What is the PTE Test?

What is the Pearson PTE Academic Test?

The Pearson Academic and Pearson Academic UKVI are English language exams which are required by schools and governments to demonstrate you can learn effectively in English. These tests are required by most higher education institutions (HEIs) and governments for  students from non-english speaking countries seeking to study abroad in english-speaking countries like the UK, US, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.


Test Format

The PTE Academic tests your English speaking, listening, reading and writing skills in a single 2 hour session. The test requires some security measures, so the test is administered in test centers run by Pearson all over the world. The test center rooms are not massive gymnasiums filled with test-takers, PTE test centers will have no more than 15 seats per room, so you’ll be able to take your test comfortably.


The test is computer based, meaning you’ll have to read and listen to prompts and enter your answers into a computer. 


The test measures what Pearson calls “real life english”. In other words, they try to mimic what you’ll encounter in the real world as closely as possible. Some examples of how they do this is to include speakers with accents and use content from real lectures (instead of some made up script meant to be a lecture). 


The test tries to integrate the different skills (speaking and writing, for example) as much as possible.


Three Sections of the PTE Academic


Section 1: Speaking & Writing

Time: 54 - 67 minutes

Questions: 7 different types of questions


  1. Intro (not scored)

The intro section consists of a single question that is not scored -- you can think of it more like a warm up to get the juices flowing. You’ll see a prompt asking you about yourself, you can then prep and then respond with your answer. You’ll have 25 seconds or so to read the prompt and prepare your answer, then you’ll have 30 seconds to respond. 

  1. Read a prompt - in this type of question, a prompt of up to 60 words will appear, you’ll hear a tone and then you are to read the prompt. You’ll be measured on three things in this section; 1) content (do you use the exact words from the prompt and only those); 2) oral fluency (the natural rate at which you speak and how smooth, effortless your response sounds); 3) Pronunciation (the PTE works with multiple accents but they do want to test if you can pronounce words correctly, they’ll look at things like do you stress the right vowels and consonants for the included words).

  1. Repeat the sentence - this type of question is very straightforward. You’ll be asked to listen to a sentence through your headphones and then repeat the sentence. Overall, this type of question should only take 3 - 9 seconds each.

  1. Describe an image - an image will appear on your computer screen for 25 seconds or so, during this time you can prepare your answer with point-form notes. You’ll then have 15 seconds to describe the image in as much detail as you can. 

  1. Re-give a lecture - This section is a bit trickier, you’ll be asked to listen to a prompt of a real lecture lasting up to 90 seconds. You’ll then have 10 seconds to prepare your response before you re-give the lecture in your own words. Your answer can be up to 40 seconds long.

  1. Short Answer - You’ll listen to a short question that’s 3 - 9 seconds long, then give a brief answer lasting no more than 10 seconds. Remember, your answer can be as short as a single word in this section, when appropriate.

  1. Text summary - You’ll read a text that is at most 300 words and then you’ll have 10 minutes to produce a single sentence summary of the text. 

  1. Essay - You’ll have 20 minutes to write a 200-300 word essay on a topic given to you by a prompt. Remember, you can use the features cut, copy and paste to move text around in case you want to edit your response.

Section 2: Reading

Time: 30 mins

Questions: 5 questions


  1. Fill-in-the-gap - You’ll see a prompt of a sentence with blank lines where some words should be. You’ll also see a list of words on the screen which you can drag and drop to fill the blank lines where words should be. 

  1. Multiple choice with Multiple Answers - this is a trickier type of question. You’ll read a text up to 300 words long and then select all the answers in the multiple choice which are correct. Remember to not just pickthe most rightanswer, but all answers that are correct.

  1. Re-order Paragraphs - You’ll see a few text boxes appear on the screen that look like paragraphs. These boxes will be in a random order, your task is to move the paragraphs around with your mouse so they are in the correct order. 

  1. Fill-in-the-gaps - A text of up to 80 words will appear on the screen with gaps in them. You must drag words from the box below the prompt to the right gap.

  1. Multiple choice, single answer - You’ll see another prompt up to 300 words long. You’ll then be asked a multiple choice question which has a single answer. In this question, you are selectingthe most right answer. That means several answers may seem correct, but one will be more correct than the others. The question could be on the specific content or just the tone of the text you’ve read.

Section 3: Listening

Time: 30 - 43 minutes

Questions: 8 questions consisting mostly of audio and video clips


TIP: audio and videos will play only once, THEY WILL NOT REPLAY, so listen carefully and be prepared! We suggest you take point-form notes as you listen or watch the prompt.


  1. Summarize spoken text - You’ll listen to a 60 - 90 second prompt and then be expected to write a 50 - 70 word summary. You’ll have 10 minutes for the prompt which is plenty of time, the key will be to take quick notes as you’re listening to remember all the points relevant to the summary.

  1. Multiple choice, multiple answer - You’ll listen to a 40 - 90 second prompt then answer a multiple choice question which can have multiple answers. Remember, in this type of question you should select every answer which is correct not just the one that seems the most correct.

  1. Fill in the blanks - You’ll see a transcript appear on the screen with words missing. You’ll also hear an audio prompt of the same text without words missing. Write the missing words in the correct blank. The prompt will be 30 - 60 seconds long.

  1. Highlight correct summary - Listen to a prompt that is 30 - 60 seconds long, then select the paragraph which best summarizes the prompt you just heard. 

  1. Multiple choice, single answer - Listen to a 30 - 90 second long prompt then choose the paragraph which best summarizes the audio prompt. 

  1. Select the missing word - You’ll listen to a prompt that is 20 - 70 seconds long, then select the missing word. The word you’ll select will be one in a list of words to choose from. Only 1 is correct. Remember to start by disqualifying some words in the list to make your choice easier.

  1. List Incorrect words - In this question, you’ll listen to a prompt that is 15 - 20 seconds long, then you need to identify words in the transcript which are different from what was actually said in the prompt. 

  1. Write the sentence - this question is very straightforward, you’ll listen to an audio prompt and then be expected to write the sentence down exactly as you heard it. Remember that spelling counts in this question type, so take your time and review your answer before submitting.

More Info on the PTE Academic

Well there you have it! You’ve learned a lot about the format of the PTE Academic exam and the types of questions you’ll be asked. If you want more details on the test, here are some helpful links below:


For more information on the test format, check out:https://www.pearsonpte.com/pte-academic/test-format


For more information on how the PTE test is scored, check out:https://www.pearsonpte.com/scoring/understand-your-pte-score



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