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Pearson Tests of English (PTE) — is a range of international exams designed for non-native English speakers. These exams assess English proficiency, including the ability to comprehend native speakers and effectively communicate both verbally and in writing. The PTE exam is widely recognized worldwide and serves as a reliable indicator of English proficiency.

PTE certificates are accepted by English-speaking colleges, universities, and international companies for job applications abroad. One notable advantage of PTE exams is that they do not have an expiration date. However, foreign universities still often require recent language exam results (typically within six months to a year), as in the case with Cambridge certificates.

Why pursue the PTE exam?

  • Gain admission to foreign educational institutions (schools, colleges, and universities)
  • Enhance your employment opportunities at English-speaking companies
  • Assess your current level of English and set goals for further language improvement

PTE exam types

PTE offers three distinct exam types, each catering to different purposes:

  • PTE Academic — an academic module targeting prospective students who plan to study at foreign colleges and universities. The test is available to applicants aged 16 and above. If the candidate is under 18 years old, parental consent is required. PTE Academic is currently the most popular exam within the Pearson test range; its key advantage lies in its high assessment speed.
  • PTE General — designed for individuals seeking to relocate or pursue employment in English-speaking countries, the general module is open to applicants who are at least 16 years old at the time of the exam.
  • PTE Young Learners — an exam designed for the youngest candidates, aged 8 to 15 years old. PTE Young Learners provides a comprehensive certification for admission to English-speaking schools or lyceums, serving as an excellent foundation for further English language study.

Additionally, there is the Business English Test, which is not officially included in the Pearson exams lineup but is listed on the company's website. Administered by the Pearson Group in collaboration with LCCI International qualifications, the Business English Test assesses business English proficiency. It is specifically targeted at individuals seeking certification for professional work in a business environment.

PTE Academic

PTE Academic evaluates the academic English proficiency of foreign candidates aspiring to study at international universities and business schools. Notably, the test results of PTE Academic are recognized by esteemed educational institutions such as Yale University, Harvard Business School, and Cornell University. Furthermore, visa centers in Australia and New Zealand accept PTE Academic certificates as valid evidence of English language proficiency for long-term student visas.

The exam encompasses 20 diverse question formats, from selecting the correct answers to composing essays on specific topics and summarizing information. PTE Academic assesses a prospective student's preparedness for academic life, which is reflected in the Reading section that features authentic excerpts from university lectures. Additionally, the exam often includes tasks that require describing graphs, tables, or diagrams. In the Listening section, test-takers encounter recordings with various accents — including British, American, Australian, Canadian — and non-native English speakers. Moreover, the recordings feature individuals of different age groups, which also adds complexity to the tasks.

PTE Academic structure

Speaking and Writing77–93 min.
Reading32–41 min.
Listening45–57 min.

The Speaking & Writing section consists of various tasks designed to assess text comprehension. These tasks include a brief personal introduction (30 seconds), reading aloud, sentence repetition, picture description, paraphrasing a lecture, and answering short questions. Additionally, candidates are required to write a text summary within 10 minutes and an essay of 200-300 words, with only 20 minutes allocated for the latter task.

The Reading section involves tasks such as selecting the correct answers, rearranging text passages, and filling in the blank exercises.

In the Listening section, candidates are evaluated on their ability to summarize information, select correct answers, fill in sentence gaps, identify incorrect words in a sentence, and transcribe dictated texts.

Notably, the PTE Academic test is conducted entirely online, without the presence of an examiner. During the three-hour test duration, candidates use a computer to read texts into a microphone, listen to audio fragments through headphones, and take notes in a specific program, eliminating the need for direct interaction with an examiner.

PTE General

PTE General focuses on everyday English skills that are essential for effective communication in English-speaking cultures. The exam consists of written and oral components. The writing section includes tasks related to listening, reading, and writing, which are evaluated by Edexcel examiners in the UK. Verbal responses are assessed by local examiners who possess the necessary qualifications and have undergone specific training. Recorded oral responses are also sent to the UK for review to ensure impartial scoring by the examiners.

The exam is designed for students with varying levels of proficiency and is divided into five difficulty levels, ranging from Foundation (A1) to Proficient (C2). The duration of the exam varies depending on the chosen level, with higher levels featuring more challenging tasks and allocated time. The writing section lasts from 75 minutes to 2 hours and 55 minutes, while the verbal section follows a personal interview format, similar to IELTS or TOEFL, with durations ranging from 5 to 8 minutes.

The writing section consists of nine blocks, all centered around a specific theme based on the proficiency level. For lower levels, topics may revolve around leisure, family, or shopping. More advanced levels tackle abstract subjects, such as environmental pollution or the impact of politics on education, encouraging candidates to express their opinions on various issues. Writing section tasks can include multiple-choice questions based on passages, dictation exercises, or developing essays and short stories on specific topics.

In the verbal section, candidates face three or four tasks, which may involve engaging in a dialogue or role-play with the examiner, participating in a personal interview and answering questions, delivering a monologue on a given topic, or describing a picture (applicable to levels 3-5). The maximum achievable score in the exam is 90 points.

PTE Young Learners

PTE Young Learners is a reliable English proficiency test designed for children aged 7 to 15 years old. The unique format of the exam fosters self-confidence and eliminates fear of failure in children, making their English learning experience enjoyable and motivating. The test is divided into several levels based on age and language proficiency: Firstwords (A1), Springboard (A1), Quickmarch (A1+), and Breakthrough (A2).

Each level of the exam consists of written and oral sections. All the exam questions revolve around the lives of the Brown family, and the children discuss various topics such as pets, food, shopping, home, school, family members, and recreation.

In the Listening section, children listen to two audio recordings of conversations among family members. They then draw lines from written phrases to corresponding images and mark boxes with the correct images for each question using crosses.

The Reading & Writing component includes tasks such as reading short dialogues and filling in missing words in sentences, matching words from two columns, inserting missing words into texts from a provided list, writing letters, and providing short answers to questions. The duration of the written exam ranges from 69 to 75 minutes.

The Speaking part of the exam takes the form of a game and consists of two tasks. With 3-5 participants, children play a board game, taking turns rolling dice and moving their game pieces (similar to the well-known game Monopoly). Each space on the board contains cards with questions and tasks. When a game piece lands on a specific space, the candidate picks up a card, reads the question aloud, and provides an answer. In the second task, each candidate receives a card with a monologue topic. They have one minute to speak on the given topic, followed by questions from other participants and examiners. The total duration of the oral responses is 20 minutes.

Business English Test

Pearson offers a range of English proficiency exams for business communication with the support of the LCCI association, an internationally recognized qualification system in countries such as the USA, the UK, Ireland, Australia, and more. The line of exams includes the following tests:

  • English for Business — specifically designed for candidates seeking employment in foreign companies, this exam consists of 5 levels of difficulty. By passing one test, candidates can receive two different levels on the CEF scale. For instance, achieving a satisfactory result on the Level 2 test leads to a B1 level certificate, while excellent performance results in a B2 level certificate. The "Reading and Writing" sections are mandatory, while the "Listening" and "Speaking" sections can be taken optionally.
  • English for Tourism — designed for candidates interested in working in the hospitality and tourism industry. Similar to other Pearson exams, this test is divided into sections that assess writing, reading, speaking, and listening skills. The assignments focus on tourism-related topics such as route planning, business travel, customer service, types of recreation, and accommodation. The exam is available at two levels. Notably, each component of the exam can be taken as a separate qualification to demonstrate proficiency in specific areas of English (reading, writing, speaking, or listening).

Both exams follow a similar structure. In the "Reading and Writing" section, candidates are required to complete a written assignment on a chosen topic related to business or tourism within 90 minutes. The "Speaking" part lasts no more than 11 minutes and consists of two tasks. The first task involves answering several questions from the examiner about future plans, studies, or work. The second task involves participating in a discussion on a topic chosen by the examiner.

The "Listening" section consists of two blocks. In the first part, candidates listen to 13 questions multiple times, with three possible answers for each question, and must select the correct answer. The second part includes 12 questions that also require accurate answers, but candidates must first listen to a short passage such as a conversation or announcement. Only 20 minutes are allocated to complete the tasks in this section.

How is the PTE exam graded

For the PTE General exam, successful candidates receive certificates with grades that confirm their level of English language proficiency:

  • Pass with Distinction — A (passed with special honors)
  • Pass with Merit — B (passed with honors)
  • Pass — C (passed, satisfactory result)

A maximum of 90 points can be achieved on the exam. To achieve a passing grade, candidates must answer at least 60% of the test tasks correctly. Exam papers are evaluated in the UK, ensuring fair grading. For candidates who took the PTE Young Learners exam, those who did not reach the threshold mark receive a Certificate of Participation as an incentive, while those who achieved the required level receive a Certificate of Attendance.

PTE certificate example
PTE certificate example
Comparing PTE Academic scores to other exams
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How to register and get results for the PTE exam

  • Create an account on the official exam website and complete the registration process. Select the desired test and pay for the exam. Applications should be submitted at least 4 weeks prior to the chosen test date. Note that for the PTE Academic exam, registration can be done up to 24 hours before the test, but an additional fee may apply. It is recommended to register well in advance.
  • Results can be accessed electronically on the official Pearson website approximately 6 weeks after taking the exam. The official certificate will be issued a week after the results are announced. For the PTE Academic test, results are available within 5 days. Each candidate receives a comprehensive analysis of their performance in the four components of the exam: reading, writing, speaking, and listening.
  • The PTE General exam is conducted three times a year in May, June, and December, while the PTE Young Learners exam takes place in May, June, and November. For specific dates, refer to the test centers.
  • Unlike other exams, PTE scores can be sent to an unlimited number of institutions listed in the Pearson database at no additional cost.
  • Pearson offers trial tests for candidates who want to familiarize themselves with the exam format, identify strengths and weaknesses, and practice English speaking with a native speaker from the UK.

Preparing for the PTE exam

The preparation time for the PTE exam varies for each individual.

On average, it may take 3-6 months to successfully pass Level A1 of the PTE General test. Levels 1-3 require at least 1 year of active study for preparation, while Level 4 should be completed no less than 18 months after passing Level 3. The same applies to the transition between Level 4 and Level 5.

It is important to note that all levels of the PTE test form a cohesive system, meaning that candidates must be able to handle tasks from previous levels when advancing to a higher level.

PTE preparation materials

PTE AcademicOfficial website with exam description and preparation materials
PTE GeneralWebsite dedicated to the PTE General exam
ExamenglishUseful website providing sample assignments for PTE Academic and General
PearsonPTEOfficial PTE exam channel on YouTube
Pearson LongmanStudy guides for PTE preparation
PTE-testAndroid application for exam preparation
PtetutorialsPaid PTE preparation resource offering online tests and study materials
PteacademicexamStudy materials and practice tests for PTE Academic

How to achieve a high score on the PTE exam

  • Pronunciation — the PTE test, particularly the academic version, distinguishes itself from other language exams as it evaluates all sections, including the oral component, using computer assessment rather than human evaluation. Therefore, focusing on pronunciation is crucial to ensure the machine comprehends your words and intonation. It is important to enunciate clearly, maintaining a moderate pace. Ensuring the recording is active is also essential since extended pauses or unrecognized words can result in errors.
  • Instructions — during the registration stage, candidates receive electronic instructions that must be reviewed before paying for the test. Additionally, instructions for each exam section should be carefully examined to avoid minor errors that could lead to a lower score.
  • Test structure — familiarize yourself with the format and typical tasks of the exam by studying official resources and examination manuals. This will help you understand the requirements of each section.
  • Authentic texts — besides examination manuals, it is essential to engage with modern English-language press such as newspapers and magazines. These sources provide valuable information and new vocabulary. Candidates taking the PTE General module should focus on reading the press to encounter real-life scenarios, while those preparing for the PTE business test should explore contemporary business literature, like magazines such as The Economist.
  • Synonyms — varying vocabulary is essential when writing an essay. Although English may not be as lexically diverse as, for example, Russian, constantly repeating the same words or phrases in an essay is discouraged. Enhancing language diversity adds color and interest to your story. Utilizing synonyms is directly linked to expanding vocabulary, and English-language books are excellent resources for this purpose.
  • Grammar — the “soul” of the English language lies in grammar. While applicants may assume they have no issues with grammar, a single question on the test can challenge that belief. Daily practice is crucial for both speaking and grammar. Whenever learning something new, it is beneficial to provide examples and apply them in real-life situations to reinforce understanding.
  • Extended answers — when tasked with writing, it is important to provide full and complete responses. Merely responding with one or two words is fundamentally incorrect and results in point deductions. Employing complete sentences ensures clarity in conveying your point.
  • Choosing the right answer — start by reading the question first and then proceed to the answer options. Test creators often set traps by placing answer choices that resemble the correct one at the beginning or middle of a paragraph. If the correct option is not immediately apparent, it is advisable not to spend more than 2-3 minutes on that particular task and instead move on to the next question.
  • Summarizing Information — tasks that require summarizing information from a lecture or audio recording into one sentence (maximum 75 words) should be carefully considered. It is better to aim for around 35-40 words to avoid grammar confusion and potentially lose points.
  • Essay outlines before writing an essay, it helps to create an outline divided into several parts. Typically, an essay consists of a statement for reflection, followed by supporting or opposing arguments, and concluding with a personal solution. The essay should present a clear sequence of thoughts, with grammatically correct sentences. Creating placeholders, such as introductory expressions or phrases, facilitates smooth transitions between different parts of the text.
  • Marginal notes — when listening to audio recordings of lectures, taking marginal notes can help maintain coherence. Clear and organized notes prevent wasting valuable exam time deciphering hastily written information.
  • English-language programs — to excel in the "Listening" section, you should expose yourself to as much English as possible. Explore different English-language programs like TV shows, radio broadcasts, films, and series. Using headphones while watching movies allows for better perception of accents, character intonations, and popular expressions. This section of the exam exposes candidates to various accents, requiring adequate preparation.
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