Speaking for the PTE is the same as speaking at an elocution contest. This subject comes up every so often in some online PTE circles, you’d think it must be true. But I disagree. Speaking at an elocution contest is a “staged” performance; while speaking for the PTE requires none of the theatrics oration jurors expect. For one thing, the PTE Testing Room is a controlled environment as well as the manner by which one answers the Speaking test items. There is no room for taking liberties and going on with a harangue for or against an argument. Doing this at an elocution contest gets one a superior rating. You just can’t do this for PTE Speaking.
Scoring an English speech for the PTE is hinged on one’s ability to meet and surpass an internationally benchmarked set of criteria (Common European Framework’s) such as oral fluency, pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar. PTE speaking test items are designed to further asses other sub-skills such as speaking for a purpose, supporting an opinion with details, developing complex ideas within a spoken discourse, producing fluent speech and so on. And, in order to get the highest score of 5 in all these skills, one has to speak “native-like”.
That’s tough, considering regional variances amongst native speakers of English. Not everyone gets along fine with each other in speech. But what does the PTE seek in spoken answers? When one speaks for the PTE his speech is scored by a speech-to-text technology created by both language and software experts. Therefore the software will scour all the natural elements of spoken English in one’s speech: liaison or connected speech, initial and terminal sounds, rate of speech, intonation, stress, spoken rules, accent. If all these go in the right places, they’re chalked up under Oral Fluency.
Speaking is the lead test in the PTE. It has five parts: Read Aloud, Repeat Sentence, Describe Image, Re-tell Lecture, and Answer Short Question. In doing these, one should demonstrate an “advanced” or “native-like” speaking ability. But some things get in the way. I note a few here:
Liaison or connected speech—In the PTE the speaker shouldn’t sound like reading a passage (being a Speaking test, the test-taker should say the sentences in an effortless, smooth, natural way; he should avoid sounding monotonous and robotic. Workaround: imagine speaking to a live audience.
Initial and terminal syllable sounds—In Read Aloud, test-taker should make sure word syllables are properly stressed and read. Don’t jump over the end-syllables as this will impact Oral Fluency.
Intonation—Test-taker should be aware of the natural rhythm of English speech (up-and-down, rising and falling) not only for emphasis but also for general meaning.
Hesitancy and fillers—Test-taker shouldn’t let himself be overrun by what he sees in the charts and graphs. To avoid pausing for lack of words, test-taker should have “ready” words and phrases such as “represents”, “dips”, “drops”, “peaks”, “similarly”, “in contrast”, “fluctuates”, “plateaus”, “parallels” etc. These words are appropriate to use in describing charts and graphs.
Content versus ease of delivery—There’s going to be charts, graphs, process flows, and photos in PTE Speaking. It may be tough decoding these things under time pressure. Test-taker should decide which carries more weight: precision (factual reading of information) or oral fluency. Remember it’s a Speaking test, so one should take control of his words not the correctness of the information in the image. One should sound self-assured if not authoritative.
The question now is: Is this possible? Yes. Achievable? With serious practice, yes. And, with a considerable amount of time reviewing (read strategizing) with Bridge Australia, you can get your desired PTE score.