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Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE Academic) – a Guide for Postgraduates

Written by Ben Taylor

PTE Academic is one of the more recent English language tests, having been launched in 2009. It’s an entirely computer-based test – including the speaking element – and is graded using machine algorithms.

This page will cover essential information on PTE Academic for prospective Masters students, from typical university requirements, how the test works and who recognises it.

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What is PTE Academic?

PTE Academic is designed to help non-native English speakers prove their proficiency in English for a variety of purposes, from study and employment to visa and professional registration.

One of the unique aspects of PTE Academic is that tests are graded by computer algorithms. This automated scoring system is designed to ensure the highest levels of impartiality when marking tests. It also means that grades are usually ready within five business days of the test being taken – a pretty fast turnaround!

Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE Academic)
Length of test Three hours
Grade scale 10-90
Test locations Over 200 test centres in more than 50 countries
Typical cost £155
Established 2009

How does PTE Academic work?

PTE Academic is a three-hour test comprised of three sections: speaking and writing; reading; and listening. The questions take several formats, from multiple choice and gap filling to essay writing and information interpretation.

This is a summary of what you can expect from each paper:

  • Speaking and writing – These skills are tested separately but in the same section of the exam. For the oral element, you complete a series of tasks by speaking into an audio mic. For example, you might have to read a passage aloud, or describe an image that you’re presented with. The writing element involves summarising a passage in a single text, then writing a short essay (200-300 words) in response to a prompt. This part of the test should take between 77 and 93 minutes.
  • Reading – The reading section uses several different question formats to test your reading skills. There is also a writing element to one of the tasks in this part of the exam. You’ll usually have to answer multiple choice questions, fill in blanks and re-order paragraphs so that a passage makes sense. This will take between 32 and 41 minutes.
  • Listening – The final section of the exam covers listening skills. However, the integrated approach of PTE Academic means that some questions will also test your reading and writing skills. For example, you may have to listen to an audio recording and then decide which written summary matches what you’ve just heard. Alternatively, you might have to transcribe a short audio clip. This section takes between 45 and 47 minutes.

What PTE Academic grade do I need?

English language requirements vary from university to university and from course to course. For most programmes you’ll need to have achieved somewhere between 59 and 65 in your PTE Academic test (this is the equivalent of a 6.5 in IELTS).

Depending on the institution, you might need 74+. This is especially likely to be the case for postgraduate courses demanding a high level of literacy, such as English Literature.

Who recognises PTE Academic?

Although PTE Academic is a relatively new qualification, it’s recognised by thousands of universities across the world. It’s also accepted by Australian and New Zealand student visa authorities, which could be useful if you’re planning on a life down under!

When and where can I take PTE Academic?

You can take PTE Academic at over 200 test centres in more than 50 countries. PTE Academic is offered on over 360 days a year, making it one of the most flexible English language tests.

You’ll typically receive your results within five working days, which is one of the fastest response times for English language exams.

How much does PTE Academic cost?

The cost of PTE Academic depends on the country you take it in. We’ve provided a list of some of the most popular locations below, but you can view a full list of countries and fees on the Pearson website.

  • United Kingdom – £155 (USD $215)
  • Australia – AUD $330 (USD $250)
  • New Zealand – NZD $385 (USD $275)
  • India – INR 11,102 + 18% GST (USD $165)
  • Nigeria – NGN 46,370 (USD $130)
  • China – USD $275
  • United States – USD $200

Other English language tests

Want to know more about the alternatives to PTE Academic? Our guide to English language tests covers TOEFL, Cambridge Assessment English exams and IELTS.

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Last updated: 21 May 2018