Exam time: 1 hour 35 minutes
  • Equivalent CEFR Level: A2

Download Guide to PTE Young Learners – Breakthrough (Level 4)

Who is it for?

PTE Young Learners Breakthrough is the highest level qualification of the four on offer, and is aimed at learners with a CEFR Level of A2. The test gives students the opportunity to use language related to describing sensations and purpose, giving instructions and offering explanations. Along with expressing their own opinions and dealing with hypothetical situations.

How is it structured?

The test is divided into two papers; a written part which lasts for 1 hour and 15 minutes, and a separate spoken part, which lasts 20 minutes.

The initial written paper is divided into six sections, which are designed to test the students’ listening, reading, and writing skills. The spoken paper contains two tasks where the students engage in conversation with the examiner, and four other test takers.

Download the guide to PTE Young Learners – Breakthrough for a more in depth look at the exam format, a description of the task types and an overview of the scoring.

Four low preparation activities to do in class

1. Listening

In task one of the Written Paper, the candidates listen to a conversation and answer multiple choice questions, choosing the picture which relates best to what they hear. This activity is designed to help your students get used to following the details of a story or conversation.

Prepare a very short story of around 8-10 sentences, with some dialogue. The content of the story should include some common exam topics, such as a birthday party or holiday, along with a mixture of present, perfect, and past tenses.

Give out a “storyboard” style worksheet to each student containing 8 blank squares.

Read out the story to the class one section at a time, and the students need to draw what they hear. For example; Anna has gone to the cinema to meet Kirsty. Give them around 2-3 minutes to quickly draw each part.

After the story is complete, and all 8 squares have been filled, stick all of the stories around the room so the students can compare their answers and artwork with each other.

Ask them to retell the story as accurately as possible, using their pictures as a guide. Or alternatively, ask them to write it down and expand upon it, giving more details, reasons, and explanations for the character’s actions.

2. Reading

Task five of the Written Paper is a gap fill activity designed to test the young learners’ understanding of vocabulary and grammar in context. This activity will help your students become familiar with recognizing common functional words which are often used in this part of the exam.

Prior to the class prepare 20 sentence cards which include a single missing word. These should be done in pairs, so two cards will both contain the same missing word. For example: Kirsty and I ________ been busy today and What __________ you eaten this morning? Commonly used words in this task are auxiliary verbs, prepositions, going to or will, and if (conditionals).

In pairs, students take turns in choosing two of the cards, turning them over, and completing the sentences verbally. They get to keep the cards if the two they have chosen contain the same missing word, if not they replace them. The winner has the most cards at the end.

This can also be turned into a faster game of Snap! when the students are more familiar with the missing words and structures.

3. Writing

In the final task of the Written Paper, the test takers need to write a 75 word story. This is structured using 6 pictures, and marks are given for accurate use of narrative tenses and a coherent linking of ideas. This activity will help your students develop their story writing and language use.

In a previous class, ask your students to each bring in two photographs from home, or if they have mobile phones, choose some from their image galleries.

Put students in groups of three. Tell them that they are going to use their six pictures to write a story.

The personalized photos will give them ideas of different characters and places to mention, and doing this in groups will help those who don’t have the confidence yet to write a story by themselves.

Alternatively, if your students have problems with using some of the narrative tenses or linking structures accurately, model some common language first by using six pictures of your own and developing a story as a whole class.

4. Speaking

In the second part of the Spoken Test, learners have to talk for a minute about a topic related to themselves, and then answer questions about what they say from the other test takers. This activity is designed to help the students get used to talking continuously and confidently for that length of time.

Prepare some topic cards for use in the game, such as My Future Job or Likes and Dislikes at School and divide the class into two or three teams.

One student takes a card and has to talk for a minute about that topic to the class. They begin with 10 points, and lose a point for any repetition, deviation from the theme, or prolonged hesitation.

At the end of the minute, the rest of the class has the opportunity to ask questions about what the student said, getting a point for their own teams for each good question asked. The student answering the questions has the opportunity here to reclaim any points they might have lost for strong answers too.

Repeat until every student has had the opportunity to take part, and encourage them to give opinions and express preferences as this is key to gaining good marks overall.

Alternatively, if your students don’t have the confidence to do this yet, lower the time limit to 20 or 30 seconds, and slowly build up to talking from a whole minute over several classes.

Discover practice tests and other resources on the PTE Young Learners website.

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