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As I wrote the Pearson PTE earlier this week and I managed to get 90 for all four sections I thought that I would give some advice for each question type. SPEAKING Read aloud: practice, practice, practice. Don't let the other people in the room distract you. Talk slowly and don't rush. This way you should be able to limit your mistakes. Repeat sentence: Concentrate when they are saying the sentence. Maybe even close your eyes. As soon as the sentence is over you have about a second before the recording starts to be prepared. Even if you forget a few works try and complete the sentence as much as you can. Describe image: This is easier than I thought. Get used to using descriptive words so that you don't have to think of them on the spot. I followed a pattern for graphs/charts e.g 'the line graph/pie chart/bar graph depicts the population trend for the UK in the year 2001'. How you speak and sound is way more important than the actual information on the picture. I also read that if you give a conclusion or an opinion on the picture you get more points. I didn't do this and I got full marks! Re-tell lecture: I made notes, lots of notes. You are provided with an erasable marker and booklet. Try and take notes of the key points. You only need to say 4 or 5 sentences. There is a small amount of time between the end of the recording and the beginning of your speaking where you can quickly try and organise your notes. Answer short questions: this is more general knowledge than english but if you don't know an answer at least guess what you think it may be. WRITING Summarise written text: I struggled with this one at first. I always tried to fit in too much information. As it is a summary and you only have 50-70 words to use it is important that you write about the MAIN point. Read through it once or twice and ask yourself what the main point is. Write Essay: As I had written IELTS twice before I knew the general layout required. You only have 20 minutes for each of these so you don't have too much time to plan. Make sure that you write between 200-300 words. This might seem obvious but I was finished with my one question in the exam and I realised that I had only written 170 words. Luckily there is an on-screen word counter. The basic format of the essay should be like this: Paragraph 1: Introduction Sentence 1: Paraphrase the question and statement. Sentence 2: State your opinion (I agree/disagree etc.) Sentence 3: Explain your essay (I will first argue that....., then I will discuss ......) Paragraphs 2/3: First point/Second point S1: State the point. S2: Explain the point a bit further. S3: Give an example Paragraph 4: Conclusion S1: Start with 'In conclusion', 'To conclude' etc. and briefly touch on the 2 main points and your opinion. READING Multiple choice/single answer: This is always the first reading question on the practice tests but it was last on my exam. A lot of time can be wasted here as there are 2 of these types on questions and they are only one mark each. My tip would be to write letters on your piece of paper e.g. A,B,C,D. Then through a process of elimination you can normally cross off 2 of the answers. Sometimes the remaining 2 answers might both seem right but one will be more right than the other. Multiple choice/multiple answers: There is definitely more than 1 answer. The amount of correct answers will be different from question to question. Some answers will be obvious. Note that there is negative marking here so an incorrectly selected answer will count against you. In spite of this I would still select all the answers that I felt were correct. Use a similar method to what I described above and write letters down and cross them off or circle them to assist in choosing your answers. Re-order paragraphs: This was another one that I struggled with at first. In the gold practice tests and the exam you are able to move the paragraphs around. This makes reading the flow of the passage much easier than in the practice tests in the book where you have to imagine the order of the paragraphs. If you are struggling with this then maybe print out the pages from the practice tests, cut out the different paragraphs and then try to reorganise them. Fill in the blanks: This is the one where there are words missing in a passage of writing and you need to drag and drop words suppled to you. Try and fill in the words that you are sure about first. As there are limited words available this will reduce the number of words that you need to choose from for the more difficult answers. Read up on collocations and idioms. Try and guess the words in your head before reading the choices. Fill in the blanks: This is the one where there is a separate dropdown list for each missing word. My advice would be the same as above. Try answers it in your head before revealing the choices. LISTENING Summarise spoken text: This is similar to re-tell lecture in the speaking section although you type your summary rather than speak it. You have some more time for this one so you aren't under immediate pressure when the recording stops. Take lots of notes. Write down key words or phrases. If the speaker is going too quickly you need to decide on the fly whether a sentence is important or not. Multiple choice/multiple answer: Make lots of notes and be sure to choose more than 1 answer. What you listen to is shorter than the 'summarise spoken text' type of question but often the only difference between some answers is the use of a key word. Some answers will be completely wrong. Again write down letters and cross them off or circle them to help you decide on your answers. In my exam I only selected 2 for each but there could be more than that. Fill in the blanks: There is time to quickly scan the passage before it starts playing. What I do is count the amount of blank spaces and write down the numbers e.g 1,2,3 etc. Then I look and see if any of the blanks are close together. If they are I know that I will need to be quick with the first of the two words. Write the words down as you hear them, either in full or shorthand, and type them into the computer once the recording has stopped. Multiple choice/single answer: Same advice was with multiple choice/multiple answer. Make notes etc. Select missing word: Listening closely to what is being said as it may help with the context of the topic. Use the timer bar to anticipate the end of the sentence. The answer is normally quite obvious. Highlight incorrect word: I read the passage in my head at the same speed as the recording so that any differences in words are picked up immediately. There seem to be around 5/6 incorrect words per passage. Write from dictation: This is fairly easy. Make sure your spelling and punctuation are correct. The sentences I had were rather short.
I know that this is a very common topic and that there are varying opinions on which is better or easier. As I have literally just received my most recent results I thought that I would share my experience on this matter. The first exam I wrote was the IELTS Academic back in November last year. I did not specifically need to write the Academic version and looking back I have no idea why I did! Anyway I waited the 2 weeks after the exam to get my results and I got the following: Speaking 9/ Listening 9/ Reading 8/ Writing 7. I did contemplate writing the Pearson exam after that but I felt that I should be able to pass the IELTS General version as I had read that most people found it much easier. I procrastinated in making a booking and eventually wrote IELTS again at the beginning of February. The General reading was MUCH easier than the Academic version. The only other difference is that task 1 of the writing is a letter rather than describing a graph/table etc. I was fairly confident that I has passed. Two weeks later I received the following results: Speaking 9/ Listening 9/ Reading 9/ Writing 7.5. I paid for a remark as the only part of the exam worth remarking is the writing as it is so subjective. I was told that it would take 4-6 weeks for a reply. To my surprise a week later I received confirmation that my mark would remain the same. I briefly though about writing IELTS General for a second time but the next available date to write in Dubai was 25 March which would be followed by another 2 weeks until the results are released. Best case scenario if I passed I would only find out almost 2 weeks into April. So I turned my attention to the Pearson PTE. I downloaded quite a bit of material and went through about 9 complete exams. My agent also recommended the Gold Practice Tests pack which includes 2 online tests that get almost instantly marked. I highly recommend buying this. I sat down at home on Monday evening and did test 1. I was flustered, irritable, drew many blanks etc. and the score in the end was: Speaking 75/ Listening 81/ Reading 88/ Writing 86. As I need 79 for each to claim 20 points this was not good enough but it was a great introduction to the format of the actual exam. On Tuesday evening, this time knowing exactly what to expect, I attempted test 2. To my surprise I got 90 for all four sections. I was extremely happy because it showed that I was capable of getting good marks under the actual test conditions but didn't want to get too excited. Then yesterday afternoon I went and wrote the exam. It went well but, as with the 2 IELTS tests, you can never be quite sure how well it actually went until you receive your marks back. I just received the confirmation email and I got 90 for all four sections! It has been a long 4/5 months to eventually get the marks I needed and I regret not doing the Pearson exam in the first place. Lastly I'd like to give my thoughts on the 2 different exams. Most people will say that one is easier than the other and I completely agree with this. The major benefits of the Pearson exam are the frequency of the exams and the quick turnaround time to receive your results. In Dubai there are 2 time slots every day six days a week. Another major advantage of Pearson is that even if you make some mistakes you can still get full marks. I know that all of my answers could not have been right. In IELTS reading and listening and answer is either right or wrong. One wrong answer means that you can't get full marks. Any way now to submit my EOI. Wish me luck!