Let’s face it: Reading is one of the most difficult skills ESL learners need to master for a test like the PTE Academic. Sure – it looks easy on the surface – and it’s less stressful than speaking another language confidently, but reading well is somewhat of a gift.

Okay, we get it: Reading is hard. Now what? I think what is most important to remember is this: Good reading skills take time to develop. So, if you’re a nervous reader or you’re failing the PTE reading practice tests and you’re writing the PTE next week, RESCHEDULE RIGHT NOW! If reading is your weakest skill, you’re going to need at least a month of preparation if you want to give yourself a fair shot.

At least once a week, complete this independent reading exercise:

Step 1: Choose an article of about 250-300 words

Step 2: Quickly scan the article and try to identify and write down the keywords in the text.

These might be:

  • Words that repeat themselves
  • Words that match or mean the same thing as the article’s title
  • Words that introduce an idea or action (e.g. A word that describes what the subject of an article thought or did, like “The diver explored the most elusive caves in the Indian Ocean”, or “The author concluded that drinking more than 10 glasses of water is detrimental to the human body”.

Step 3: Now, “speed-read” the text to try to fill in some context around your keywords.

Watch out for:

  • Any sub-headings, bolded or underlined phrases in the text
  • An introductory or topic sentence points to the support the topic sentence and a concluding sentence. Keep in mind, the information in the introduction and the conclusion will often be the most useful!

Step 4: Now that you’ve finished speed-reading, take a moment to write down what you think the most important points in the article are.

Try to answer these questions:

  • From what perspective is this article was written
  • If you had to choose the 3 most important pieces of information given in the article, what would they be?
  • What is the article’s main message?

Step 5: Once you have written down your answers, read the entire article slowly, paying close attention to the details. Compare what you read with your notes – do you think you captured the main points and important keywords in the text? Was your “speed-reading” process almost as helpful as your careful reading of the complete article?

This exercise will not only get you started on the path to becoming a reader, it will also let you know how much work needs to be done. If you aren’t getting the important information from an article when you try to identify keywords, speed-read and take notes, you are not even close to ready for the PTE Reading questions!

PTE Academic Reading Tips: Develop Your Vocabulary

I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but an extensive vocabulary is key when it comes to succeeding on a reading test like the one on the PTE Academic. Think of it this way: The more words you know, the fewer you don’t know! This means that fewer words will confuse you and take away from the overall meaning of a text. One of the best PTE Academic Reading tips I can give is to get to work on your vocabulary now. Like right now.

When improving your vocabulary, pay special attention to developing your knowledge of these word types:

Synonyms: These are the alternatives to any given word. The PTE reading section is notorious for containing synonyms of keywords in its texts, so make sure you’re prepared.

  • Vocabulary Goal: Try to learn 5-10 new synonyms.

Collocations: Collocations are words that are often grouped together in the English language. The terms “abstract concept” and “critical thinking” are great examples. The PTE reading section is filled with collocations, and the more you know, the better!

    • Vocabulary goal: Learn 10-20 collocations every week.