PTE listening tips
PTE, PTE Practice Test, PTE Listening

What skills do I need for the PTE listening section?
The PTE listening test assesses your ability to understand a theme or topic and the key points put across by the speaker on the recording. As well gaining a general understanding of the topic being spoken about, other elements of aural comprehension are being tested such as the ability to identify the purpose, context and tone of the recording. Academic language will be used to a good understanding of this style of language is necessary. Additionally, your listening comprehension skills will need to be at a level where you can follow the flow of information being spoken about at any stage in the recording, as well as make estimations about what the information coming up may be.

What will I need to do in the PTE select missing words task?

One task with which you will need some strategies to help you in the listening PTE sub-section is the PTE select missing word task. First, we will explain how it works. To begin with, you will be given a clue in the form of a prompt about the theme upon which the listening task will be based. You will then be given 2-4 questions for this part of the listening section. For each question, you will listen to a short recording (lasting from 20-70 seconds). At the end of the recording, the last word or phrase will be covered with a beeping sound. On your answer screen, you are given options to choose from to identify which word or set of words would fit correctly to complete the sentence. You must only choose one option and it can only be correct or incorrect. The option chosen is then highlighted and you move onto the next question. You are being assessed on your comprehension of the recording to ascertain which ending to the sentence would make sense.

PTE Practice

3 Dos and 1 DON’T

1. DO look out for the context clue in the prompt

If you approached each recording without any knowledge of the topic upon which the information is based, you would be at a great disadvantage. The reason that many students struggle with the listening section of the PTE is that the recording seems to go so quickly that it is easy to miss the key information. The solution to this is concentration. If your mind goes elsewhere for a few seconds, (which minds have a tendency to do, especially in a test situation!), you can miss the key information that may have not even been very difficult and thus, lose an easy mark. Make sure that you are listening for the topic prompt as this will make it easier to put your mind to the task as you will be expecting to hear about the environment or technology, for example, avoiding any confusion when it comes to the question.

Now that you are listening with the context in mind, this will guide your thoughts and attention as you listen. This strategy also helps if you are unsure about some of what is being said as having the context allows you to make estimations and predictions about what the speaker is getting across and what the likely ending to the sentence would be.

2. Do listen for key words and clues
As we know, from everyday conversational situations to watching the news, and all the other times during our day when we are required to listen, there is listening and there is listening. In some situations, it is enough to half listen and we can get the gist of what we need to know! However, in a test situation, we must do the opposite. We must focus intently on what is being said, without allowing our mind to wander. This is a skill that can be learned with practice.

As you are listening, focus on keywords and clues for important pieces of information. Pay attention to the speakers’ tone and opinion. Track the progress and direction of the speaker’s points. This way, you will gain an overall understanding of the recording and pick up the crucial parts that will help you to figure out which information must go in the gap. It doesn’t matter if you understand every word, in fact there are bound to be a few words that you don’t know. Don’t focus your attention on these words as you will panic and forget to concentrate on what you DO understand.

3. DO Spend time listening to audio-media
As with reading, writing and speaking, the more listen to English being spoken, the easier it will be to understand. This is pretty obvious, but it can’t be underestimated as it really is the best way to see serious progress in your language listening skills in a short space of time. If you are listening to English every day, your aural comprehension will advance rapidly. It is a good idea to vary the kinds of things you listen to so that you get used to picking up different information in a variety of accents and contexts. Internet radio, podcasts, audio books and online language resources are just a few of the options to integrate into your daily language learning practice.

A great way to practice specifically for the select missing words task is to practice with a fellow language student by reading passages from whatever source you like to one another without completing the last part of a sentence, leaving that to your partner.

4. DON’T waste time making notes
In some of the other sections of the PTE, taking short notes and highlighting is a great idea. Jotting down key points and ensuring that you don’t forget the information you have been given is a helpful tool. However, in the select missing word task, there simply is not time for this, so you should avoid writing anything down. Even though it may feel as if you are consolidating the information by taking notes while listening to the speaker, you are actually trying to focus your attention in two places at once. You may well still be writing something from the first part of the recording when it has moved on and before you know it you have lost track and are unsure what has been said. If a recording were played twice and it was loner, then the strategy of note-taking could work, but as you will only hear it once and it will be over very quickly, you can’t afford to take the risk.

Instead, you can take mental notes. Focusing all of your attention on the speaker, mentally note the topic, perspective, argument, conclusion, etc. Don’t choose and complete the missing phrase or word until the recording has finished. This seems a little scary as we often feel that taking notes gives us a back-up plan so that we have something to refer to once the information has gone, but in this case, it is counter-productive.

Try out these tips in your next practice session and you will see that these simple strategies will help you to score highly on the PTE select missing words tasks. This can then become a section of the test that you know you can do easily, giving you more energy to focus on revising for some of the more challenging sections of the test. Listen carefully!


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