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This content is taken from the Macquarie University & PTE Academic's online course, Practise your PTE Academic Speaking Skills. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 0 seconds You have learned about two skills that can help you improve your oral fluency. Let’s now look at how intonation can also help you with this. In simple terms, intonation refers to how your voice rises or falls when you speak to convey clearer meaning. Before we study intonation in more detail, we would like to ask you to try a Re-tell Lecture item. Follow the instructions you’ll see in the next slide. You can take notes as you listen, and remember to record your answer so that you can check how you did later.

Skip to 0 minutes and 40 seconds [Woman] So studies show that roads in the United States are overcrowded, especially in the cities on the West coast, like Los Angeles. I’m sure this does not come as a surprise for you. There are too many cars on the roads and in particular, at particular times of the day, and in particular places, traffic is either very slow or at a standstill. As you can imagine, this has resulted in a number of effects. Firstly, there is the economic effect reflected in decreased productivity due to all the time wasted on roads. Figures show that in 2018 alone, an estimated 87 US million dollars was lost in productivity due to traffic jams. Then, there was the environmental effect.

Skip to 1 minute and 29 seconds Cars produce a lot of pollution, which not only damages the local environment, but also contributes to, yup, global warming. And most importantly, the effect on people’s health. In addition to the poor air quality and the damage this causes to people’s lungs, there is increased risk of heart disease as a result of being stuck in traffic each day.

Skip to 2 minutes and 48 seconds Now listen to Syed’s response and consider the following. How did he use intonation for introductory phrases? How did he use intonation between clauses? The lecture is about traffic congestion in the US. The lecturer says that there are three main types of effects of road condition. The first is the economic effect, and the example she gave is less productivity. Then there is the environmental effect like pollution, which causes global warming. And the final effect is related to people’s health. Poor air quality can cause lungs and heart problems. When we analyze Syed’s response, we can see that his oral fluency was affected by lack of intonation throughout the ideas. Overall, the summary came across as quite flat.

Skip to 3 minutes and 45 seconds And even though he emphasised a few words, they were not all keywords. Now, why don’t you listen to your summary of the lecture and see if your intonation helped you with the response? Don’t worry if you think your intonation was not adequate. In the next step, we’ll show you how you can improve this.

Analysing responses: Intonation

In this Analysing responses video, you watched Syed complete a practice Re-tell Lecture item type.

As in previous steps, we asked you to record and self-assess your response to identify areas for improvement.


What did you find challenging about the Re-tell Lecture item? If you tried again, what would you do differently?

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This video is from the free online course:

Practise your PTE Academic Speaking Skills

Macquarie University