Read aloud is one of the question types that offer the PTE test taker an opportunity to score full marks with little effort, provided that one is prepared. In this blog, we will present strategies and tips to help you score full points, consistently and efficiently and approach this question type with confidence. I strongly recommend that you read the blog Read Aloud - Understand the Game before you read further. It will give you a strong basis to understand and implement the strategies and tips in this blog.
We learned in "Read Aloud: Understand the Game" blog that enabling skills of content, pronunciation and oral fluency marked by the machine scoring system comprise of the following sub skills:
Many PTE blogs portray the above skills as tips. This leaves PTE test takers confused about questions like how does one speak for a purpose? What is natural rate of speech? How does one use correct intonation, pronunciation and stress? Well, don't despair anymore, for this blog will quench your thirst for answers to these questions.
Speaking with a purpose is not difficult. You do it every day when you speak. You may not be doing it consciously and in English but you certainly are speaking with a purpose when you vocalize your thoughts, no matter the language you use. When you speak for a purpose, you subconsciously put stress on words, take appropriate pauses, use correct intonation and stress. You display these skills so the listener not only comprehends the words but also the point you are trying to make along with the emotions you have.
The machine scoring system expects you to do the same except express somebody else's thoughts by reading a text aloud. To read with a purpose you must first understand the text that you are going to read. To do this you must make the most of the allocated preparation time.
Our experience and research has shown that the longest text that you will come across in the PTE test will take between 28 and 35 seconds to read aloud depending on lexical complexity. Most will not take longer than 28 seconds. So the 30 to 40 seconds time that you get to prepare is more than sufficient. You should be able to quietly read the longest and most complex academic text at least 6 times in this period.
We know that the read aloud questions will have an academic text and it will have one or more of the three macro purposes - to repeat, to inform, to explain. One strategy to comprehend the meaning of the text is to understand the macro and micro topic of the text. The macro or primary topic is the central or broad topic of the text. The micro or sub topic is the topic/point/idea related to the macro topic that the author is trying, to inform or explain to his readers. When you understand macro and micro topics and the arguments in the text ask yourself if the author is trying to inform or explain to his readers. Furthermore, to understand the text, you may have to infer the meaning of unfamiliar words in context of the academic text. There is no rule that I can teach you to achieve this skill. Inferring the meaning of words in context to draw the meaning of a sentence is an art and it takes a little practice. However, when you are practiced and ready; You should be able to carry out the above steps in no more than 2 silent readings and in no more than 15 seconds.
After the short tone, when the micro phone opens, do not just read for the micro phone to record your voice. Use your most powerful tool, IMAGINATION. At this point, you would have understood the meaning of the text. So imagine, you are a lecturer at a top university and speak as if you are speaking to an audience; speak as a woman/man of conviction; speak as if you are trying to convince the crowd of your idea; or as if you are providing them information that they have never ever heard before; or you are trying to explain something that nobody has ever understood before; be excited about what you are reading aloud; and imagine that your audience is just as excited to hear you. When you do this you will automatically be speaking with a purpose, clearly, with correct intonation and stress.
Read the text at a volume so your speech is audible and clearly comprehensible. When you are speaking as a lecturer, you will not yell for that will sound rude and unnatural, neither will you speak so slowly that your audience will not be able to hear you. In the test your microphone is your audience, speak at a volume that you are comfortable with and the microphone will register your voice.
What is natural rate of speech varies for every individual. Many PTE test takers read too loudly or too slowly or too fast to sound clear; or to enable better recording; or to save time. This is not required. As we informed earlier, you will have sufficient time to read aloud. So do not try to read fast to save time. Just speak at a volume and rate of speech that comes naturally to you as an individual, when you are giving a lecture to an audience. Do this and you will sound pleasant and be speaking at a natural rate with a purpose.
All the machine wants to know is, if you can read in a constant, smooth rhythm without hesitations, repetitions, unwanted pauses and false starts. If you speak with a purpose and at a natural rate, you will automatically read with a smooth rhythm and without errors.
In the preparation time you must at least once read the text aloud quickly to figure out tricky parts of the text that may lead you to hesitate, repeat, make unwanted pauses and use false starts. There will be, no more than 2 such parts and that too, in the most complex texts. Figure out a strategy for these parts or just be aware of these parts when you read aloud for the recorder.
When you come across the tricky parts in the text, be aware and do your best. If you do make a mistake, do not correct yourself, just keep going. Correcting will not get you any points but will certainly cost you.
Pronouncing familiar words is not a problem, but what to do when one comes across unfamiliar words. You could familiarize yourself with all academic words; however you may still come across some words and foreign names that you may be not be familiar with. Learning to pronounce unfamiliar words correctly is an art that one learns only by practice. Now remember, we discussed in the previous blog that to assess if a pronunciation is correct, the machine scoring system assesses whether all the consonants and vowels in a word are pronounced in a manner that is easily understood by the general speakers of the language. When you come across unfamiliar words, try your best to pronounce these words in a manner that is easily understood by general English speakers. Please read our blog "Improve English speaking and pronouciation skills while having fun" to learn How to pronounce any word correctly.
In addition, one must be careful of plural words. It has been observed by us, that pronouncing plural words as singular or vice versa is a common mistake that PTE test takers make. Be aware, identify plural/singular words while preparing to read aloud.
Intonation is the rise and fall of voice while speaking. Intonation is a major problem for non-native speakers of English. Non-native speakers tend to use intonation as in their native language, which may not be appropriate when speaking the English language.
As a general rule, when speaking English, always start high and end low. This can be done by taking a deep breath at the start of every sentence. At the same time, you need to be aware to raise your voice to stress a particular idea or a phrase. Take short pauses at punctuations such as commas, full stops and colons. Most important of all, speak with a purpose and at a natural rate, this should automatically bring about the proper intonation and stress.
After 2 quiet readings, practice at least once to read the text aloud with correct intonation and stress. Doing this exercise before reading aloud for the recorder will greatly increase your chance to get intonation and stress correct.
This is the easiest of all. All you need to do is finish reading the text aloud within 40 seconds.
If you are ready for perfect 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. Furthermore, you get G-Analytics to tell you what skills you need to focus on most and personal tutor feedback to help you with your preparation and get you the scores you need in one attempt. Go to our courses page for more information.