PTE Break Down: The Reading Section
The reading section of the PTE is very straightforward. You will read and answer questions. The format changes, as we will discuss below, but it is simply reading with a sprinkle of writing. The suggested time frame for the reading section is 32-41minutes. So let’s get right into it.
Multiple choice/single answer
You will be given a text prompt of 110 words. Following the prompt, you will have multiple-choice questions. It is important here to focus deeply on the question.
If you do not get to the root of the question there is no way you will select the right answer. In multiple-choice/single answer, the root of the question is everything.
Multiple choice/multiple answers
The multiple-choice/multiple answer is, not surprisingly, set up like the single answer multiple choice. With the multiple answers though, you will be looking for rephrasings in reply to the same question. The goal is to create different variations that convey the same concept in different wording for each answer to the same question.
This tests your ability to find common themes within the English language.
In reorder paragraphs section you will be presented with a text of around 150 words. The text will be broken up into sentences and jumbled at random.
Your job is to drag and drop the sentences into the column on the right until you have completed a paragraph that looks good and makes sense.
Reading/Fill in the blanks
This is another drop and drag question. The fill in the blanks will present you with a text, which will also have words missing. At the bottom of the text, you will find a word bank, filled with options.
Drop and drag the word that you think best matches the blank and fills in the text correctly. Each correct word is worth one point.
Reading and writing/Fill in the blanks
This portion is a larger version of the simpler ‘reading/fill in the blanks’. You will be presented with 300 words of a text prompt. The text might look daunting, but it is very similar to the previous fill in the blanks, only the answers are more specific.
Take your time, read through carefully and you will be fine!
5 Tips to Improve Your Reading Skills
1. Get To Know Your Highlighter
Anyone giving out advice on improving your reading skills can tell you that you will need to practice reading. You can take this practice to the next level with your highlighter.
Challenge yourself to read a certain amount every day, and highlight what you think are the main points in the piece. This way you train yourself to identify the main points more quickly.
This means that when you are presented with a large chunk of text, your eyes and brain are accustomed to sorting out the central themes and main points.
2. Learn To Read Between The Lines
Language is great, and vocabulary is important, but a large part of understanding what you are reading is the subtext. Subtext means that you are reading beyond what the words themselves say, and gaining a deeper understanding of the concept behind it.
This is important as a lot of the scoring in PTE is based on understanding, not just repetitive word testing. When you are doing your reading exercises try retelling yourself the main points or stories, and playing with them to really understand the story behind the words.
Revision is key. Although we do not want to simply store a bunch of words away. Going over what you have read is vital to your understanding and also improves your speed in the long term.
You might think that reading over the same paragraph slows you down, but your brain is taking note of all the words and storing them away for recognition. The more you familiarise yourself the quicker your brain can identify the same words. This means reading many different things, a few times.
4. Read Aloud
You may feel silly, and you may not have done this since elementary school, but this is a fantastic way to increase your reading speed as well as language familiarity. When you read aloud it forces you to pronounce every syllable, meaning you will not skip a single letter.
At first, it will feel frustrating, and you might feel overwhelmed, but this is just the beginning. You will see your progress and by the end, you will genuinely be a fantastic reader and not someone who memorized a bunch of lines.
5. Get Comfortable With Context
A lot of the Pearson Test of English’s reading section is about the order. This means that knowing random words will not necessarily help you. You may be able to translate every word individually, but if you cannot put them in a sentence then it won’t really help you.
Having said that, knowing each word is helpful but there is always a Plan B. If you find yourself stuck reordering words that you are not familiar with, start with the process of elimination. This is where context is a great help.
Even if you do not understand the word itself, you might be able to order it from context. If not, begin with the words you do know, and go from there.
What They Look For
Important To Note:
Each PTE section has a time allocation that has been determined to be sufficient to complete the exercises within the designated time frame. When it comes to listening, the answers are timed and limited, the same for speaking.
However, with listening, you can spend as long as you like on one answer. This may seem like a plus but actually it means you have to be extremely careful when it comes to time management.
Do not get hung up on small things, and aim to spend between 3-4 minutes per question. It can be very easy to spend 15 minutes on one question, but that leaves you with 25 minutes to do 19 other questions. Use your time wisely.