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Speaking and writing for a purpose

If you understand the author’s purpose and tone, you will better understand the sentences the spoken and written texts you encounter in the test.
SARAH BISSELL: In this short video, we look at speaking and writing for a purpose in the PTE test. Purpose is the goal or aim of a piece of writing. You can better evaluate ideas and comprehend meaning in written PTE test items by determining the purpose for each passage you need to read. Common purposes for written texts in the PTE test include, to inform and to persuade, to inform means to give information and present facts about a subject, and to explain or teach something to the reader. Source materials in the PTE test with this purpose could include textbooks, graphs, letters, biographies, journal articles, Scientific Reports, and summaries.
To persuade means to convince the reader to agree with the writer’s claim or point of view. Text with this purpose may present facts, but their main aim is to make an argument or prove a point. In the PTE test, you might be asked to read persuasive texts, such as essays, book reviews, commentaries and editorials. You might also be asked to respond in order to argue for or against a topic, or critiquing an argument or idea. A writer’s tone reveals how they feel towards the subject. The tone of a written text can be objective and neutral, for example, a textbook or subjective and personal, such as a personal essay, the tone is expressed through the language and details the writer selects.
In subjective texts, the writer will use vocabulary that describes feelings, judgments and opinions. While an objective tone is impartial, and avoids pronouns and emotive language. Understanding the tone is an important part of understanding what the writer’s style and attitude is, and their point of view. As you can see here that identifying the writer’s purpose and tone or attitude is scored in PTE. So you need to be able to identify and articulate this in your answers, especially in the summarise written text test item. If you understand the author’s purpose and tone, you will better understand the sentences and passages that you read, and it will be easier for you to provide a good summary of the text.
If your summary misrepresents the topic or the purpose of the passage, you won’t receive any points. Let’s look at an example of how to identify the writers purpose and tone or attitude so you can accurately represent the purpose and topic in your response.
First, you must identify the language used and determine the key aspects or details included by the writer. So what is the purpose of this passage? The purpose here is to persuade. The use of a question is not to get an answer, but to challenge the reader and provoke thought. It includes facts. In fact, according to the research, to add plausibility to the argument the writer wants to emphasise. What is the tone or attitude of the passage? The use of highly emotive words, such as tyranny misery, and insecurity, play on the reader’s emotions, and indicate the writer’s point of view is against this aspect of the topic.
To emphasise the rightest position, the text uses exaggerated expressions to establish a more positive tone, such as far more important, valuable incentives encourage, long lived, widespread growth and much higher standards. Let’s look at two sample responses by PTE test takers. The content of the first sample response is weak, because it has misrepresented the purpose by focusing on the aspect of the argument that the author did not support or emphasise. The content of the second sample response is excellent, because it accurately reflects the topic and purpose of the passage by presenting the correct stance.
In the PTE exam, you may also be asked to speak for the purposes of repeating, informing or explaining. The retail lecture item test your ability to give a presentation to inform or explain using information from a lecture on an academic subject. Your answer should not attempt to persuade the listener include your opinion, or advocate for a course of action. Instead, your content score is determined by how accurately and thoroughly you convey the topic, situation, aspect, action, and development presented in the lecture.
The best responses retail all the main points of the lecture, and include possible developments, conclusions or implications. Remember, no credit is given to an irrelevant response that misrepresents the purpose and the topic. It can be useful to use a template to help focus your response on the purpose of informing and explaining and to ensure you address the main content points and stick to the key information presented in the lecture.

In the video, Sarah introduces you to the subskills of speaking and writing for a purpose. She explains that if you identify purpose you will better understand the texts you read and hear in the PTE test and will produce more appropriate spoken and written responses to test items.

Writing for a purpose

We have already explored how important it is to identify and accurately represent the writer’s purpose in your answers for the Summarize Written Text item. You must also ensure that you are writing for the correct purpose, and that you use appropriate style, and tone or attitude in the Essay task.

To achieve this before you write anything, you need to analyse the question prompt.

First, note key task words in the instructions that tell you the time limit, genre and word limit. Read the question prompt and identify the content words which tell you the general topic and the key points that you should cover. Next, look for direction words that tell you the purpose and style of the writing. These are usually verbs that tell you what you are required to do eg discuss, argue, compare. To establish the required tone or attitude, look for the particular aspect of the topic and identify any points of view you should present and discuss.

Let’s look at an example of a question prompt for the Essay task type and the analysis that follows:

The following text with task and direction words highlighted : You will have 20 minutes to plan, write and revise an essay about the topic below. Your response will be judged on how well you develop a position, organize your ideas, present supporting details, and control the elements of standard written English. You should write 200-300 words. Education has a significant impact on a nation’s wealth and prosperity. The more educated the citizens of a country are, the more economically successful their nation becomes. Discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with this statement. Present and support your view with reasons and /or examples from your own experience or observations.

Key task words: 20 minutes, essay, 200-300 words
Content words for the topic: education, nation’s prosperity, economically
Direction words for the purpose and style: discuss, agree or disagree
Aspect for the tone or attitude: present your own point of view (agree or disagree) with examples from your own experience or observations

Speaking for a purpose

The Re-tell Lecture item tests your ability to give a presentation, and to speak for the purpose of informing or explaining using information from a lecture or interview on an academic subject. Remember the best responses represent the purpose and topic accurately and re-tell all the main points of the lecture including possible developments, conclusions, or implications.

Let’s look at an example of a question prompt for the Re-tell Lecture task type:

Now listen to the interview.

Re-tell Lecture

Compare two test taker responses. Which response more accurately represents the purpose and re-tells all the main points?

Response 1

Response 2

Check the explanation in the Downloads.

For more information about this test item, how it is scored and test tips, watch the video tutorial in the SEE ALSO section below.

Your task

Listen to the interview again and use the template to retell what you have just heard from the interview in your own words.

Re-tell Lecture

Record and download your 40 second description of the image Re-tell Lecture.

When you have finished recording, upload the audio file to either OneDrive, Google drive, your personal YouTube channel, or Microsoft Stream. Then share a link (URL) in the comments section. If you are unable to provide a link to your recording, you can write your response in the comments section.


Pearson. (2019). Score Guide (Version 11). Retrieved from here

Silva, F. O. J. C. C. J. H. (2020). Pearson Test of English Academic Practice Tests Plus and CD-ROM with Key Pack (1st ed.). Pearson Longman.

Western, V & Gasper, V. (2018). PTE Academic Lesson Plan Ideas. Pearson

Disclaimer: The question prompts are for practice purposes only and are not official PTE Test materials.

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