Perhaps you are considering moving to a native English-speaking country? Perhaps you are considering working in the UK? Or setting up a business in Ireland? Or applying for one of the most prestigious universities in England? Your first question might be what exam should I do? How do I choose between the IELTS exam and the PTE exam? To make these decisions you need to know exactly what it is you are signing up for. At Swoosh English we are here to help you, with a definitive guide on each section of the PTE exam.

Common reading question types

 
The reading section of the PTE exam includes some of the common reading question types. Most of you are already familiar with it. Such as multiple-choice type questions or fill in the blanks. But the real challenge lies in the limited amount of time you have to complete each task. Effective time management is crucial to complete the reading section of the exam.
 
In this blog article, we will give you a comprehensive overview of the five tasks within the PTE reading exam. But first, we will start with an overview of the Pearson Test of English and why you should choose this exam. To prove your English language abilities for immigration purposes. Or to gain admission to an English-speaking university.
 
We will show you some interesting facts about the exam and how it differs from IELTS. Then we will get into each of the 5 tasks, giving you an overview of what you have to do. How they conduct each task and some tips for the task. Finally, we will conclude the article with some general tips about improving your reading. As well as laying out some extra resources to begin your practice.
 
So, without further ado, let’s get stuck in.

 

PTE Academic

 

PTE is a Secure English Language Test which is accepted by thousands of universities and colleges worldwide. Including prestigious institutions like Oxford and Cambridge in the UK. Indeed, it is accepted by over 98% of universities and colleges in the UK. PTE Academic is also accepted for visa purposes by the Australian and New Zealand governments.
 
The Pearson Test of English has the quickest turnaround of results. With results being returned in 1 – 2 days on average. If you are applying for a university course, don’t forget it is important that you check directly with each institution what the score requirement is for the course you are applying for.
Here are some interesting things to note about the PTE exam.
  • You can do the test at any point throughout the year. You can book online and up to 24 hours in advance.
  • The PTE exam integrates all four skills of speaking, writing, listening and reading.
  • The test lasts a maximum of 3 hours and can be done in one single sitting.
  • Your score can be submitted to as many institutions as you like, at no extra cost.
  • The test is entirely computer-based and is therefore known to be one of the most impartial tests.
  • You can take the test in test centres in the UK or in one of the +250 global test centre network worldwide.
 
So, once you have decided you are going to take this increasingly popular exam. It’s time to look into how the exam is made up and what skills are tested. The PTE examination is divided into three sections. They combined speaking and writing into one section, reading and listening. Of course, this article is going to look in detail at the reading section. Have a look at the table below for a breakdown of the different tasks which make up your total reading time.
pte reading
 

PTE Reading section is the shortest

The reading section is the shortest in the PTE exam taking 32 – 41 minutes of the total time. Followed next by the listening section which takes 45 – 60 minutes. And the longest section is speaking and writing which takes 77 – 93 minutes. You can also find definitive guides to the other sections of the PTE exam on our website swooshenglish.com.
 
As you can see there are five different tasks to complete within the reading section. Each has different lengths of reading texts. And a varying number of questions within each type. The Reading: Fill in the Blanks text is the shortest text you will have to read 80 words. The maximum amount of words in any given text is 300. Both for the multiple-choice question types and the Reading/Writing Fill in the Blanks question.
 
It can be of benefit to memorise the format and flow of the test. So that you are completely familiar with all the tasks you have to do. As well as the prompt amount and time so that there is no shock to the system on the day of the exam.

 

Scoring Guide

 

It can be useful to have an idea of the scoring guide in the PTE exam, as compared to the IELTS exam. Make sure you are of course aware of the score requirements before taking the exam.

 

Scoring Guide

Copyright – Pearson Ltd

 

 
PTE Academic is scored out of 90, according to a number of different skills. Using the IELTS test as a comparison, a score of 86 or above in PTE is the equivalent of IELTS Band 9. Which is “native speaker level”. Most people require somewhere between IELTS Band 6 and 8 for studying. Living and working abroad purposes, equating to between 50 and 79 in the PTE Academic examination.
 
So what different skills are tested in order to make up your score?

Copyright – Pearson Ltd

 

Copyright – Pearson Ltd

 

 
As shown above, they will score you on the four main Communicative Skills. The Listening, Reading, Speaking and Writing). And on six enabling skills. On Grammar, Oral Fluency, Pronunciation, Spelling, Vocabulary and Written Discourse.
 
For the main communicative skills, remember that some of the tasks will integrate more than one of these in the scoring criteria. This only applies to one task in the reading section. Reading/Writing: Fill in the Blanks in which both reading and writing skills are assessed.
 
Enabling skills apply more to tasks in which speaking or writing skills are part of the output. You can see more about these throughout the definitive guide on speaking and writing.
 
Looking at the image above, your Score will derive as an average of both the communicative skill and the enabling skills. So the test is very transparent on what will go into your final result. In the above example, the candidate achieved a score of 61 and the results are clearly displayed.
 
Now we are ready to get stuck into each individual task in the Reading section.

 

The Tasks

 

A breakdown of each individual task is why we are all here. With an exam like PTE, it is important to make sure you have studied all the tasks and your test-taking skills are up to scratch. This, combined with working on your overall language skills, will have you ready for success.
 
The following section will provide crucial information for each of the five tasks. We will look at them in the same order as you will come across in the exam.

Reading: Multiple Choice, Choose Single Answer

Multiple Choice, Choose Single Answer

What is the task?

This is a multiple-choice item type in which you have to read a text and choose one answer option to a question about the content or tone of the text. It requires test takers to read, analyze, understand and assess a short text on an academic subject.

 

How long should I spend on this task?

 

1.5 – 2 minutes.

How many Multiple Choice, Single Answer prompts do I have to complete?

 

2 – 3

How long is the text?

Up to 300 words.

 

How is it scored?

 

Your response is scored as either correct or incorrect. No credit is given for no response or an incorrect response. This question type affects the scoring of reading

 

Method

 

  • First look at the question and decide if it relates to the main idea, detail, implication or authors purpose.
  • Skim read the answer options to get an idea of the main point or gist of the text.
  • Next, scan all four answer options looking for key words.
  • Read through the text looking for the key words and key points from the answer options and find supporting evidence for one answer, while eliminating the others.

Top Tips for this task

 

  • Do not stress over unfamiliar words. Try to gain an understanding of their meaning through context but do not spend much time on this.
  • Do not leave any question unanswered. If unsure, use your best judgement and guess.
  • Keep an eye on the clock. This a useful tool for your own time management.
  • Do lots of academic reading in your own time.
  • When reading highlight key words and build up your bank of vocabulary. Assess the main theme and supporting details.

 

Reading: Multiple Choice, Choose Multiple Answer

 

What is this task?

 

This is a multiple-choice item type in which you have to read a text. And choose more than one answer option to a question about the content or tone of the text. It requires test takers to read, analyze, understand and assess a short text on an academic subject.

How long should I spend on this task?

 

2 minutes.

 

How many Multiple Choice, Multiple Answer prompts do I have to complete?

 

2 – 3


How long is the text?

 

Up to 300 words.

 

How is it scored?

 

Negative marking applies to this task, meaning an incorrect selection will gain a -1 score.
This means that you should only select answers you are confident about to ensure you don’t neutralise a positive score. Even though this is a multiple answer task, you won’t be penalised in any way for only selecting one answer. Therefore, if you are only confident about one answer, only select on answer. The lowest score you can get for each score is zero. Don’t make any guesses in this task.

Method

 

  • First look at the question and decide if it relates to the main idea, detail, implication or authors purpose.
  • Skim read the answer options to get an idea of the main point or gist of the text.
  • Next, scan all four answer options looking for key words.
  • Read through the text looking for the key words and key points from the answer options and find supporting evidence for one answer, while eliminating the others.

Tips for the task

  • Take note of the overall content or structure to decide how this can help you in answering the question.
  • Try to understand any unknown words in the context of their sentence, but don’t worry too much about unfamiliar words.
  • Look for irrelevant or incorrect words and try to remove as many options as you can.
  • It is likely no more than 3 answers will be correct and often it is only 2.
  • Take no more than 2 minutes to read and answer each question.
  • Keep an eye on the clock.  This a useful tool for your own time management.
  • Practice skimming and scanning, under timed conditions.

Reading: Multiple Choice, Choose Multiple Answer

 

What is this task?

 

This is a multiple-choice item type in which you have to read a text and choose more than one answer option to a question about the content or tone of the text. It requires test takers to read, analyze, understand and assess a short text on an academic subject.

How long should I spend on this task?

 

2 minutes.

 

How many Multiple Choice, Multiple Answer prompts do I have to complete?

 

2 – 3


How long is the text?

 

Up to 300 words.

 

How is it scored?

 

Negative marking applies to this task, meaning an incorrect selection will gain a -1 score.
This means that you should only select answers you are confident about to ensure you don’t neutralise a positive score. Even though this is a multiple answer task, you won’t be penalised in any way for only selecting one answer. Therefore, if you are only confident about one answer, only select on answer. The lowest score you can get for each score is zero. Don’t make any guesses in this task.

 

Method

 

  • First look at the question and decide if it relates to the main idea, detail, implication or authors purpose.
  • Skim read the answer options to get an idea of the main point or gist of the text.
  • Next, scan all four answer options looking for key words.
  • Read through the text looking for the key words and key points from the answer options and find supporting evidence for one answer, while eliminating the others.

Tips for the task

  • Take note of the overall content or structure to decide how this can help you in answering the question.
  • Try to understand any unknown words in the context of their sentence, but don’t worry too much about unfamiliar words.
  • Look for irrelevant or incorrect words and try to remove as many options as you can.
  • It is likely no more than 3 answers will be correct and often it is only 2.
  • Take no more than 2 minutes to read and answer each question.
  • Keep an eye on the clock.  This a useful tool for your own time management.
  • Practice skimming and scanning, under timed conditions.

 

 

Re-order Paragraphs

 

What is this task?

You have to re-order a number of sentences in order to form a complete paragraph. Your response for Re-order Paragraphs is judged on your ability to understand the organization and cohesion of an academic text.

 

How long do you have to complete each item in this task?

2 – 2.5 minutes

 

How many of these prompts will I have to complete?

2 – 3

 

How do they score you?

 

Your response for Re-order Paragraphs is judged on your ability to understand the organization and cohesion of an academic text. One point is awarded for each pair of correct matching text boxes. This means even if your whole answer is not right, you get points for correct pairing. This question type only affects the score of your reading.

re-order paragraphs scoring

Method

 

  • Skim each text for the gist of the topic.
  • Look for the topic sentence.
  • Look for grammatical connectors or logical relationships between the sentences. For example, look for pronouns, articles or transition words which connect one sentence to the other.
  • Read the text to yourself in the order that you have sequenced them. Ask yourself if it sounds logical. Does the paragraph sound correct, and the meaning conveyed correctly?

 

Tips for the Task

 

  • This is a task based on logic. You shouldn’t have to guess.
  • Don’t get overwhelmed looking at the sentences as one big chunk, break it up.
  • Don’t forget to make pairs as you will get one point for every correct pair.
  • Draw on your knowledge of how to organise and structure an essay.
  • If you are really stuck, use trial and error.
  • Do not stress over unfamiliar words. Try to gain an understanding of their meaning through context but do not spend much time on this.
  • Read academic texts at home, taking down new words and their definitions.
  • When you read, highlight the main theme and pay attention to connectors used to link sentences together.

 

Reading: Fill in the Blanks

reading fill in the blanks

What is the task?

 

For this task you are presented with a text with blanks and a selection of words. You have to choose which of the words fits into the blanks.

 

How long should you spend on each item in this task?

2 minutes

 

How many of these prompts will I have to complete?

4 – 5

 

How do they score you?

 
Your response for Reading: Fill in the Blanks is judged on your ability to use context. Also on grammatical clues to identify words that complete a reading text. This task contributes to your reading score only. There are more words to choose from than there are blanks. This is what makes this task more challenging. For example, as you can see above there are four blanks in the text, but seven words to choose from.

 

Method

 

  • Skim the text to get the gist of the argument or topic.
  • Read through the text and assess what parts of speech is missing in each blank. Read the words before and after the blank to decide if, for example, a noun or a verb is missing.
  • Look at the answer options and choose the matching word for each blank. You can decide based on the grammar, the contextual meaning or whether before or after the blank collocates with a word in the answer options.
  • Review to make sure the paragraph sounds logical as a whole.

 

Tips for the Task

 

  • Look for clue words in order to fill in each blank according to the correct grammatical structure required.
  • Look out for collocations – commonly used word combinations by native speakers.
  • Match words simply by their meaning and what adds to the logical flow of the text.
  • Work on each blank as you go through, moving on to the next one if you get really stuck.
  • Eliminate irrelevant or illogical words in the options.
  • If you are really stuck, you could try each word in the gap one by one, but this might be quite time consuming.
  • Never leave the question unanswered.
  • Work on your list of collocations.
  • Work on your bank of academic vocabulary by reading academic articles.

 

Reading/Writing: Fill in the Blanks

reading /writing fill in the blanks

What is the task?

This is the second fill in the blank question type. Here they will present you with a text with a number of blanks. This time you have a dropdown with each blank where you have 4 different answers options for each blank. You must decide the correct word based on contextual and grammatical clues.

 

How long should you spend on each item in this task?

2 minutes

 

How many of these prompts will I have to complete?

4 – 5

How do they score you?

 

This is task is judged on your ability to use contextual and grammatical cues to identify words that complete a reading text. This task affects your reading and writing score. There is no negative marking, so don’t leave any blanks empty.

 

Method

 

  • Skim the text to get the overall gist and main topic.
  • Start to read through the text in more detail looking at the answer options for each gap.
  • Read either side of the gap to decide the correct answer based on:
    -Your grammatical knowledge.
    -Your knowledge of collocations.
    -Words that match the meaning.
  • Read each sentence again if time permits as a review.

 

Tips for the Task

 

  • Look at the words before and after the gap. Then choose words that match the meaning and grammar.
  • Eliminate illogical or ungrammatical words in the options and choose the most suitable word.
  • If you are struggling with one of the answers, don’t spend too much time on this.
  • Move on to the next one and try and select the options you are confident about in the time you have.
  • There is no negative marking for this section, so do not leave the question unanswered. Make an educated guess.
  • Keep working on your grammatical knowledge and your collocations.
  • Practice reading academic texts daily.
  • Take note of any new vocabulary and consider the main topic and gist of the text.

 

So that concludes the detailed breakdown of the five tasks in the Reading section of the PTE exam. If you follow these methods and tips and get lots of timed practice in before the day of your PTE exam, there should be no reason why you can’t be get a high score in the exam.

We will leave you with some things you can do at home and some tips to improve your overall reading skills, to be able to carry out these tasks with ease.

 

Reading Tips

 

  • Read daily and try to read a wide range of academic material to prepare you for the kind of topics you will come across in the PTE Exam.
  • Practice skimming the text, that is reading very quickly for the gist of the text.
  • Practice scanning the text, that is reading the text for key words and specific information.
  • Increase you range of vocabulary by writing down the definitions of any new words you come across.
  • Also make a list of synonyms of the new words to increase your range of vocabulary further.

 

Please look at our other blog post on each task, which go into more detail on the specific tasks to enhance your knowledge and skills more. You can also check out our definitive guides to the Speaking and Writing and the Listening sections of the PTE Exam.

At Swoosh English, we offer lots of material, including live classes and mock prompts, to assist you in all sections of the PTE exam. Head on over to pte.swooshenglish.com to see what is on offer.