Interview with Scott Wilson
Q1. Please tell us about this new found exam PTE Academic.
As an English educator who has spent more than two decades preparing students for exams like IELTS and PTE, there is nothing in these English exams that I haven’t seen so far!
A few years ago, it was all about IELTS and my day would be filled with students complaining about the English examiner! It is not a hidden secret that IELTS examiners often end up having a bias. Students who otherwise seemed to have very good English language scores often failed to achieve even a band 6 in IELTS.
Then things changed with the coming of PTE Academic. Pearson revolutionised the market with fully automated computer administrated English exams. Since then I have helped more than a hundred students achieve a perfect score in PTE. But it is not without hiccups of course. The students who score the best are the ones who focus on the exam with all their might.
Q2. Which part of the exam do you find difficult and what is your advice to test takers?
It is fair to say that I like PTE Academic, but there are more than a few things I don’t like about the PTE Reorder Paragraphs questions type. I feel the questions in this type are sometimes too ambiguous or poorly researched by the Pearson Team. It is vital that you practice plenty of PTE Mock Tests if you want to do good on this question.
The reorder task in PTE reading requires the candidate to arrange the jumbled paragraphs of the text in the correct order. Usually there are four or five such paragraphs. The first task of the student is to identify the leading paragraph. This is often an introduction or definition. Once this is done, rest seems to become easier.
Q3. What if multiple paragraphs look similar?
The problem with the reorder paragraphs comes when there are two candidate paragraphs for one position. This can result if the text is not chosen carefully. And in my experience Pearson is guilty of it. Which paragraph to put at number 3 or 4 then becomes a matter of perspective. We believe Pearson should be more careful when selecting questions for this very important test.
In cases when the answer is ambiguous, I advise my students to pick the paragraph which is more specific in content. The other idea is to try out different paragraphs at the same position and see which order makes the whole text look better. Sometimes, changing the order of one paragraph can result in confusing the meaning of other paragraphs.
Q4. What can be done to improve the level of questions in the exam?
It might not be a bad idea to write to Pearson about this problem. I believe if enough PTE Academic test takers and tutors write to them they will become aware of the poor quality of texts in this question type. I am thinking of starting a petition on a website such as change.org for this purpose. If you have any ideas, please feel free to let us know.
Thankfully there is no negative marking in the reorder paragraphs, otherwise this problem would have been even more severe. However, there is an additional complexity in reorder paragraphs. You only get marks for each pair that is in correct order. So, just getting one paragraph in the right position will not get you any marks. You need to get two paragraphs that are next to each other in the correct order. This will get you the points.
Q5. Any last words of advice for our readers?
Overall, I still believe that PTE Academic has had a transformative impact on the English testing landscape and once problems like these are sorted out it will be an even better test. Put your mind to it and you can achieve your desired score easily.