“Listening test is designed to test your listening, reading, and writing skills. ”

The PTE Academic test includes various aspects like PTE Speaking, PTE Listening, PTE Writing, and PTE Reading exams. This article contains everything you’d want to know before you sit the PTE Listening Exam.

I’m Bhrat Brij, your PTE mentor, and I’m here to tell you about the listening part of PTE Academic.

We’re going to break the article into three sections, starting from the section structure and the different kinds of tasks, listening skills in general, and how they are essential in academic contexts, followed by the listening question types present in this part of the PTE Academic exam.

After that, we’ll focus on the valuable strategies that will help you get to your best possible score. A good listening score is crucial to get an excellent overall desired score.

The Time Period for PTE Listening

So listening is part three of the PTE academic, the Pearson Test of English, taking 30 to 43 minutes. The duration of the listening section varies from person to person, where 30 minutes is the shortest, and 43 minutes is the longest time for the listening section.

PTE Academic is an integrated skills test that comprises eight different question types, and these different question types test up to two skills each. And, these are from the three language skills reading, writing and listening. So, this section is designed to test your ability to listen, read and write. In all these eight question types in listening, you’ll hear each recording one time.

So, it’s reflecting something of real life where you don’t often get the opportunity to listen to something again. Also, here listening skills are tested alongside other skills such as writing and reading. And for the last seven tasks of the section, you will have to manage your own time, making sure that you move efficiently through the test, and you must make it to the last task, which is called Write from Dictation. Because if you don’t reach the end of the listening section, you won’t be getting a chance to answer the highest-scoring question-type in this section. Yes, Write from Dictation contributes a high score to both writing and listening skills. So it would be best if you manage your time well.

Now, let’s have a close look at these specific tasks. First, remember that the PTE Listening section is divided into two parts.

  1. The first part is just for one question type, Summarize spoken text.
  2. The second part contains the other seven question types.

The Summarize spoken text is individually timed, and the other seven question types are timed together. So, it’s integral that you manage your time as you move through the section, and managing your time is critical for achieving the best PTE test result.

What are listening skills?

Now, let’s focus on listening skills. The skills involved in listening to some extent overlap with skills required in reading, but there are some crucial differences. The first one is skimming, whose pace can be controlled. And while you’re listening, you can’t control it in the same way as reading, because there you can decide the pace and go back and forth to check something you’re not quite sure of.

Whereas with listening, you can’t cycle back and control how fast or slow you’re listening, and there is no option of that sort in the test. It is a fact that in the test, you can’t control the playback of the audio; you listen, there’s no chance to rewind what you’ve heard and go back to something you’ve missed.

Also, in spoken language, the speaker doesn’t always use complete sentences. So you will hear things like false starts where the speaker starts a sentence then goes back to the beginning and perhaps slightly changes what they say. And even in an academic context, spoken speech doesn’t always have complete sentences, unlike academic written English, which has complete sentences that follow writing rules.

However, some things can help you while you’re listening. The first of these is pronunciation which can help you with the meaning. So concentrate on the words that the speaker emphasizes or is saying more strongly because it will help you understand the importance of those words. The intonation can also convey part of the message as well. And there are so many things in a person’s voice that can help you understand the key meaning of what they say.

There are even video questions in PTE academic, and these videos can give you the context in support. So, you might get helpful clues from someone’s facial expression and body language. If it’s, for example, from a lecture, you might see the PowerPoint presentation up on the screen. And so, you’re getting vital visual aids for the meaning this way.

Also, there is more scope in listening to repeat ideas, unlike in written English where repetions seem awkward. As a listener can’t go back to check what’s been said previously, and often you get repetition of the main point. So, you can hear them express in a slightly different way to help the listener understand what it means. This contrasts with reading, where a crucial part of academic English is expressing your point in the shortest possible way. In speaking, someone might re-emphasize what they’re saying, repeating the key points to help someone understand.

So, what can a good listener do? Well, these are all essential skills in academic listening. And they’re all tested in different ways in the tasks of the PTE Academic listening section. So, for example, you need to understand the main topic or theme in what you hear and relevant specific details.

You will be required to infer the meaning, understand the speaker’s attitude, and connect the different information presented within a task. We will later address the specific question-types in the listening section about how these particular skills are essential and what you need to do for those specific tasks.

What can you do to help yourself prepare in general?

So, there’s a lot you can do before you appear in the test to work on your listening skills, particularly your listening skills in an academic context, as PTE Academic focuses on English for academic purposes. So all of the listening sources come from academic lectures or interviews. So to become more familiar with this, you can work and practice your listening skills by listening to authentic academic lectures and interviews; you can look on the university websites or YouTube and find lectures there.

So, there’s a lot you can do before you appear in the test to work on your listening skills, particularly your listening skills in an academic context, as PTE Academic focuses on English for academic purposes. So all of the listening sources come from academic lectures or interviews. So to become more familiar with this, you can work and practice your listening skills by listening to authentic academic lectures and interviews; you can look on the university websites or YouTube and find lectures there.

You can even attend lectures delivered in English if that’s a possibility for you where you’re living. Remember that the lectures you hear in the test are taken from authentic sources, so they aren’t simplified. And they’re recorded at an average speed at which the lecturer speaks. So it’s not something that’s been made easier for a language learner to understand. It’s important to get exposure to a range of accents. You’ll find in the test that the accents you hear can be British, Australian, Canadian, American, Asian, African, or even Irish.

Therefore, it’s worth becoming familiar with all kinds of accents in English by accessing actual lectures on the internet. You will hear all kinds of English, like Standard British, West Australian, American South, and other international accents of English in the test. So when listening to a lecture or any other piece, such as a news report, don’t just listen passively, and ask yourself the WH questions to think well about the main point of this part of the lecture or the news report.

I mean that try to understand the more specific things about who, why, where, when, and what. And this is beneficial when focusing on the listening task, as a vital part of listening is understanding the message and fitting it into your understanding in your mind. So if you are actively thinking about these things while you listen, you will understand better. Remember that all skills are interdependent.

For example, working on your vocabulary by practicing speaking and reading will automatically help your listening. So practicing all the different aspects of proficiency in English is very useful for you.

The last thing you can do is practice tests from MarvelPTE.com. Practice tests will familiarize you with the formal format of the test and will help you understand it better. Once you have an idea about the exam, it becomes easier to take the test. Now, you can just focus on the listening part rather than understanding what you have to do.

What are the specific question types in the PTE listening exam?

  • Summarize spoken text
  • Multiple-choice, choose multiple answer
  • Listening: Fill in the blanks
  • Highlight correct summary
  • Multiple-choice, choose single answer
  • Select missing word
  • Highlight incorrect word
  • Select missing word

Now we will discuss each task type in detail. But before that, remember, not all task types have equal weightage, and not all of them need a similar focus. We will also discuss which task types need more effort on your part, and where you can get away even with a guess.

Summarize Spoken Text

The first one is Summarize spoken text here. And it tests listening and writing skills. So, you listen to part of an academic lecture, and then you have to summarize it to a paragraph of 50 to 70 words of what you hear. Remember, it is always an authentic lecture and not an artificial listening designed for test-takers.

So you will hear real spoken English at a natural speed. And we have hesitations like umm… and argh… and false starts. You have an erasable note board in the test, and that is a beneficial thing. In Summarize spoken text, you must use the erasable notepad to take notes of key points that help you understand the context. You should think about the key ideas and relationships between them in the audio lecture that you hear. So when the person is saying that they may be signposting, they may use linking language to explain the relationship. But there can also be a change in tone and linking words like however, additionally.

And what’s more to focus on while taking notes? When you’re listening, don’t try to transcribe whole sentences from the listening. It’s simply not possible to take notes that are so detailed that you can capture everything that the person said. And also, they will likely fill up more than 50 to 70 words. So that wouldn’t be useful. This section is timed separately.

So, you’ve got 10 minutes for each task. And there are one to two Summarize spoken text tasks. So, you’ve got those 10 minutes for each, which you can use individually; it doesn’t affect the timing of any other part of the listening section that comes later because it’s timed separately. So it’s a good idea to utilize these 10 minutes you receive. A maximum of two points is given for this task type for Content, Form, Grammar, Vocabulary, and Spelling.

After you finish listening, you must process the notes you’ve made on your erasable notepad into a summary that you can then type up in the writing box on the screen. And it will show your understanding of the lecture.

Also, you should show your writing skills by using techniques like those that we teach in our class, and they can be easily applied to the summary that you write. Therefore, when you’re thinking while looking at your notes about what you need to include in your summary, you should focus on the main ideas from the lecture that you have heard and other essential details.

Some of the notes you make might not be entirely important to put in the summary, so decide well. Of course, you can use fixed templates for Summarize spoken text and still get full marks for writing and speaking. But that depends on you.

It’s a good idea to start the summary with a sentence that introduces the topic of the lecture. The main thing is that you have to write it from the point of view that the person who reads this summary didn’t attend the lecture, and now he will get the idea of the main topic from this first sentence. Then, for the rest of the summary, you must explain any other core ideas and decide which details in your notes are relevant to include with them, and then link them together.

You should consider how the ideas are related to each other and think about linking language to your summary. So sometimes, the speakers will compare and contrast ideas or things. Often they will provide examples.

You should leave at least one minute in the end to check your writing. So you’re graded on your grammar, vocabulary, and spelling. So you want to think and check for any mistakes to correct at the end there. You should use the whole 10 minutes to improve your writing if you move on early; it doesn’t help you, and no extra time will be added to the later part of the section.

So you should use all of the 10 minutes to write the best possible summary. And when checking through the summary, you should make sure that you use pronouns to avoid repetition.

Always approach the summary in the sequence of thinking, planning, and predicting. It helps you avoid repeating the same things in your summary and should help the reader understand what you’re referring to.

After completing your Summarize spoken text tasks, move to the second section of the listening part. Remember, it’s got seven types of questions where it’s all timed in as a whole section. So you can spend as long as you like on an individual item, but you have to bear in mind that you want to finish the collectively timed section and get right to the end.

Multiple-choice, choose multiple answer

This is a multiple-choice question type, where there may be multiple correct answers testing your listening skills. First, you have to listen to the recording and answer the question. Then, there are five to seven possible options where two to three options are correct.

Therefore, listen carefully and then select all of the responses that you think are correct. You can receive one point for each correct option in this question type, but you will lose a point for each incorrect option, and you can’t score below zero. Let’s take an example, suppose there are five options and out of them, two were correct, and if you selected all five of them, you would score zero because you would score two positive marks for the correct answers and three negative marks for the incorrect answers. So, therefore, you should think before you answer.

You have seven seconds countdown before audio starts; these are critical seven seconds to help you, read the question and think about the topic. After listening finishes, you’ve got as much time as you want to take for that question to think about the answers, but bear in mind that you are attempting the whole section collectively. And if you spend a long time reading the options and deciding which answers are correct, you might not get to the end of the listening section. So you will lose out that way. The best thing to do is to choose answers quickly and move on. Any listening question with options to choose from is not high-scoring.

Fill in the Blanks

The next question type is fill in the blanks. In this, listening and writing skills are tested, and you have two or three fill in the blanks tasks in the listening section. Like the last question type, you get seven seconds to prepare and read the information on the screen before the audio begins. During this time, you can look for blanks that are close to each other, as you would have to note answers really quickly for them.

In this question type, you will see a transcript with some blank spaces in it. And then you hear the recording of the same transcript. Your task is to type each word into the empty spaces as you listen to them, so that you do not miss any. Reading is part of this question type as well. You have to read the transcript, and one thing you can do in the seven seconds is to glance at the gaps.

Prepare yourself before the test by planning how to approach the transcript and hear it in the same sequence. Ask questions to yourself like, What kinds of words Am I going to hear? And guide yourself in listening to that way? So is it a noun? Is it a verb? What kinds of information would make sense at the gap?

You have a short amount of time, in the beginning, to think about this. I suggest that you follow along with your mouse cursor on the screen to avoid losing your place. So, one key part of this is that you want to have everything in every gap, which means that you need to follow through with the listening. So, if you’re not sure about something, put something as close to what you heard as you can. Don’t spend a long time thinking about what you heard and thinking about what I should put up here because you must keep up with the speaker.

So you have to keep on reading and following through to hear what’s in the next gap. You can put something there that will help you later go back and fix it once the recording is finished. After the recording is finished, you can think about spelling and grammar at the end. So, these will help you in the grammar part, whether what you think you heard and decide exactly which word was in there, whether it had ING or ED in the end.

Highlight Correct Summary

After the fill in the blanks, we get Highlight correct summary. This question type is for listening and reading skills. You are given 10 seconds to read the options before the recording starts. This is a multiple-choice type of question, but this is presented differently.

So, on the screen, you have the audio or video player. And then, you have four answer options that are possible summaries. The answer options are long, and you probably won’t have time to read through them carefully before the audio starts. So, just use the 10 seconds in the beginning before it starts to read as much as you can. Skim the given options and try to get a general idea of what the listening might be about.

Then, when the audio starts, don’t try to listen and read simultaneously. Instead, you should listen and make notes. You’ve got your erasable pad; it’s a very similar process to summarize the spoken text.

While listening, do not think about the options. Instead, just focus on taking what you hear, and jot down those key ideas in your notes. After listening audio is finished, you can look for differences between the summaries and compare them with your notes and your understanding.

Then think about which one is similar to the notes that you took and what you heard.

All four options will have differences between the summaries. So, you can identify and think about each summary and know which summary options contradict what you heard in the listening, and which one is correct.

Use this to rule out one or more options to help you get down to that accurate summary. Even when you find an option that you think is correct, ensure you’ve checked all options to ensure you’ve got the right answer as the incorrect parts could be just one point or two points, which makes it incorrect.

Some of the things are correct in it, but not all of the points in that summary are correct. You can only choose one correct response for this. If you’re unsure, just make your best guess and pick anything because there is no negative marking for an incorrect answer in this task, so it’s best to use your judgment to make a decision.

Multiple-choice, choose single answer

The next part of the section is Multiple-choice, choose single answer; it is similar to the Multiple-choice, choose multiple answer task you have seen earlier. But for this, you just get a question stem and four options, and only a single answer is correct.

You still follow a similar process, though, which means you’ll listen to the recording. But before you listen, you use your five seconds to look carefully at the question and the options quickly. The stem of the question will help you know what to listen for.

Remember, you won’t have much time to look at the options before you listen, so you’re just using it to help guide you for the listening beforehand. You can take notes while you’re listening. It will help you get important parts of it. And there, as I said, are four options, and you have two or three tasks of this in the listening section, and it’s only for your listening skills score. Like Highlight correct summary, this is also marked as correct or incorrect, there’s only one right answer, and you can only choose one of the given four options. So make your best attempt and focus on the differences between the options relating to what you heard in listening and which could be the correct answer. And if you are still doubtful, select any and move to the next question. There is no harm in making a guess.

Select missing word

The next task is to select missing word. For this task, you will hear a recording on a topic given in the instruction.

This item-type tests only your listening skills. This is another type of multiple-choice, and in the audio there is a focus on the meaning, and you hear an extended piece of speech in the question. Since you get seven seconds in the beginning before it starts, try to read the topic of the audio and try to guess what the listening might be about.

It will test your overall understanding by asking you to predict what will come next. You should anticipate what someone says, show that you understand what you’re hearing, and expect what they would say next.

This is one of the key skills when listening in all kinds of contexts and academic ones. So as you’re listening, you’re able to predict and build a picture of what the person is saying so that you can anticipate what they will say next.

This helps you to understand and process what they’re saying. In this task type, you will listen to an audio, and then the recording will stop, and you will hear a beep. Because the last words of the recording have been cut off, you have three to five options to choose from to finish the passage, and you have to decide which option best completes the idea.

You can watch the progress of the recording on the screen; there is a recording box where you can see it. You must pay special attention to this as it comes towards the end. Because that will help you understand that you know you’re coming very close to the beap. Use the topic given in the instructions to help you understand what you listen to, focusing on the overall understanding to predict the following lines when you end that listening.

It’s either marked correct or incorrect. And as you already know, this means that you could just choose one of the options. You don’t have negative marking for this. Therefore, you should just choose any option that looks correct. Suppose you’re not 100%. Sure, if you think well. one or two of these could be correct; just go with the one you think is most likely.

Highlight incorrect words

The next task is, Highlight incorrect words. You have two or three of these tasks in the test, and it tests listening and reading skills. You will have 10 seconds to prepare before you start listening, you see a transcript on the screen, and you will have 10 seconds to skim it before the audio begins. Some of the words in the transcript will not be the same as what you’ll hear on the recording. So, it’s your job to click on the words that are different.

Follow the cursor of your mouse as you listen and click on any word different from what the speaker says. As it plays, you’ll need to select incorrect words that do not match what you hear. Again, when you’re listening, know that authentic listening audios will sometimes feature things like hesitations in the audio or even a false start. That will be there in the transcript.

When you’re listening, you receive one point for each correct word you select and lose one for each incorrect word. So don’t just select many different words; you need to click only on those genuinely different words in the transcript.

What can help you with this?

First, you want to think about words that carry meaning relevant to the message because it’s unlikely that grammar words such as an article or preposition will be the focus here.

Remember, you do have negative scoring for this. So you will lose one point for each incorrect word, and you can’t score below zero. Then again, if you do the unwise thing of selecting every single word, you will score zero because the negative stuff will take you down to zero. Therefore, focus on the words that are different.

Write from dictation

Then we come to the last task type. This is Write from dictation. It has three to four tasks, and it tests listening and writing skills. You have seven seconds to read the instructions before the recording starts. The recordings are about five seconds long. And it’s always a single sentence.

It would be best to listen and then type the sentence you hear in the box exactly as you heard it. Then, you can write quickly while listening and then use some time to check what you hear and go back and fix it up later.

So as you listen, don’t forget about the meaning you can get if you don’t have time to type everything you heard as you were listening. And while you’re listening, focus on the meaning of words and grammar; also, spellings are important. So the grammar will help you get exactly what you heard.

But focus on this after you finish listening so that an extra bit of time can help you get the sentence correct, and this can be done with the knowledge of grammar and spelling.

You will get one point for every correct word that you write. So write the words in the correct order without a spelling mistake because you won’t get the point if you haven’t spelled the words correctly.

Sometimes you might have a word that can be spelled in different ways. For example, colour is spelled differently in British and American English. So, if this is the case, you can spell it either way. And in general, in PTE academic, you can use either American or British spelling. And we’ve just the rule to follow that you should choose one or the other. So, if you’re writing your essay, just focus on using either American English or British English spelling.

Okay, so that brings you to the end of the task. Remember, dictation is the last task. And you want to ensure that you get to the end of the listening section for that. It is very important that you manage time properly and do not miss any of these dictation tasks. Each sentence contributes a high score to writing and listening skills of PTE exam. So missing even one dictation task will impact your score badly, and these items are always the last one you see at the end of the exm, so manage your time well.

So, for the seven question types that are timed as a section, you have to think about your timing to make sure you’re not spending too long focusing on one question because if you don’t go to the end and don’t complete the write from dictation questions, then you won’t get the highest possible score that you can get for the listening and writing sections.

What can you do to prepare?

Well, we talked about some general ideas; we’ve got a few more here. We’ve got a preparation pathway, which you can find on Marvelpte.com. Here, we’ve got example videos for all of the question types. In case you want to have a quick look at one of the question types from the listening section, you can see a video that will explain how it will work.

You’ve got information about the scoring to help you understand what’s important and test tips for each question type that will help you prepare and understand what you need to do in the test. Additionally, you can find more information and a personalized preparation path here.

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