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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.

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:

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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PTE Success: The Skills You Need

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