Changes to PTE Academic English Test

Changes to PTE Academic English Test

They say that a change is as good as a holiday. Well, this particular change in the PTE Academic English Test may well lead to a permanent holiday – to Australia!

For those of you familiar with the Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE), you’ll know that it’s a computer-based English language exam accepted by governments and universities worldwide for visa and study purposes. And if you’ve taken the test before, you’ll also know that it’s 3 hours and up to 82 questions long. But not for long!

Upcoming changes to the PTE Academic English Test

As of the 16th of November 2021, PTE Academic is reducing in length to just 2 hours, with a maximum of 64 questions per test. Aside from the obvious benefit of being much easier to stay focused for a shorter period of time, you’ll also get to keep a whole extra hour of your life, which can instead be spent down at the beach when you arrive to the shores of Australia!

So, what does this mean for you, the test taker?

Well, it’s not all beaches and holidays, unfortunately. You will need to consider the fact that with less questions in total, it does mean that there’s less room for error. Take the question ‘Describe Image’, for example. With the current 3-hour version of the test, you are required to complete 6 or 7 of this type of task. You might make a couple of nervous mistakes on the first or second Describe Image question, but by the time you get to the sixth or seventh, you’ll probably find your rhythm and feel much more confident with your answers. In the reduced version of the exam, however, you might still be finding your feet by the time you’ve completed all 3 or 4 Describe Image questions, but by then, you’ve run out of chances for this task type.

Luckily, there is a solution to this dilemma; practice all question types before you take the test! If you prepare for the test in advance, you’ll be ready to answer every single question to the best of your ability, before you even walk through the doors of your test centre. But if you don’t prepare in advance, then the shortened test may not benefit you.

Otherwise, I can only see advantages for the reduced English exam. First of all, staying focused (or awake) for 120 minutes is much more achievable for most people than a full 180 minutes. Plus, if you’re a caffeine addict like me, three hours of nervous sweating without a cup of tea or coffee can be unpleasant, but two hours is manageable.

Although, it should be noted that with the reduced time, we do lose our optional 10 minute break in the middle. So, if you require a break for medical reasons, you’ll need to apply ahead of time.

For the most part, the important elements of the test will stay the same. It will still be accepted by the same institutions and governments around the world for study and visa purposes. It will continue to test the same four language skills: speaking, writing, reading and listening. You will still be required to complete the same 20 question types that feature in the test now. And Pearson have reiterated that the new test will be neither harder nor easier.

Prepare for the PTE Academic English Test

If you want to give the new version a try, scored practice tests will be available in the new test format as of October 27. However, the new score report showing your results will look different, for both practice and real tests.

While Pearson have not yet released the specifics, they have advised that there will be an additional report provided alongside the results of your four main language skills. The purpose of the additional report is to provide feedback on your results which will help you to establish why you scored the way you did. This will be replacing the ‘enabling skills’ results which we currently receive as feedback on our score reports. If you’re not familiar with these sub-skills, they are essentially some of the many categories of language abilities which make up your four main skills. For example, ‘oral fluency’ is a sub-skill of speaking, and refers to how smooth, effortless and naturally-paced your delivery of speech is.

In my experience, most people don’t spend much time researching the meaning of the enabling-skills anyway, so if the new report can translate this into more comprehensible feedback, I believe it will be a very positive change.

The final important change to note, is the release of the ‘at home’ version of the test. Now, before you get into your pyjamas and start hanging cheat-sheets behind your computer at home, please note that this version of the test is NOT recognised for visa and immigration purposes. Sorry to say, if you are taking the test for Australian immigration, you’ll still need to attend a test centre. Although, there are no rules against wearing your pyjamas!

Australian Migration Workshop – Virtual Expo

I hope that I’ve been able to shed some light on the upcoming changes to PTE Academic. If you’d like to learn more about the test and the changes from PTE Pearson themselves, the Down Under Centre will be hosting a representative from Pearson during our Virtual Expo on the 23rd of October. There will also be loads of other informative workshops on the day, guiding you through the process of migrating to Australia and explaining the steps to make your dream of getting to Australia a reality! For more information and to get your tickets (£6 each!), please visit

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