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How to get an overall score of 90 on the Pearson Test of English

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This is a guest post from Steven Fernandes at

So, you’ve decided to move to Australia.

You’re looking to start your exciting new life here.

You can’t wait to soak in the sunshine.

That’s awesome! I was in the same shoes not too long ago.

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While you do have exciting times ahead, if you are applying for a permanent visa, you will also have a lot of hoops to jump through to get your visa.

For most of you, one of these hoops is a test of English (The PTE Academic) that you need to take to get your permanent visa. Not too long ago, I needed to take this test as well, and, I needed a high score.

If you need to take the exam, the info below should help you get started. In this article, I cover:

  • What is the PTE Academic.
  • How can you apply it to getting a visa for Australia.
  • Why choose the PTE instead of other English exams.
  • My top three tips so you can nail the exam!

What is the PTE Academic?

The PTE (Pearson Test of English) Academic is the English test for study abroad and immigration, with results typically available in five business days. It’s one of the tests that the Australian government accepts as part of their Visa application process.

The PTE Academic assesses listening, reading, speaking and writing all via computer in a single 3-hour test session. You will need to attend a secure Pearson test center. You will use a computer with a headset to listen, read and respond to questions.

There are four parts to the test: Speaking, Writing, Listening and Reading. There are twenty different question formats, ranging from multiple choices to essay writing and interpreting information. These questions are designed to test how proficient you are with English.

PTE Academic assesses real-life, academic content, so you will hear excerpts from lectures and view graphs and charts. You will hear a range of accents in the test, from British and American to non-native speakers, so you will be exposed to the type of accents you will be encountering in everyday life. An important thing to keep in mind is that the scoring and assessment is automated and done by a computer program.

How one can apply it to getting a visa for Australia?

The minimum requirement to apply for an Australian Permanent Residency visa is to have Competent English. You can show that you have Competent English if you either:

  • achieve the relevant score in an English test from an approved English language test provider. You must have undertaken the test, no more than 36 months before you are invited to apply for the visa.
  • are a citizen of, and hold a valid passport from, Canada, New Zealand, the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom, or the United States. Points can be claimed for Proficient or Superior English only if you undertake an approved English language test.

As you may already know, the visa application for Australia is a points based system. Depending on your case, you may need to work on getting additional points by achieving proficient or superior English.

Below is the breakdown of the points you can earn for you visa application based on your PTE score.

Level of EnglishScore required*Points Earned
Competent English50+
Proficient English65+10
Superior English79+20

* Denotes minimum points required in each section (Speaking, Writing, Reading, Listening) of the exam.

Booking the test is a straightforward process. The test can be booked online at the Pearson site using this link. Simply enter your details, pick your dates and the closest center and then make the payment.

Why PTE Academic instead of other English exams?

There are several English exams to choose from. The ones currently accepted by the Australian government are listed below.

  • Pearson Test of English (PTE) Academic
  • International English Language Testing System (IELTS)
  • Occupational English Test (OET)
  • Test of English as a Foreign Language Internet-Based Test (TOEFL iBT)
  • Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) test (also known as Certificate in Advanced English).

I went through all of the above options before deciding that the PTE Academic was the best one for me. Three reasons why I chose the PTE over the other:

1. Quicker Results

Both TOEFL and IELTS take anywhere from 10 working days up to a month to publish their examination scores. The PTE sends you test scores much quicker, usually within five business day days. (I received my result in 3 days!). The reason they can do this is that the exam is scored by an automated system. Quicker results mean you can complete your visa application quicker, which means you can start hanging out with all the Kangaroos in Australia quicker.

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2. Completely Computerized

The PTE exam is a computerised exam. The test assessment is automated and done by a computer program. There are no chances of human bias when assessing your answers. That also means that you don’t need to deal with examiners.

3. Easy Online Booking and Practice Test

As touched upon earlier, the exam is easy to book online. They even offer a mock test similar to the actual exam (more on that later).

My top three tips so you can nail the exam!

When I took the exam, I needed ‘Superior English’ i.e. a score of band 79 or more in each of the sections. That meant I had to spend some time preparing for the exam. I spent a month preparing for the exam and eventually got an overall 90 score which is the highest score you can get! (PTE is graded on 10-90).

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Below are my top three tips to ensure you succeed in the exam.

1. Familiarize yourself with the format

The preparation time varies based on your current level of English and the score you need. If your English is top-notch and you are a native English speaker, achieving superior English is relatively easier, and you could even achieve it even with a day or two of preparation. However, no matter how good you think you are, make sure you are familiar with the questions you will encounter in the exam. They can be tricky when you do them for the first time.

2. Take the mock test (Practice)

Another plus point to the PTE Academic exam is that they have a scored online mock test which is a close representation of the actual exam. One of the most important parts of your preparation is to know early on what your areas of improvement are. The official scored PTE official mock tests available online here are particularly useful to help identify this. These mock tests can be taken from your home over the internet. You receive scored results similar to what you would receive in the actual exam. This is highly recommended as it is as close as you can get to the actual exam, at a fraction of the cost. It makes sense to try it out, and see how you do, rather than spending ~$150-200 and reappear for the exam.

3. Understand how the scoring works.

Below is a link to the PTE Score Guide which breaks down how each question type is scored. It will be a good idea to browse through this to make sure how you think you are scored and how you are scored is the same.

Click here to get the PTE Score Guide (Free download – Page 1 to 37 is what you need to know)

That’s all you need to know about the PTE exam to help you get started.

Good luck! See you in Australia soon.

Hi, I’m Lauren, and I LOVE being an expat in Sydney but am fed up with all the misinformed and useless expat guides out there, not only giving bad advice but also charging for it! So I created Sydney Moving Guide written by expats, for expats. Click here to read my story.
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