Success in PTE General

Studying for Pearson Test of English (PTE) General is a challenge for any student, but as a teacher there are many different areas where you can help your students achieve top grades.

By familiarizing them with the test format, equipping them with test-taking strategies and raising awareness of commonly occurring vocabulary and topics, you can guide them on the path to success in the PTE General exam.

Know the test

Understanding the test format and what to expect in each section of the exam will give students the confidence they need on test day.

Drill them on how many sections there are, how long they have for each section, and the order of the sections too. This will help them anticipate what’s coming next and feel prepared throughout the exam. For example, in Listening section 2 – dictation, the recording is played twice. If students are aware of this, they can use the first recording to note key ideas and the second to complete the dictation fully.

Give your students plenty of practice under test conditions. Do timed mock exams, without phones or dictionaries, to help students get a feel of what the real test will be like.

As the Speaking section is done simultaneously for all candidates, get your students used to expressing themselves in loud environments. Doing mock exams for the Writing sections will also help students become aware of their word count and how long it takes to achieve this. It’s important to note that each writing task has a word limit and there are penalties for being significantly above or below.

Learn test strategies

Knowing the format of the test is important, but so too is equipping your students with test-taking strategies. For all sections, train students to use the questions and rubric to their advantage. Underlining the keywords from the question will help them prepare for the task ahead and predict potential answers.

In the Listening sections, students are given ten seconds before the recording is played. Instruct them to identify and underline keywords and use this time to predict the topic and vocabulary of the recording. Remind students that even if they think they have the answer, they need to listen carefully to the entire recording, as it’s also likely that some of the keywords will be used as distractors.

It’s also helpful to highlight key words in the prompts and questions in the Reading sections too. For example, when dealing with multiple choice questions like in section 5, students should first highlight key words from the question, then scan the text for these keywords. This is the part of the text where the answer is located, and where they should direct their attention. It’s important to read this section of the text carefully and also be aware that the answer may be paraphrased or a synonym.

Planning is crucial in the Writing sections and highlighting key words from the question is an important planning step. Read the task carefully and identify the words that indicate the type of writing that is required and the audience. This will help guide the writing style and register. For example, in section 8, noticing the difference between writing a letter to a friend and a letter to a magazine editor will change the tone of the task.

Build a strong lexical base

Prepare your students further by building a strong grammar and vocabulary base with topical and functional language. Use the Functions and Notions documents in the resources section of the website to check which language they need for each level. This is what students are expected to know at Level 2.

Introduce students to a wide range of themes on social and current issues, as well personal and familiar topics. Encourage them to keep a note of useful vocabulary and phrases and test themselves on these regularly, making a note of the spelling, as this is essential in all sections of the exam.

Students will encounter gapfill style tasks in both the Listening and Reading sections. By reading around the gap, students can predict what kind of word is missing. Train your students to consider what part of speech the answer will be, and if the other words in the sentence give clues to the topic or theme. Give them plenty of practice with word formation so they can easily identify the missing information.

During the Speaking and Writing sections, higher points are awarded for complex structures and expressions. Provide learners with functional language such as discourse markers and linkers, so they can connect and extend their ideas. It’s also important to have a range of language they draw on to express their opinions, offer suggestions and to give reasons. This will help give their answers complexity and depth.

By providing students with a solid knowledge base of the exam format and structure, coaching them to use different test-taking strategies and directing their study of vocabulary and grammar, they can work more efficiently and confidently toward their goal of passing the PTE General exam.

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.

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