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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, what to prep for, and what to expect.

1. Know your target score

To understand your preparation needs for PTE Academic, 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. The Scored Practice Test Score Report also 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 guide to scoring to see an estimate of how your scores on these tests map to the 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 single one of our tests is marked accurately, consistently, and fairly.

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 it is over or significantly under the word limit for a particular item type.

  • The quality of your response is represented in the enabling skills. For example, if you are asked to verbally re-tell a lecture, your response will be scored on skills such as oral fluency and pronunciation.

As well as scoring your overall performance, we break down your scores for:

  • Communicative skillsspeaking, writing, reading, and listening

  • Enabling skills grammar, oral fluency, pronunciation, spelling, vocabulary, and written discourse

Questions testing communicative skills test either specific sub-skills or a combination of them, such as reading & speaking; or speaking & listening. Each question contributes to the score for that particular communicative skill.

Questions that contribute to enabling skills give you an indicator of your strength on these skills but aren’t used for admissions purposes.

Pearson’s Official Guide to PTE Academic offers in-depth expert guidance in support of your test and how to maximise 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 enabling skills.

4. Choose your preparation resources

Explore our official prep 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 preparation segment of our blog is a great resource for tips and expert advice 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

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