Understanding PTE Part 3 Listening Item 1 Summarise spoken text

What you have to do for this question type:

The first question type you need to complete in the PTE listening test is summarising a spoken text. You will hear a recording and  then you write a short summary of what you heard. The audio will be a formal situation (often a lecture or interview).

Task length and timing:

You will hear a recording which takes between 60 to 90 seconds, and you are then given 10 minutes to write a 50 to 70 word summary of what you heard. You will need to complete either 2 or 3 summaries in total.

More information:

When it comes to the writing, you need to make sure your answer is between 50 and 70 words. However, you are given a word count at the bottom of the answer box, so you can keep a close eye on the number of words you have written.

The scoring for this question type:

Scoring for this question type is based on five different skills:

Content: Have you accurately summarised the main points and condensed the essential supporting points? Misunderstanding the topic of the audio means you will be scored zero for this aspect of the test.

Form: Have you written between 50 and 70 words? You will receive a full score for this if your content (see above) is accurate and you have written between 50 and 70 words. However, writing less than 40 or more 100 words means an instant zero points for your answer!

Grammar: Is your grammar correct? The scoring here – and this is VERY important – is based on whether your basic structure is correct. That means that trying to use the very best, most formal grammar you can is not necessarily the best way to score points – one error in an advanced level sentence is worse than no errors in a basic sentence.

Vocabulary: Have you used accurate and appropriate words in your response? Because the audio is from a formal source, you need to match that with a formal level of vocabulary. You also need to demonstrate that you can use synonyms (parallel expressions).

Spelling: Have you used accurate spelling? Of course, spelling is important – you need to be able to correctly spell the words you are using (and if you are not confident, you need to use synonyms). However, there is another very important aspect of the score awarded for spelling in the PTE test – although you can use British English, American English, Australian English etc, you MUST REMAIN CONSISTENT! That means if you write “The colour of food can sometimes be important as the flavor” you will lose points! Colour is British English, but flavor is spelled in the American English style. This is not consistent, so points will be deducted.

Useful tips:

This is a hard question type, but with practice it does get easier! The first technique you need to develop is the ability to make good notes as you listen to the recording. This means you need to develop the ability to write AND listen at the same time, but also to identify between main points, supporting points and less important information. If you feel that your typing skills are actually better than your ability to make handwritten notes, you can type directly into the answer box. You can then edit, move around and expand on what you have written in the 10 minutes you are given after the audio has finished.

In your summary, you need to identify the main points made in the audio, as well as briefly referring to the supporting points. Even though this is the listening section of the PTE test, you are still being assessed on your grammar, spelling and punctuation, so aim to spend the last 2 minutes proofreading and editing your response. However, this is NOT the right time to be experimenting with grammar structures you are not sure of – the best scores are given for accurate grammar, even if there were better or more formal alternatives you could have used.

Another technique that you might find useful with this question type is to imagine you are writing notes for someone you study with who wasn’t able to get to class that day. What do you think are the important parts of the audio that this student should know?