PTE is no different from all other English language tests. Some may differ in form and structure, but the variance is guided by what sort of English language skills are being tested. And like all other English language tests, PTE is a product of long years of research. The test is backed up by solid science.
That much we can say about PTE. The test-taker and the state of his or her English language proficiency is another matter. It is widely assumed that English is the second language in the Philippines. Some claim it to be their first language. Yet some don’t take positively to being required to taking (and passing) an English language test. It’s as if they are being told their English is not good enough, so the general sentiment goes.
The creators of PTE had second users of English in mind in fact. Though it wasn’t designed for testing second language users’ command of English only, PTE recognizes diversity. English is a global language after all. Does that make marking and evaluating results difficult?
First off, we have to be clear about PTE scores and how. PTE features an overall score, a communicative skills score, and enabling skills score. The overall score is the sum of the performance of the test taker on all items of the test (somewhere between 70-91 items, with 20 different item types). There is no highest or lowest score in PTE; although the score range is from 10 to 90 points. Under the overall score are the individual communicative skills scores. These are figures that measure the test taker’s listening, reading, speaking, and writing skills. PTE offers integrated skills items—speaking is combined with listening and reading, reading with writing, listening with writing. For these items the score is added on to each communicative skill and in combination with others. For instance, there is a repeat sentence item within the speaking test that assesses both speaking and listening, and thus are scored both ways.
A unique feature of PTE, furthermore, is its enabling skills scores. This is something that is rare to find in many English language classrooms. You see PTE creators make a strong case for grammar, oral fluency, pronunciation, spelling, vocabulary, and written discourse as groundwork for the productive skills of speaking and writing. What this means is that these elements impact the test taker’s speaking and writing performance—particularly so in real life situations.
All this makes sense when we place PTE scores in the right context. For study and migration purposes, institutions require a minimum score— overall score plus communicative skills, or an overall score and higher scores on communicative skills. Anyone who wants to study or work in Australia should get at least 65 on all skills. PTE scores are aligned with the CEF (Common European Framework) levels, so for someone who gets a PTE score of 65 he or she falls under a CEF level B2 (meaning he/she can understand the main ideas of complex text on both concrete and abstract topics, including technical discussions in his/her field of specialization; and can interact with a degree of oral fluency and spontaneity that makes regular interaction).
Has anyone got a perfect PTE score? Yes, many times, in fact. The flipside, however, is an Irish veterinarian who speaks only English fell short; there was once a Canadian who just winged it and came back with a serious complaint against PTE creators.
Finally, I should say my teaching background helped when I took the PTE. But taking the PTE and getting your desired score demand more than just stock knowledge. Which is why talks about “classroom” English proficiency may sound trivial. As in most life-changing decisions, PTE is all about strategy.