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How SMART goals can help your PTE students succeed

PTE students are highly ambitious. Most of them are studying for the PTE exam with the aim of moving to a new country to work or study. They will need to achieve a certain score on their report to be able to apply for the university course they want to do, or get their visa approved.  

These are big goals – so how can you support your students in achieving their ambitions? SMART goals are one way of helping your students to succeed.  

What are SMART goals?  

SMART goals have been around since the 1980s. Originally used in a business context, they can be applied to any long-term goals or ambitions such as learning a language. SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely, and they can provide students with a structured approach towards exam preparation, helping them to develop and design a study plan. Using SMART goals will help them to systematically monitor their progress towards achieving the PTE score that they need. With the help of SMART goals, students will be able to measure their language abilities and identify opportunities for improvement on their PTE journey.  

So, what does a SMART goal look like in the context of learning a language and preparing to sit PTE?  

SMART goals for test takers  

When it comes to language learning, sometimes goals can be vague, i.e. “I want to improve my English.” But, in planning to sit PTE, students have already set themselves a SMART goal:  

Specific – needing to get a certain score on PTE is a very specific goal. 

Measurable – sitting an exam is an excellent way of measuring your language progress.  

Attainable – aiming for a certain score on PTE is a good example of an achievable language learning goal, as opposed to saying, “I want to be fluent in English”. 

Relevant – most PTE students need to pass the exam in order to move forward with their long-term plans, so getting the right PTE score is definitely a goal that is relevant to their lives and ambitions.  

Timely – most students who are studying for PTE have a timeframe in mind. 

Well, your PTE students have already made a good start. But how can you encourage them to set SMART goals as part of their study plan?  

The first step in setting language goals is identifying where students’ areas of weakness are – and this is where you can support them. Within the first class or two, you’ll have developed an idea of what skills your students need to improve in order to achieve the score they need.  

Like all English language tests, when it comes to getting the right score on PTE, a good level of English isn’t enough. Test takers will also need to practice the various task types and create strategies for each task to do well in the exam. Each student’s SMART goals will be personal to them, based on the language skills they need to improve in order to do well in the test.  

An example of a SMART goal for a PTE student  

Imagine you have a student who is preparing for PTE. Their level of English is good and they are doing well in practicing for the Speaking, Reading, and Listening parts of the test. But when it comes to Writing, there are issues.  

The student consistently has difficulty with the Write Essay task in the Speaking and Writing part of PTE. Their writing lacks direction, they struggle to stay on topic and they don’t always get the tone right. So how can they improve their writing the SMART way?  


“By the end of the semester, I will increase my PTE essay writing score by 20% through focusing on my comprehension of the question, my essay plan and the logical development of ideas.” 


What exactly does the student need to do? Specifically, they need to learn to read the question slowly and make sure they understand it. Then, they need to plan and structure their response, before writing a considered essay that follows a logical development of ideas.  


This is an easy goal to measure, as the essay is scored. By giving the student a target to aim for, you will know if they are on track to success. Ask your student to show you their writing practice a couple of times a week. You can mark their essays, correct their mistakes and suggest areas for further improvement.  

Here is a detailed guide to scoring PTE essays.  


Can your student achieve this goal? Can they push their writing to the level they need? You’ll be able to determine that – but, as they are capable of success in Reading and Writing, they should be able to bring their Writing skills up to standard as well.  


Is this goal relevant to the student’s overall ambition? Absolutely – and the type of writing skills tested in PTE Academic will come in useful when writing essays, reports, and professional emails. So, your student will be building a skill set that will last them a lifetime.  


What’s a reasonable timeframe to improve these writing skills? In this case, the student’s goal states that it should be completed by the end of the semester. Other timeframes will depend on when your student is planning to sit PTE and their current ability. Make sure that you help them to set realistic milestones to keep them accountable and ensure steady progress.  

Further reading  

For more advice and resources to help you prepare students for PTE success, download our Preparation Pathway. You can also sign up for one of six free courses which offer effective, practical training on PTE preparation.