PTE Exam Tip #1: You Have to Study Even if You're a Practically a Native English Speaker

A lot of people assume that if they are a native English speaker, they can just go into the test and walk out with a high score. But after they get the results, they realize this is completely untrue. The problem is that test-takers think, "My English is great! I get good grades in school and I am always speaking it with my friends. An English proficiency test will be a walk in the park!" The thing is that English proficiency tests are more than just speaking English well.

If test-takers knew this going into the exam, there is no doubt that they would have taken the prep time more seriously. Keep in mind that the point of the PTE is to measure your ability to operate in a completely English environment whether at work, college, or in other settings. To succeed, you need to be able to solve problems well, interact with others and have the strong ability to think critically. In a nutshell, even though English is not your first language, you have to be able to demonstrate your abilities and strong points as if it were.

The Solution

If you are taking the PTE in the first place, you are obviously motivated to succeed in a broader sense. It is just a matter of understanding the importance of preparing. You need to be patient and pace yourself well. Remember that a lot is riding on the test, so you need to have a sound strategy.

  • Assess your skill level. Look around for practice questions and study resources. Familiarize yourself with the format of the test and determine what you think you will struggle with the most. A lot of folks who speak English as a second language tend to overestimate their abilities and wait until the last moment to start preparing. As a result, once test day arrives they fare poorly because they had no idea what to expect.

If this sounds like you, it would really be in your best interest to change your strategy. Assuming that you can study for a test a week in advance is not going to help. You might be feeling pressure in terms of deadlines and the like, but you really need to take this test seriously. Taking the test just because you want it to be done with is not the approach that will lead to a good score.

  • Answering practice questions is not a good strategy. Once you have determined where you are in terms of your English level, the next step is to improve upon your weaknesses. You will need to put together a create, interesting study plan based on your specific needs and time line. Look at the aspects of English that cause you the most difficulty. You might speak English well and yet fail to recognize how difficult it is to comprehend complex reading passages or write at a high level. You might need to brush up on your grammar skills and pay attention to things like sentence structure. Ultimately, the skills that you will be tested on when you take PTE will be based on this.

If you were having real problems trying to figure out what you are lacking, investing in a tutor would be a good decision. They will be able to help you fill in the missing building blocks. Simply answering practice questions repeatedly will not do anything to enhance your English skills or get you a high score. But improving your knowledge will. If you look online, you will be able to find plenty of PTE study resources.

  • Reassess your English abilities. Once you have spent some time improving your English abilities, step back and figure out where you are. If you are working with an ESL tutor, asking for feedback is an effective way to determine this. At this point you can answer some practice questions and measuring how much you have improved. If you have reached the point in which you have improved your weaker areas, you can make answering practice questions more a part of your overall studying strategy.

A lot of test-takers assume that if they take a bunch of practice tests, this is all they need to succeed on the actual test. However, this is not the case. Such tests are only effective when you understand what you are doing. If they are your sole test prep routine, you are just wasting your time.

PTE Exam Tip #2: Understand That the Test Environment Will Be a Challenge

Here is some bad news: while it will be difficult enough to try to retrieve information and answer the questions correctly, this is only have of the challenge. The test center itself has the potential to overwhelm you even before you have started the test! It is full of anxious test-takers, security measures and it is a highly distracting, noisy environment.

As people are preparing for the test, most of them do not even take into account the environment. You are used to studying in controlled, quiet surroundings. Perhaps you tend to relax on the sofa as you brush up on your skills. But once test day arrives, you will have to detail with a lot of discomfort. For more than 3 hours, you will be sitting in a cubicle with hardly any room to breathe. You will be hearing lots of voices and the frantic sounds of keyboard tapping. You are not allowed to eat or drink during the test and if you even so much as stretch, you could be accused off cheating.

The Solution

  • Recreate the exam center conditions the best you can. For example, instead of studying at home you should find a bustling cafe. Read on the noisy bus or subway. Listen to audio and answer questions with loud music in the background. You might not take these suggestions seriously, but you really ought to. You will be able to train your brain to tune out all of the noise and distractions as you focus on the study tasks. It might take some getting used to, but eventually it will become a habit and you will go into test day being able to handle anything!
  • There are other ways in which you can train your brain to filter out the chaotic noise. For example, try this one: rather than rushing through the PTE instructions and getting to the speaking section as quickly as possible, take things slowly. Wait for others start their speaking tasks and then wait an additional minute. Your brain will find a way to acclimate itself to all of the noise and it will be ass if you are not hearing anything at all. This is the perfect way to remain focused on the exam tasks.

When people take the PTE and start the speaking section, everything initially seems fine. That is, until other test-takers start talking. Then it can really throw you off. Your brain begins sensitizing itself to these other voices and it leads to major distractions. This is why you would benefit by being the last to begin speaking.

  • Take the PTE exam in the morning rather than later in the day. This all comes down to how the brain works. It is at its best in the early morning. Once the early afternoon arrives, you begin to have less energy. Your brain activity declines, as does your body temperature. The last thing you would want is to feel like you are about to fall asleep during this extremely important test! But if you wake up bright and early and take the exam at, say, 9:00am, you will be more alert and therefore increase the likelihood of succeeding on the test.