All tests have a time limit. That’s just the way it is. Unlike course work that you can work on at home at your own pace, an exam or test has to be completed within a given time-frame. But why is this and how can we learn to manage our time effectively in the PTE test?
Why do we need time-limits?
When addressing this question, we have to think about the reason we are taking a language test in the first place. Of course, the test opens doors to new countries, careers and education. However, on a broader level, we are developing our language proficiency to be able to use English in real-life situations. We could choose a number of daily examples to illustrate why we need to be able to comprehend and communicate at a certain pace.
In an academic setting, a lecture for instance, we would need to understand the information being disseminated to us at the pace set by our lecturer. We cannot ask him to stop for a while as we write down what he has said and spend some time figuring it out before he moves onto his next point. We would also need to take notes fairly quickly at the same time as listening and perhaps refer to a text book or article.
Conversationally, we aim to develop a conversation that flows whereby we listen and respond at a speed that allows a dialogue to progress. Similarly, in a work-place setting, it is essential that we move through our tasks swiftly without a lack of language ability getting in the way of our performance or even causing us to make mistakes. Part of developing fluency of language is doubtlessly speed and thus, this is a skill which must be developed and tested. We must be able to use our language skills in an efficient manner at an appropriate pace, demonstrating an ability to think competently and logically in the language.
Aside from this, it would be impractical to have open-ended timings in exams as it would be hard to organise and test-takers would actually find it disconcerting not knowing how much time to spend on each task without any boundaries set.
How should I manage my time in the PTE test?
So, we can see why time-limits are imperative. However, that doesn’t necessarily help us to appreciate this and to know how to deal with time constraints when we are taking the test and worrying about how long we have left at the same time as trying to concentrate on the questions and answers! The best way to avoid panicking about time during the test is to be prepared by getting to know the test, taking plenty of sample tests so that you get used to how long there is for each section and following our handy suggestions!
First a summary of the timing of each section. The writing section gives you 10 minutes for each of the summarise written text questions and 20 minutes for the essay writing task. You will have 32-41 minutes for the reading section as a whole. You are given 54-57 minutes to complete the listening section and the speaking section timings depend upon the task.
The writing section
The writing section is perhaps the easiest part of the test in terms of getting used to the timing. Your essays will need to be completed in 20 minutes and you will have completed plenty of sample pieces of writing by the time you take the test, so you should be used to writing the requested number of words in the allocated time. Remember that you will need a few minutes either side for planning and proofreading. The same goes for the summarise written text; time yourself during your practise sessions and you will soon be completing the task in the time naturally.
The reading section
As the time-limit is given for the reading section overall, you will need to pay close attention to your time management. From using practice materials, you should have a good idea of how long each part takes you and which elements you find more difficult or easier and can complete more or less quickly. As you are practicing, set yourself time-limits for the different questions and build up the pace at which you can work. Make a note of how long they take you each time and be aware of where you are up to with this when you take the test for real.
The listening section
The listening section essentially manages your time for you. The recordings will play for a certain number of minutes, you will complete your answers and move onto the next question. The recordings are only played once, so it is a good idea to get in the mind-set that if you missed something from the last question, it is not worth thinking about as you need to focus on the next.
The speaking section
Basically, you will have to speak about your topic within the allocated time. It is essential that you practice this as it is hard to gauge how long you have been speaking for. It can also be challenging to speak at length but in a succinct manner for the correct amount of time if you are not used to doing this. However, this too soon becomes second nature with practice.
As you can see, time management is crucial to the performance in your test and it is a skill like any other test strategy that you can learn and become expert at. Integrate time-management into your study programme as soon as possible. The clock is ticking!