PTE Academic: Speaking Section
PTE Academic is now the choice of many international students for formal English examination. It is reportedly easier than the IELTS test, especially in terms of reading, writing and even listening but not speaking. The speaking section of PTE Academic comprises 2 tasks that could potentially decide whether you, as an international student, are going to receive that student visa or PR (permanent residency). The two tasks are “Read Aloud” and “Repeat Sentences”. Performing well in those two tasks will get you over the line and help you to secure the score you need to pursue tertiary education in an English-speaking country or obtain your permanent residency.
Read Aloud task
In this PTE Academic task, you are asked to read aloud about a 5-line paragraph as naturally and fluently as possible. You only have 40 seconds to prepare and practice for the task. Most international students perform poorly despite long exposure to the English language.
Repeat Sentences task
In this task, you are required to listen to a sentence spoken by a native speaker of English and then repeat it immediately after him/her. You listen and repeat 10 sentences spoken naturally and often quickly, as a matter of fact too quick for English learners’ ears. Many students fail to remember the words and reconstruct the sentence they heard accurately as they either omit words, replace them or mispronounce them.
5 Strategies For Better Performance
The 5 strategies I recommend do not only apply to the Repeat Sentences task but also to the Read aloud task of the PTE Academic.
Strategy 1: Mark The Pauses
Pauses are stops. Depending on the length and syntax of the sentence, the speaker may choose to stop or pause once or more during a sentence. If the speaker stops once, you too should stop only once. WARNING. Frequent pauses indicate lack of fluency. What that means is that you are not able to reconstruct or rebuild the sentence you heard well enough. Pauses definitely cause great damage to speaking score.
Strategy 2: Mark The Units of Thought
A unit of thought can be a word, a pair of words or a group of words which can produce a mental image. At a minimum, a unit of thought must contain one or more content words. Content words can be nouns, verbs, adjectives or adverbs. For example, take the word [people], which is a noun. The [people] itself could be a unit of thought. Now if I hear [many], an adjective, before [people], [many people] will become a unit of thought. I can close my eyes and see an image of a crowd. The words [many people] evoke or induce some sort of a mental image or representation of a concept. The ability to identify the units of thought in a sentence will help you to remember the words more accurately and thus reproduce them more easily. Look at the image below.
Strategy 3: Mark The Pitch Boundaries & Movement
The ability to hear the correct pitch boundaries and movement of the speaker will help you to process the meaning or message of the sentence more effectively. Provided that you are making a statement (not asking a question), a rule of thumb is to begin your phrase, clause or sentence with a high-er pitch and end it with a low-er pitch. That is known as pitch boundary.
Pitch movement is the changes in pitch that occur throughout the entire sentence. Pitch movement or changes in voice pitch usually occur when transitioning between clauses, for example, between a dependent clause and an independent clause or when highlighting a modifier or when simply moving from one unit of thought to another. That is not only important in PTE Academic but in any speaking test you do for any purpose. Look at the image below.
Strategy 4: Mark The Modifiers
Modifiers are words or groups of words that provide more information on a word or a group of words. For example, [change] is a vague concept until we add the word [climate] behind it. [Climate] is a modifier because it limits the concept of [change]. It’s not just ANY change, we are only looking at [Climate change]. Typically, modifiers are either adjectives or adverbs. Adjectives modify nouns and adverbs modify verbs. Despite the word [climate] being a noun, it is playing the role of an adjective in this example as it is modifying another noun [change]. Because [climate] is modifying [change], it is safe to say that the voice pitch should be slightly higher on [climate].
Strategy 5: Mark The Word Stress
Word stress is syllable stress. At a minimum, a syllable is a vowel. If a word contains 1 vowel, it is a 1-syllable word such as article [a]. The number of consonants does not matter in word in a sense that it doesn’t change its syllabic structure. The word [change] for instance is a 1-syllabe word because it has only 1 vowel and 3 consonants. If a word contains 2 vowels though like [trigger] or 6 vowels like [intermediate], that word is considered to consist of 2 and 6 syllables respectively. When words consist of 2 or more syllables, they must have at least 1 stressed syllable, a syllable pronounced slightly more forcefully than the other syllables. Long words may have 1 primary stress and 1 secondary stress. Word stress is tremendously important as it produces rhythm. Like pitch boundaries and movement, stress can play a crucial part in your ability to reproduce the sentence fluently and naturally to obtain a better score. Look at the image below.