Skip main navigation

Intensive Reading

In order to be successful in the reading section of the PTE test, you need to demonstrate a range of reading strategies and skills.
© Griffith University

In order to be successful in the reading section of the PTE test, you need to demonstrate a range of reading strategies and skills.

Intensive reading

In the PTE test you will need to understand the details in the texts you read. This involves using strategies for intensive reading.

After reading quickly to find the section of text containing the answer you need, you will then need to read intensively to locate the specific information required to answer the question.

Intensive reading is done at a slower pace and more carefully. To do this effectively:

  • Think about why you are reading, and what you need from the text.
  • Skim the text to get an overview.
  • Note the words and phrases which occur frequently and are important to know.
  • If a particular part of the text is more difficult, read it again and ask yourself questions about it.

You will need to read a large amount for the PTE test, so you also need to be able to read quickly.

Skills for reading quickly

The first time you read a text intensively:

  • Focus on the content words (usually nouns, verbs, adjectives)
It is easy to read this by focusing on the content words in bold.
  • Read in groups of two or more words (read phrases not words) eg subject + verb + object
At the age of 16 / most students take exams / in about ten different subjects
  • Prepositional phrases
At the age of 16 / most students take exams / in about ten different subjects
  • In complex sentences, identify and focus on the main clause
Started in 1975 and taking 16 years to complete, the construction was carried out as a joint project between the two countries.

Vary your reading rate

Decrease speed when you find the following:

  • An unfamiliar word not made clear by the sentence: Try to understand it from the way it’s used; then read on and return to it later.
  • Long and uninvolved sentence and paragraph structure: Slow down enough to enable you to untangle them and get an accurate idea of what the passage says.
  • Unfamiliar or abstract ideas: Look for applications or examples which will give them meaning. Demand that an idea “make sense.” Never give up until you understand, because it will be that much easier the next time.
  • Detailed, technical material: This includes complicated directions, abstract principles, materials on which you have little background.

Increase speed when you find the following:

  • Simple material with few ideas new to you: Move rapidly over the familiar.
  • Unnecessary examples and illustrations: These are included to clarify ideas. If not needed, move over them quickly.
  • Detailed explanation: Elaboration which you do not need can be scanned quickly.
  • Broad, generalised ideas: These can be rapidly grasped, even with scan techniques.

Reading tasks in PTE

For Reading & Writing: Fill in the Blanks, you need to select the most appropriate words from a drop-down list to restore the text. Your response for this item type is judged on your ability to use contextual and grammatical cues to identify words that complete a reading text. This involves using skills for reading intensively to understand the meaning of the passage and select the correct answers in the time provided.
Let’s look at an example:
First, go through the complete text quickly to get an idea of what the passage is about. Understanding the meaning of the whole text helps you choose the correct word for each blank.
For example, if you skim the passage above, you will find key ideas and words which point to a main topic about ‘the Department of Fine Arts’.
For each blank, slow your reading rate down. Read the whole sentence and try to understand it, then focus on the context either side of the blank. The choices in the drop-down menus may look quite similar but will have different meanings and usage.
For example, in question 1 above the words are similar but only ‘collaborative’ has the correct meaning in this context. When you click on the drop down arrows, you may also find options that are related to the main topic. In question 2 ‘talented’ is the best answer because it relates to the topic of art. The other options can be eliminated as they don’t have a strong connection to the overall topic or context.
Looking carefully at the sentence surrounding the blank will also help you choose the appropriate word based on grammar.
In the second example below, only ‘While’ is correct. When using ‘While’ as a conjunction it indicates contrast between the two ideas in the sentence. ‘However’ contrasts ideas across sentences and ‘Because’ and ‘Consequently’ express reason and result rather than contrast so these options are all incorrect. For number 2 the present continuous is used to talk about an activity at the time of speaking and the subject ‘koala populations’ is plural so only ‘are falling’ is correct grammatically.

Reading & Writing: Fill in the Blanks Below is a text with blanks. Click on each blank, a list of choices will appear. Select the appropriate answer choice for each blank

Learn more about strategies for tackling this test item by watching the tutorial in the SEE ALSO section.

Your Task

Complete the example Reading & Writing: Fill in the Blanks task. Practice skills for reading the passage intensively and use contextual and grammatical cues to identify words that complete a reading text.


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.

© Griffith University
This article is from the free online

PTE Success: The Skills You Need

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education