Mr. X and I brushed up on Reading Aloud and Describe Image exercises. I used the PTE Score Guide to explain how Speaking answers are scored: There are sample answers on the guide with their corresponding scores. Mr. X listened to each Speaking sample answers, and I asked him to give me feedback on each.
I explained to him the use of the progress bar that appears on the screen, particularly on Speaking test items. I said when he speaks in answer to Describe Image as well as Read Aloud, he should keep an eye on the progress bar; make sure he finishes speaking before the green band of the progress bar reaches the end. After which he should click the Next button. Although, according to the PTE site, an unfinished answer is saved anyway, it still is an unfinished answer—so, it impacts Enabling Skills such as grammar and oral fluency.
I gave Mr. X the template to the Describe Image answer, but cautioned him that he should leave space for flexibility. In cases where the image is not labeled—say, a situation, a map, a scientific looking diagram—he should use his common sense. Getting the information and data right in a chart or graph comes under Content, but it’s not all. In a Speaking test, oral fluency and ease of delivery are most important.
To gauge his English speaking ability, I made Mr. X read aloud parts of the PTE Score Guide we were discussing. I gave him feedback: He should work on his intonation, vowel and consonant sounds (particularly the aspirated sounds of D, T, CH, P, G, and so on). I told him breathing and the size of the mouth (and how to use it) plays a great role in correct sound production. On the same subject, I reminded him that when taking the PTE, he should check little things like the distance of the microphone from his mouth, the volume dial on the headset, to make sure his voice is recorded well.
Read Aloud—smooth reading (reading like speaking at the same time), proper pausing (taking a cue from punctuation marks and clause/sentence meaning), connected speech or liaison, breathing, stress and emphasis
Describe Image –speaking template, working with time, speaking strategy (using common expressions/colocations such as “spike, drop, dramatic increase, sharp decrease/increase, level, in contrast to, fluctuating, steady, et al)
Mr. X took his mock test June 18, 2018, 15 days after his last review day (June 4, 2018). Earlier in the review his issues were: intonation, delivery, oral fluency, grammar and vocabulary in Speaking; writing complex sentences (using linkers and coordinating conjunctions)as well as meeting the word requirement in Writing; paraphrasing and getting context clues in Reading; summarizing spoken text (using complex sentences and punctuation marks) in Listening.
With these working against the test taker, a first mock test may prove daunting. Mr. X rented a space at an internet café on June 18 at around 1 PM. He brought his own white board for note-taking. In Speaking, he found Repeat Sentence a challenge (he may have been caught off guard and failed to repeat some sentences; or said words not in the voice prompt). He was caught unprepared for the transition between test items, say, between Retell Lecture and Repeat Sentence. In Listening, he was left trailing by the voice prompt in highlight wrong words. He said he had to literally put dots on the computer screen to mark words.
A day after the mock test Mr. X tried recording his own voice using the headset at the internet café. He could hardly hear his words. Getting a 10 in Oral Fluency means he barely spoke at all. The few words that escaped his mouth may have been all garbled because of the defective headset. What it recorded (and read) instead were incomplete syllables. His pronunciation suffered the consequences too.
I have read Mr. X essays and there were times he could not write the past form of a verb correctly. This may have led to spelling errors. Thus, a score of 19 in Spelling. An incorrect word due to spelling error negatively affects a Vocabulary score. This impacted his score in summarizing a written and spoken text. Taken together, including shifts in verb tense, these will impact Grammar. His 79 in Written Discourse he owed from knowing the essay template, but that did not treacle down to summary writing.
Mr. X needs to take a PTE mock test at a secure place. Check the equipment (PC, headset, chair) and make sure to stay away from distractions (even if you want to simulate the actual test room). Skills are integrated in the PTE, so a shortcoming in one impacts the other skills. Therefore, in preparing for the PTE, an integrated approach should be taken. Take as many mock tests to be able to keep track of your progress.