PTE Preparation Blog

Re-tell Lecture - Understand the Game

Once you understand the challenges that you will face and the skills that you have to display in this question type; you will be prepared to...

Author: GLS LLP       Date: 10-03-2017

PTE Re-tell lecture question type appears difficult to many PTE test takers. This is because test takers are confused about how to prepare in 10 seconds; what aspects of the lecture to present in 40 seconds; and lack of practice. Understanding the problem is the first step to solving any problem. Re-tell lecture question type is no different. If you understand why the re-tell lecture type seems difficult, you can than come up with your individualistic strategies to overcome these problems.

Helping you understand some of these difficulties in re-tell question type is the focus of this blog. Once you understand the challenges that you will face and the skills that you have to display in this question type; you will be prepared to move on to our other blogs describing various strategies to overcome these problems and build up the required skills. After some practice, you will realize that re-tell lecture is just as easy as repeat sentence or read aloud question types and you will be ready to face the biggest re-tell lecture monster questions that PTE may throw at you with ease.

The task

Re-tell lecture is a long answer speaking item type that has 3-4 questions. You will be assessed on speaking as well as listening skills. The task entails that you listen to an academic lecture and then give a presentation based on what you have heard and understood, within 40 seconds. In this item type, PTE Academic tests your ability to give an oral presentation on information that you acquire from listening.

The top section of the screen for the re-tell lecture question will contain instructions. These instructions will always be the same and will say something to affect that "You will hear a lecture. After listening to the lecture, in 10 seconds, please speak into the microphone and retell what you just heard from the lecture in your own words". These instruction will remain same for all questions in this item type. You must know what the instructions are but do not spend time reading this information during the PTE test. According to the instructions, you will hear a lecture, 10 seconds after the lecture, the microphone will open to record your response and you will have 40 seconds to finish your answer. The 10 seconds after the lecture is your preparation time.

Note that the instructions stress that you have to retell the lecture in your own words. Some test takers think re-tell lecture is about memorizing the lecture and then saying it in the exact same words. This strategy will cost you points. Re-tell lecture is about repeating what you have heard and understood about the macro and micro subjects, in your own words. Are you wondering, how to go about understanding and identifying macro and micro subjects. Well, worry not, this topic is covered in our next blog "Re-tell lecture - How to get the scores you need in one attempt".

Below the instructions, on the left, there may be an image related to the lecture that you will hear. On the right of the screen, besides the image, there will be two boxes. The top box will be your audio player and the box below it will be your audio recorder. When the screen opens the audio player will countdown from 3 seconds to the point when the lecture starts playing. The audio recorder will countdown the time to the point when the microphone will open to record your answer. The countdown time for the audio recorder will vary with the length of the audio lecture and will be different for every re-tell question. The formula for recorder's countdown time = 3 seconds + length of lecture + 10 seconds. How this information is useful is covered in our next blog "Re-tell lecture: How to get the scores you need in one attempt".

Be Advised, the PTE recorder automatically stops recording after 3 seconds silence. So start speaking within 2 seconds of microphone opening and do not take any pauses longer than 3 seconds. Some students try to beat the recorder by making a humming noise. This does not help. The machine scoring system is clever. It will identify this noise and your score will be affected.


We have observed that PTE test takers equipped with the knowledge of PTE machine scoring system for re-tell lecture do far better than students who are not. If you know the PTE machine scoring system for re-tell lecture, you will know what skills and sub skills you have to build and display in your answers to maximize score.

No matter the level of your English Skills, if you understand the machine scoring system for re-tell lecture item type; and know the English skills that you are lagging in; and if you are smart enough; you can develop strategies and techniques to beat the machine and maximize your score.

The communicative skills scored in this section are speaking and listening.

The sub skills tested in this section are identifying the topic, theme or main ideas; identifying supporting points or examples; identifying a speaker's purpose, style, tone or attitude; understanding academic vocabulary; inferring the meaning of unfamiliar words; comprehending explicit and implicit information; comprehending concrete and abstract information; classifying and categorizing information; following an oral sequencing of information; comprehending variations in tone, speed and accent .

To test the above sub skills, the machine scoring system will look at if you are Speaking for a purpose (to repeat, to inform, to explain); supporting an opinion with details, examples and explanations; organizing an oral presentation in a logical way; developing complex ideas within a spoken discourse; using words and phrases appropriate to the context; using correct grammar; speaking at a natural rate; producing fluent speech; using correct intonation; using correct pronunciation; using correct stress; speaking under timed conditions.

Now, do not be disheartened by the long list and complex jargon of sub skills. Most of these skills are inter-related. You display one correctly and you will automatically get others right. All humans learn, practice and display these skills subconsciously since birth. Read our next blog and you will see how easy it is.

The machine scoring system will mark you on the following 3 enabling skills to measure your aptitude in the above mentioned sub skills.

  • Content
  • Pronunciation
  • Oral Fluency

These 3 enabling skills comprise all the sub skills mentioned earlier that the machine scoring system will be looking at and you will need to display in your answers. The total score for re-tell lecture question type is got by adding the score for enabling skills. This score is than allocated to communicative skill of speaking and listening; and to your overall score.


Content, is the first enabling skill that will be scored by the machine scoring system. The maximum score for content is 5 and the minimum score is 0. If you score 0 (which is quite difficult unless you don't attempt the question) the machine scoring system will not mark you on other enabling skills and your score for that particular question will be 0.

You get the maximum score 5, if you re-tell all the points in the lecture. You describe characters, aspects or actions and their relationships, possible developments, conclusion or implications. This is just not the criteria for scoring 5 but also informs about what to pay attention to or make note of as you listen and in what order to present the information in. We will cover more about this in our next blog "Re-tell lecture: How to get the scores you need in one attempt".

You score 4, if you describe all key points of the lecture, their relations, their implications and conclusions.

You score 3, if you deal with most of the points in the lecture and refer to their implications and conclusions.

You score 2, if you deal with only one key point and show basic understanding of several core elements and refer to an implication or conclusion.

You score 1, if you describe some basic points of the lecture, but do not make their interrelations and implications clear.

You score 0, if you mention some disjointed elements of the image

One thing, which is clear from the scoring system is that mentioning implications and conclusion is key to scoring above 2 points for re-tell lecture.


After content, you will be marked on the enabling skill of pronunciation. Scoring for Pronunciation is easy for re-tell lecture and probability of scoring high is more compared to other speaking items, such as, read aloud. You can score a maximum 5 and lowest 0 for pronunciation. According to the PTE score guide, to get the maximum score 5, you must pronounce all vowel and consonants in a manner that is easily understood by regular speakers of English. You have to display that you can combine sounds or delete sounds, where needed, in words, in a manner that is appropriate to continuous speech. Furthermore, you should display correct stress on individual words and words in context of a sentence. You score 0, only if more than half of what you speak is not understandable and your speech sounds like another language. You can learn more about pronunciation in our blog "Improve English speaking and pronouciation skills while having fun".

Oral Fluency

The scoring for Oral Fluency is quite simple. All the machine scoring system wants to know is if you can speak in a constant, smooth rhythm without hesitations, repetitions, unwanted pauses and false starts. You get maximum score of 5 if you can display the above skills in your speech without any errors and minimum score 0, only if you speak too slowly and display characteristics of a person who has problems comprehending English.

If you understand the game for re-tell lecture question type, continue to our next blog to get tips and strategies that with practice will build the essential sub skills that will help you maximize score in each of the enabling skills of content, pronunciation and oral fluency and communicative skills of speaking and listening for this item type.

If you are ready for practice, you can take the next step in your PTE Preparation by enrolling in one of our PTE preparation courses. You will get to practice your skills in an environment that simulates actual PTE test. You will have the G-Analytics tool to tell you what skills you need to focus on most and personal tutor feedback to help you along the way and get you the scores you need in one attempt. Have a look at our courses section to learn more.

Protected by Copyscape


Add Comment

Note: Comments are restricted to 140 characters. Rude and abusive comments will not be approved.