How does PTE Academic Software work?

What sets PTE Academic apart from exams like IELTS is the unique software that is at the heart of this exam. The software and the algorithms behind it judge your speaking and writing responses and give you a score.

So, how exactly does the software determine how good your response is and what your score should be?

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Our team of experts at Sure Way English include people who have worked with Pearson on building software similar to the ones used in PTE Academic. Our PTE course students get to use a similar software for their practice.

Let’s see how it works.

Just like any computer software, there is your input and an output. In this case, input is your response and the output is the score given to your response. The quality of the output of course depends upon the quality of input. So, that tells us right away that if your spoken response is not recorded properly, the software will have a poor input to start with. This is why things like placing the microphone properly, speaking confidently and with full force are so important. These basic things ensure that your response gets to the software in the best form.

Once you have taken care of that, the software will further analyze your responses. The artificially intelligent system understands what a good response is based on a data bank of responses it has been fed with. Your response will be compared with these responses.

When the software sees your audio response, it sees something like this:

When judging your fluency and pace, the form of your response – highs and lows of your voice, overall shape, will be compared with the responses in the data bank. If your response is within a reasonable limit, you will get a high score. However, if your response form has unexpected peaks and valleys or a pattern which is unnatural, you will lose marks.

After this the system will analyze the content of your response and look at the words that you have used. Here, the words have to be in the right “neighbourhood” of the words in the data bank. What does that mean?

If say the question is about parks and trees, then the neighbourhood words cannot be economy, cuisine or military. They can be leaves, greenery, play, rest, children, relax, etc.

This is how the computer judges if your response makes sense or not.

Finally, the computer also analyzes the waveform of each individual word. Again if the pattern is close to the ones in the databank, you will get full marks for pronunciation, if not, you will lose!

So, that’s exactly how the exam software goes step by step scoring your response. Today, we have looked at how the Speaking part of the PTE exam software works. In another post we will look at the Writing part. Have you tried out the free PTE practice tests that we have for you? They will also give you a sneak peak into the PTE exam software.

One thing that becomes clear as a result of this deep dive is that there is no substitute for regular practice – recording your responses and comparing them with sample responses, is the only way we can be sure of that we are in the right direction.

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