Pearson Test of English (PTE) General Reading Paper contains four parts, which are identical across all levels of the exam. This includes a gap-fill multiple choice section, a graphical multiple choice section, an open-ended question section, and a note-taking section.
How, though, can we provide our students with strategies that allow them to perform to the best of their ability in each of these sections?
Read on to explore six reading strategies that you can teach your students to help them succeed in the PTE General Reading Paper, regardless of the level they are sitting.
Strategy #1: Highlight key words in the questions
It might sound simple enough, but get your students into the habit of underlining key words in the questions before they read the text. By unpacking and analyzing the questions, your learners will not just be able to better understand what the question is asking, but will also be able to use these key words to identify the section of the text containing the correct answer.
Key words include question words, nouns and verbs, and once students have identified these in the questions, you can have learners use them to find the sections in the text with the correct answers. This strategy can be applied not just to the open-ended questions, but also to the multiple-choice questions in the Reading Paper.
Strategy #2: Paraphrase ideas in the text
While identifying key words in questions may be enough to help your students who are taking a lower level PTE General Reading Paper, it’s important to remember that at higher levels, answers are likely to be paraphrased versions of the question.
Therefore, it’s important to train your students to not only use key words in the questions to locate the correct part of the text, but to also be able to understand the ideas contained within that section.
This skill can be developed by either having students create summaries of reading texts using their own words, or by designing gap-fill activities based on your own summaries of reading texts, with learners then choosing from a bank of words to complete the summary correctly. See our Paraphrasing, a necessary skill? article for more ideas.
Strategy #3: Analyze the text for implied meaning & purpose
In several sections of the Reading Paper, students will be tested on their ability to identify information that is explicitly mentioned in the text. However, for other sections, including the open-ended questions, students will be asked to look for implied ideas.
In order to prepare your students to better analyze these texts, train them to identify what type of text they are reading, and, in their own words, explain why they think the author has written it.
Then to further develop their ability to analyze the text for inferred meaning, instruct your learners to identify key details in the text, and discuss what these details all have in common. Once they are able to find a connection between these key details, get them to find and underline evidence in the text that further supports these ideas.
Strategy #4: Predict answers based on previous knowledge
Whether looking for answers that are either explicitly or implicitly mentioned in the reading texts, you can still train your students to predict answers to questions in the exam. This can be done by examining the type of text (as mentioned above), but can also be done by having the students use their own vocabulary and grammar knowledge to review the options.
For example, in the gap-fill multiple-choice sections, have students look at the vocabulary and grammar on either side of the gap to predict what type of phrase is missing. By identifying these key words in the text, they can use their own grammar and vocabulary knowledge to review the multiple-choice options and choose the correct one.
For an extra challenge, get your students to predict what type of word is missing before looking at the options. Students can eliminate some of the choices immediately if they read a text more carefully before checking the multiple-choice options.
Strategy #5: Ensure answers are concise
Encourage your students to save time in the Reading Paper by writing concise answers to the open-ended questions.
First, instruct them to underline key sections of the text, and then use these words and phrases to provide not just a concise answer, but an answer that is also directly related to the question.
If the questions are confusing your students and leading them to write longer answers (especially in the note-completion section), have them change note prompts into questions, and have them use these questions to better understand the information they need to identify in the text.
Strategy #6: Double-check answers make sense
Finally, once your students have completed all the questions in the Reading Paper, train them to go back through the exam and check their answers make sense, both in terms of meaning and grammar.
First, in the multiple-choice sections, encourage students to make sure that the options they’ve chosen match the meaning in the text. If it contradicts the text, then the students will need to choose another option.
Second, whether it’s a multiple choice question or an open-ended question, make sure that answers are grammatically correct. For open-ended questions, train students to use parts of the text to structure their answers, reducing the risk of unnecessary mistakes. If it’s a multiple choice question, does the selected option make grammatical sense?
To train your students’ ability to recognize grammatical patterns, use online platforms such as Kahoot! to create multiple-choice quizzes in which students have to look for the grammatically correct option.
By training your students to identify what type of word or phrase is needed in the gap, their confidence in answering the multiple-choice sections will improve significantly.
If you would like to read more about the PTE General exam, there are a number of useful resources on the PTE General website where you will find guides, practice tests and sample exams which you can download for use in your class.