The 5 W’s of the PTE Academic
(Pearson Test of English Academic)

Who takes the PTE Academic test?

The Pearson Test of English Academic (also known as the PTE Academic exam) is a computer-based, advanced English language proficiency exam. Administered by Pearson Language Tests, it is most widely used as an admissions test for English-language higher education programs. The exam is, at its core, designed to evaluate and certify the ability of non-native English speakers to participate in an English language courses at the university level. As a result, the exam is primarily taken by non-native English language students who are about to enter an English-speaking academic program.

Why should you take the PTE Academic exam?

The PTE Academic test was created with higher education institutions and their non-native students in mind. As the exam is calibrated to such a high standard, it is also aligned to the Common European Framework of Reference and can certify candidates with English speaking abilities ranging from B1 to C2. As a result, in addition to being widely accepted as an approved certification of English proficiency by colleges and universities around the world, it is used by the UK Border Agency for Tier 4 (student visa) applications and considered the preferred test of the Graduate Management Admissions Council.

Importantly, as a computer based-exam, candidates can take the test with as little as 24-48 hours of advance notice. Also, because it is a computer-based exam, applicants can take the exam at one of the many Pearson Language Test certified testing centers around the world.

What exactly is the PTE Academic test like and what can I expect to see on it?

The PTE Academic is a computer-based test comprised of 20 different question types over four sections. Which four distinct sections are listed below, tasks often measure two skills at the same time. For example, a question may involve both listening and reading or reading and speaking rather than each part individually. Moreover, although the length of each section can vary, the PTE Academic exam is always 3 hours long. Because the timing for each section can vary, when the time is up on one section, the test automatically proceed to the next section. One preliminary section, provided as a warm-up exercise, is always included. This untimed personal introduction section is recorded but not graded.

The remainder of the tasks are divided into 3 general sections:

Speaking and writing, which can last from 77 to 93 minutes;

Reading comprehension, which can last from 32 to 41 minutes; and

Listening, which can last 45 – 57 minutes.

Throughout the exam, the PTE Academic uses real-life, academic-oriented situations. For example,  Reading passages may include excerpts from textbooks or other aspects of student life. Likewise,  listening passages may be reproductions of lectures or even recordings of actual speech samples collected from working university classrooms.

As a computer-based exam, results are available by e-mail in as little as five days. Scores are provided on a  scale from 10-90, with scores below 43 considered insufficient to certify English proficiency for an academic setting and score above 84 considered exceptional. Scores between 43 and 84 are recognized the UK Border Agency and also correspond to the following CEFR scores:

PTE Academic Score CEFR Score
43-58 B1
59-75 B2
76-84 C1

Where and When can you take the PTE Academic exam?

The PTE Academic test is available at many of the Pearson test centers operated around the world. Registration for the test is available online up to 48 hours in advance but up to 24 hours in advance by phone (and all phone inquiries should be made to the Pearson directly). Times and dates vary by location.

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