Pearson PTE Academic FAQ

As an English exam tutor, I’m often asked about the difference between the exams which offer successful candidates language points for visa applications. Recently, what I’m explaining, more and more, is how to ‘pass’ the Pearson PTE Academic exam. So here are a the most interesting points to be aware of when sitting this exam.

First of all, the PTE exam is delivered, and marked, solely by computers unlike IELTS which is a paper exam, marked by people.  Although, this may sound appealing to those struggling with IELTS, what needs to be considered is that unlike IELTS, the computer exam is not delivered in ‘exam conditions’.  Please be aware that during PTE, answers are spoken and recorded for marking, which results in a noisy ‘babble’ throughout the exam room, making listening to the actual exam more difficult!

Secondly, the PTE exam is designed to test the English skills of candidates striving to study at university.  Therefore, unlike IELTS it is weighted towards listening and note taking with 8 listening sections and an emphasis on note taking throughout the exam.

Finally, in certain sections of the PTE Listening and Reading papers, questions are negatively marked which does not occur in any of the IELTS papers.


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Score High in Task 2 Essay Writing

IELTS examiners score your writing from a matrix, covering 4 different elements within the writing. Therefore, an increased awareness of which ‘ingredients’ need to go into your writing, in order to score well, is essential.

First, the absolute MUSTS are:

No repetition of the Question Words in the introduction and a good range of vocabulary throughout the essay.

Use of Paragraphs to ‘organise’ your writing and make it effortless for the reader. in this case the IELTS examiner!

Clear Topic Sentences at the start of your paragraphs.

Linking Words to ‘join’ your paragraphs, logically.

Good Punctuation

After all of the above, you can include a counter-argument at the end of your paragraph, but be careful that you don’t confuse this tactic with the ‘other side of the argument’. In addition, make sure that the lengths of your paragraphs are similar so that the essay is balanced in content.

If you have any questions, related to any of the points in this blog, please have a look at previously written blogs on the same topics or alternatively, contact me on:




NOT READING for IELTS Reading Success

Bizarrely, the secret of success in IELTS reading is NOT READING every word of the text! When a student tells me “I finished it without reading the whole text”, I congratulate them. Although, this must appear counter-intuitive to many of you the truth of the statement lies in the fact that the speaker has used reading strategies, skimming and scanning skills.

These terms are widely used in many IELTS related books and online sites.  Therefore, a good understanding, and ability to apply them, is critical to achieving the IELTS score required. All to often I hear, “I can’t skim or scan so don’t try”. This is a completely understandable statement but not one which leads easily to success. There are a huge amounts of references and online videos available explaining what these techniques are and how to use them. They need to be understood!

Once, you know what the processes are it doesn’t take long until  the brain has been  ‘trained’ to read the words contained in the text rather, simply ‘look’ at them. To get this started you may like to search for words from right to left rather than the direction we read in, left to right. Another, method is to search vertically, in a zig-zag direction. Whichever method works best for you, it must be ‘second nature’ by the day of the exam.

So when that day comes and you open the reading paper, you avoid panic, improve your time management and most importantly the number of correct answers on your score sheet!tips-1


GT Writing Task 1: Types of letters you may have to write in the exam

In both General and Academic IELTS Writing, Task 1 should take 15 – 20 minutes and be contain more than150 words. However the actual tasks are different with General IELTS Writing asking you to write a  letter.  For this letter, there is a ‘menu’ of letter types used for these IELTS questions and it is important to be aware of them so that you use the appropriate language in your answer.  The range of types are:

  • Application
  • Apology / Acceptance
  • Complaint
  • Enquiry / Request
  • Thanks / Social

On the question paper, you are helped by the opening eg  Dear Sir/ Madam or simply Dear…… indicates what the style of the letter you are asked to write.

  • Dear Sir/ Madam = Formal = ending with Yours faithfully
  • Dear = Semi-formal or informal, depending on the context = ending with Yours sincerely
  • Hi = letter to a friend = ending of your choice!

Before you start to write, you now know the ‘function’ of the letter and also the style letter writing you should use.



For examples of the different types of letters, look for sample letters available on many IELTS websites.


What are True / False/ NG and Yes/ No/ NG Reading Questions?

Only in IELTS Reading exams do you find this particular type of reading question.  Therefore, these questions are ‘unusual’ in comparison with other  reading exams.  However, failing to get to grips with the technique of correctly answering them can be costly when it comes to achieving higher band scores. For this reason, here is a brief outline of what the questions expect the reader to do and techniques to use to be successful.

True &Yes  =  there is information in the text that AGREES with the question 

False & No  =  CONTRADICTS what is stated.  This may be because the text states the direct opposite, the negative or simply something different!

Not Given  =  ‘Don’t know’ because in the text, there is NO INFORMATION directly linked to the specific question

How to answer them accurately

  • Underline the KEYWORDS for a clearer understanding. This also allows you to think of opposites/synonyms for the keywords.
  • Turn the statement into a question before trying to answer it from the text.   If you can’t then it’s NG.
  • Look for words which ‘qualify’ the statement eg only, little, not many, sometimes, usually, most, probably etc.
  • Look for positive and negative words eg like, favour, support, encourage / ignore, deny, refuse etc.

Look for comparisons.



For Yes/ No/ Not Given only

  • Make sure the opinion belongs to the writer and not the opinion of someone reported.

  • Comparisons are a method of judgement eg better, worse etc.
  • Adjectives can often express an opinion eg sensible, easy, worthwhile, valuable etc.
  • Adverbs can change a statement eg never, always, often, carefully etc.

Road to IELTS Success

Generally speaking, the IELTS candidates who I meet on the Road to IELTS, fall into three categories:

First, candidates who, for a range of reasons, hesitate to actually get going before slowly setting off.

Second, the most common type of candidate, who move from slow to fast lane, and back again, depending on what’s going on in their everyday life, and subsequent time constraints.

Finally, the minority category, who are able to journey up the fast lane with relative ease, achieving their target scores in a timely fashion.

So for the slow-starters, here are some tips of how to get off the slip road and into gear!



Understand the Exam format, and what is expected of you in each section, from information found on the official website

Expand your vocabulary by avoiding using the same words in conversation, time after time. Re-phrase and make a point of not using the same word, twice in a row.  There are plenty of alternatives to choose from!

Read a newspaper regularly, stopping to read the articles which don’t interest you and are normally skipped over. IELTS covers no more than a dozen topics so you need to have an idea of everything going on around you.

Write everyday It doesn’t matter what you write, although an IELTS practice task be good, simply pick up a pencil /pen and get going for 5 -10 minutes.

Take the test, available for free, to assess what your starting point is on this link.



 Founder & owner Marian Anderson

Who We Are

English for Emigration, founded by Marian Andersen, helps you identify the problems which prevent you achieving your target scores in IELTS or Pearson PTE exams, to speed up your visa application process.

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