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How to prepare for PTE Academic

Five-step guide to preparing for PTE Academic & UKVI

If you’re new to PTE or to English proficiency tests, the preparation journey can seem overwhelming.

Our five-step guide will help you plan how much to prepare, and what to prepare for.

1. Know your target score

A good starting point is to understand your current English proficiency level, and the PTE score you need to achieve.

Our Scored Practice Tests will help you to understand the score you could achieve on the real test; in addition, it shows you individual scores for each of the communicative skills (listening, reading, speaking, and writing), so you can see where you might need to improve your skills to get the score you need.

If you’ve recently taken a different English test like IELTS or TOEFL, head over to our scoring guide to see an estimate of how these test scores compare to PTE Academic scores.

2. Know the test format

Take time to familiarize yourself with the structure of PTE Academic. Understanding its format and the types of questions you should expect is crucial to getting a better result.

Check out our guide to the test format or explore each part of the test:

Ask yourself the following questions as you familiarize yourself with the test:

  • Understand quantity: How many parts are included in the test? How many questions?

  • Understand instructions: What task needs to be completed for each question type? How are responses recorded?

  • Length and timing: How long does each part of PTE Academic last? How much time is allowed for each question type?

  • Layout: How is each question presented on screen?

  • Question types: What tasks need to be completed? What skills are assessed? How are responses scored?

3. Understand how the test is scored

All questions in PTE Academic are 100% machine scored, which means that every test is marked accurately, consistently, and fairly. Every test taker is given a score of between 10 and 90, to show their level of English skill.

How are scores given for each question?

Scores for some questions are based on whether they are correct, while others are based on correctness, formal aspects, and the quality of the response.

  • Formal aspects refer to the form of your response: for example, whether your response is significantly over or under the word limit for a particular item type.

  • The quality of your response includes your abilities in areas like oral fluency, pronunciation, and comprehension. We calls this set of abilities your 'Skills Profile'.

What skills are tested in each question?

Questions that test 'communicative skills' (speaking, writing, reading, and listening) will test either individual or a combination of skills. For example, a question may test just reading, or it may test reading & speaking at the same time. Each question contributes to the score for that particular communicative skill. These are shown in more detail in your Score Report.

How will scores be shared with me?

Your scores are compiled in your Score Report and accompanying Skills Profile, which will be shared with you after you complete your exam.

Your Score Report contains the following sections:

  • Overall score – this is your main PTE Academic score, graded between 10 and 90.

  • Communicative Skills – these are the scores you achieved for your proficiency in each of the skills for speaking, writing, reading, and listening. Each skill is also graded between 10 and 90.

Along with your Score Report, you will receive a Skills Profile, which shows how you performed across eight language skill categories, such as 'Short Writing' 'Multiple-skills comprehension', and 'Open Response Speaking and Writing'. Each category has a progress bar to show how well you did.

Each category also offers personalized recommendations to help guide you on how to further improve your English language skills, and help you identify where to focus if you need to work on improving your score.

Want to learn more about scoring? Download our Score Guide for Test Takers.

In addition, Pearson’s Official Guide to PTE Academic offers in-depth expert guidance in support of your test and how to maximize your score (see practice section below).

The drop-down boxes below will help you to understand how the test question types are scored, both for communicative skills and the skills profile. 

4. Choose your preparation resources

Explore our official preparation materials

Now you know more about the score you need to achieve and how the test works, we recommend exploring our range of free and paid PTE Academic preparation materials. We offer our paid digital preparation resources in bundles to suit different learner needs, offering you both choice and savings on individual items.

Get more advice on our blog

The test tips & advice segment of our blog is a great resource for expert guidance on all aspects of test preparation, such as:

  • Reviewing your test performance

  • Understanding the core English skills

  • How to improve your English speaking, listening, writing, and reading skills

Consider a PTE or English language course

If you’re looking for more interactive preparation resources, you might want to consider our range of free online PTE courses. This page also has details on providers of hundreds of other course providers, who offer both online and in-person courses to boost your English skills or knowledge of PTE Academic.

Practice, practice, practice!

Make the most of those spare minutes to practice your skills:

  • Complete short, 5-10 minute practice activities each day to maintain and build your knowledge.

  • Practice speaking English at your home, school or workplace.

  • Join English-speaking groups. They offer the opportunity to practice both speaking and listening skills.

  • Take every opportunity to write in English. For example, sending emails to friends or contacts, or keeping a journal.

  • Read widely from sources like newspapers, magazines, academic journals, and books.

  • Listen to English-speaking media, like television (use English subtitles if available) and radio broadcasts.

  • Observe native speakers and listen to the language used in different contexts.

  • Try our test tips guide for extra support

5. Tips for test day

Make the most of those spare minutes to practice your skills:

Before the test

  • Make sure you have the correct documentation and ID to take with you to the test center.

  • Allow yourself plenty of time to reach the test center.

During the test

  • Read all test instructions carefully.

  • Use correct punctuation for writing tasks: full stops, capital letters, commas, etc.

  • Answer the question. If the question asks you to write or speak about sport, write or speak about ‘sport’ NOT ‘science’.

  • Keep strictly within the word limit you are given for writing tasks.

  • Respond quickly and keep speaking during speaking tasks. The microphone will close after three seconds of silence and will stop recording.

  • Do not spend too much time on a single question.

  • Spend any remaining time available to check your answers.

Preparation resources

Get additional prep with our free online PTE courses, books, and official smartphone app, as well as resources for English language learning, career support, and higher education.

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Free: Online courses

Free online courses to help you master PTE, and listings for local courses

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Free: Official Practice app

Get a personalized study planner and practice activities to practice on the go

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Official coursebooks

Our self-study and classroom coursebooks, with authentic questions and model answers

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Learn English with Pearson

Need to work on your English language skills? Explore Pearson’s range of resources

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Higher Education resources

Access myLab, Mastering & Revel courseware and download our study tools

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Study and career guidance

Improve your revision and study skills with our guides and checklists

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Online personal and professional development

Learn news skills and upskill your career with UK Learns by Pearson

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