PTE Preparation Blog

Answer short question - How to get the scores you need in one attempt

Answer short question is the simplest and easiest question types in the PTE test. The fact that there are 10 questions in this item type, is a blessing for PTE test takers as...

Author: GLS LLP       Date: 10-03-2017

Answer short question is the simplest and easiest question types in the PTE test. The fact that there are 10 questions in this item type, is a blessing for PTE test takers as most of test takers are able to score full marks for every question in this item type.

Understand the game

The task

Answer short question is a short answer speaking item type. You get scored both on speaking and listening skills. This item type is designed to test your general and academic English vocabulary and general knowledge. There is a single correct response which you can present in one or two words.

You will find instructions at the top of the screen. This instruction will be something to the effect "You will hear a question. Please give a simple and short answer. Often just one or a few words is enough.". Instruction will remain the same in all question, so do not spend any time reading these, just be aware of what the instructions are. According to the instructions, you must give a short and simple answer in no more than one or a few words that are absolutely necessary to answer the question.

Below the instructions, at the center of the screen, you will find two boxes just as in the repeat sentence question type. The top box represents the audio player, while the bottom box represents the audio recorder. Both boxes will have status boxes and countdown timers. The audio player will countdown from 3 seconds; after which the status will change to playing and you will hear the question. The audio recorder countdown time will countdown the time remaining when the recorder status changes to recording and the microphone opens to record your answer. This time is one second after the audio with the question has stopped playing. There is no short tone or hearing aid to signal the opening of the microphone. Your only clue to indicate the opening of microphone will be visual. These visual signals will include the recorder status changing to "recording" and the countdown timer hits 0.


The scoring for answer short question type is really simple. The communicative skills scored in this section are speaking and listening. you get a score of 1 for a correct response and 0 for an incorrect or no response. There is no partial credit for this item type. Furthermore, you do not have to worry about pronunciation, grammar, intonation, stress or oral fluency. All you are required to do is speak the correct response for the question.

The sub skills tested are identifying the topic, theme or main ideas; understanding academic vocabulary; inferring the meaning of unfamiliar words.

To show these skills you must speak for a purpose (to repeat, to inform, to explain); use words and phrases appropriate to the context; speak under timed conditions. Read on for further explanation of these skills in the context of answer short question item type.

Tips and Strategies

The question that confuse PTE test takers is how does one speak for a purpose; What words and phrases are appropriate; and how to speak under timed conditions for the Answer short question item type. Well, keep reading and your rightful curiosity will be put to rest.

Speaking for a purpose

Since this is a question and answer speaking item type, the purpose that you speak with will almost always be "to inform". Use your most powerful weapon, "Imagination", imagine that you are student in a classroom and you have to speak in a manner that suits a student who knows the answer and has to communicate it, so that the teacher understands. In such a situation, you would speak at volume so that you are heard by the teacher. You will not yell the answer as that will sound rude and unnatural. You will not speak too slow for you will not be heard. Furthermore, speak confidently and in a tone to inform, suitable to your individuality. Apply this advice in the context of answer short question item type where the teacher is the microphone and you will be speaking with a purpose.

Use words and phrases appropriate to the context

The instructions for this question clearly states that it expects the answer in one or two or in just the right amount of words needed to answer the question. This question does not score you on grammar or sentence formation skills. Whether you answer correctly in one word or a sentence you will get the same score. So do not waste time on making up or speaking long sentences. If the question is "Which mammal lives in oceans?". Whether you say "Whale" or "Whale is the only species of mammal that lives in oceans" both answers will attract the same score of 1. Furthermore, Do not try to show off your general knowledge. Please, do not answer "Cetaceans" (which is the scientific name for whale) like some test takers have done, the machine scoring system may not know the scientific name and you may get 0 for your answer. Our advice is keep your answers short and simple.

Speaking under timed conditions

You will have 10 seconds to give your answer. This is too much time for just a one or two word answer unless you intend to speak a couple of sentences which is not required. Furthermore, remember that the microphone closes after 3 seconds of silence. Some students try to hack this rule by making a humming sound while they figure out an answer. We do not recommend this strategy for any question type. However, if you do not know the answer or need some time to figure it out, by all means go with the humming sound, but just for this question type.

I hope you found the tips in this section helpful. For complete PTE preparation and perfect practice, I strongly recommend that you enroll for one of our courses to practice your skills in an environment that simulates actual PTE test. You will get G-Analytics to tell you what skills you need to focus and improve on most and personal tutor feedback to help you with any difficulties that you face. Perfect practice will get you the scores you need in one attempt.

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