The PTE exam format is always a topic of top concern for people who are considering pursuing this English certificate to realize their plans to study, work and settle abroad. Therefore, in this article, Estudyme will provide you with the most detailed information about the PTE exam format as well as answer frequently asked questions about the most difficult section in the PTE exam for first-time test takers.

PTE exam test format is a topic of top concern for test-takers
PTE Exam Format is a topic of top concern for test-takers

1. Outstanding advantages of PTE Exam Format over other English language tests

PTE format is designed to suit the purposes of study, work and settlement, with 4 skills tested during about 2 hours and 3 main test sections including Speaking & Writing, Reading and Listening. Here are the prominent differences in the PTE exam pattern that make this test outweigh other popular English language tests in the market. 

  • Computer-based testing and marking: The PTE exam format and structure are designed to ensure fairness and efficiency in the test-taking process. There is absolutely no human intervention, including during the re-checking examination process.
  • Actual score scale of 100 points: When candidates take the multiple choice test, the system will automatically calculate 10 points for each skill. Therefore, the actual score scale of the PTE format is not 0 – 90 but 0 – 100 points, which provides more advantages for test-takers. 
  • Cross-marking scoring: This is also known as compensatory scoring, is indeed a unique feature of the PTE format that sets it apart from other English language proficiency tests. This system allows candidates to compensate for weaknesses in one skill area by demonstrating strength in another, thereby minimizing the impact of any skill disparities on their overall score. 
  • One-sitting schedule: PTE exam pattern allow candidates to spend one 2-hour session to complete the entire test in one sitting and consists of all sections being completed on the same day, in which Speaking and Writing skills will be tested together.
  • Multiple-choice structure: The PTE format has many multiple-choice sections with clear question types, helping candidates get acquainted and prepare easily during the exam preparation and test-taking process.
  • Accessible PTE practice test: The PTE format makes it easy for practice tests to be simulated via online platforms or mobile applications. Hereby, the PTE Practice Test on Estudyme can meet the criteria of the real PTE exam pattern, making it easy for candidates to get acquainted and practice.
PTE exam format has many outstanding advantages over other English language tests
PTE exam format has many outstanding advantages over other English language tests

2. PTE Exam Format by sections

  • Section 1: PTE format for Speaking & Writing

The first part of the PTE exam, candidates will be assessed on their ability to use language, while the Writing test will assess their ability to write paragraphs with correct grammar and spelling. Here are the main question types and estimated time for each task in PTE exam format.

 Question Topics PTE Questions per task Duration per task
Personal introduction –  not scored  1 55 seconds: 25 seconds to prepare and 30 seconds to introduce yourself
Read Aloud 6 – 7 30-40 seconds to prepare for reading out loud the text of 60 words on the screen
Repeat sentence 10 – 12 15 seconds: 3-9 seconds for prompt, 15 seconds to repeat the sentences
Describe image 3 – 4 25 seconds to look over the image, and then describe it in 40 seconds 
Retell lecture 1 – 2 90 seconds for prompt length, 10 seconds to prepare and 40 seconds to answer
Answer short question 5 – 6 20 seconds with 3-9 seconds for prompt and 10 seconds to answer
Summarize written text – add points for both Writing and Reading skills 1 – 2 10 minutes to summarize a text of 300 words in a 50-to-75-word sentence. 
Write Essay 1 – 2 20 minutes to type a 200-300 word essay about a given topic.
Total Questions 28 – 36 Time Allocation: 54 – 67 minutes
  • Section 2: PTE format for Reading

After completing the Speaking and Writing test, without resting time, candidates continue to participate in the Reading test to assess the reading comprehension ability, knowledge of vocabulary and grammar. 

Each question in the PTE reading test is calculated according to a specific time, not a general time frame. Therefore, candidates need to manage their test time appropriately for each question. Here are the main question types and the time distribution according to PTE Reading pattern:

Question Topics PTE Questions per task Duration per task
Fill in the blanks –reading & writing 5 – 6 Complete the 300-word paragraph by choosing the answer best fits the context
Multiple choice, multiple answers 1 – 2 Complete the 300-word paragraph by choosing more than 2 answers best fit the context.

Each correct answer gets 1 point and each wrong answer loses 1 point.

Re-order paragraph 2 – 3 Read and arrange the correct order to complete a 150-word paragraph
Fill in the blanks – reading 4 – 5 Complete a 80-word paragraph by choosing the answers best fit the context
Multiple-choice, single answer 1 – 2 Read a 300-word paragraph and answer multiple-choice questions
Total Questions 13 – 18 Time Allocation – 29 – 30 minutes
  • Section 3: PTE format for Listening

This section aims to assess the candidate’s comprehension of spoken English. In this situation, the test-takers must make sure they pay close attention to the audio clip being played and remember what they hear because they only have the chance to listen to audios and videos only once. 

Eight segments make up this section, and the following is the amount of time allotted to each component. 

Question Topics PTE Questions per task Duration per task
Summarize spoken text 1 – 2 60-90 seconds to retain 50-70 words, 10 minutes to type 
Multiple choice, multiple answers 1 – 2 40-90 seconds for prompt
Fill in the blanks 2 – 3 30-60 seconds to listen and fill in the subtitles’ blanks of the listening passage
Highlight correct summary 1 – 2 30-90 seconds to listen and choose a summary line for the topic of the listening passage
Multiple-choice, single answer 1 – 2 30-60 seconds to listen and choose the best answer for the listening passage
Select missing word 1 – 2 20-70 seconds to listen and select the missing words or phrases from the listening passage
Highlight incorrect word 2 – 3 15-50 seconds to listen and choose words that are different from the audio tracks.
Write from Dictation 3 – 4 3-5 seconds to listen and type exactly what you have heard
Total Questions 12 – 20 Time Allocation: 30 – 43 minutes

3. What is the most difficult section in a PTE Exam Format?

The difficulty of sections in the PTE exam can vary depending on individual strengths and weaknesses. Here are some points that candidates may find difficult for every section:

  • Speaking and Writing: Some people may feel unease and discomfort to speak in front of an examiner as a microphone rather than a real person, leading to performance anxiety or reduced confidence during the Speaking tasks. Similarly, in Writing tasks, having to type an essay within a time limit can hinder a candidate’s speed in comparison to the physical act of writing. Especially, the moving between speaking and writing tasks within the same time frame requires candidates to quickly transition between different modes of communication. This can be mentally taxing and may disrupt the flow of thoughts and ideas.
  • Listening: The tasks of listening and and understanding short, time-limited recordings with a variety of tasks can be challenging for some candidates, especially as the recordings will be presented at a fast pace and only once. Besides, effective note-taking is crucial for capturing key points, main ideas, and supporting details while listening to audio recordings. However, candidates may find it challenging to balance listening and note-taking simultaneously, especially if they are not accustomed to taking notes in a digital format or using keyboard shortcuts efficiently.
  • Reading: The formatting of text on a computer screen, such as font size, spacing, and layout, may differ from printed materials. Candidates may need to adjust to the digital presentation of text and adapt their reading strategies accordingly. Also, it may be challenging to take effective notes while reading passages on a computer screen because unlike writing on paper, digital note-taking may require candidates to use keyboard shortcuts or annotation tools, which they may not be familiar with or proficient in.
What is the most difficult section in a PTE exam format?
What is the most difficult section in a PTE exam format?

However, all these hurdles can be overcome easily if you have the PTE practice test of Estudyme by your side. With free PTE practice test including simulating test-like conditions, practicing time management strategies, and developing techniques to seamlessly transition between the three sections, you can hone your reading and speaking skills up to an extent where success is a sure thing. So, start studying PTE now with Estudyme and best of luck with your preparations!