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Logically organising Re-tell Lecture

Logically organising your ideas
A lecture theatre full of students

In the previous step, you watched Shaoling attempting a Re-tell Lecture item type. In this step, you will look at how you can logically organise your own Re-tell Lecture responses in the speaking section of PTE Academic.


The first step in speaking logically and clearly when retelling a lecture is to take clear notes. This will help you remember the content of the lecture. During your PTE Academic test, you will be able to take notes on an Erasable Note Booklet.

You will not be able to write down every word that you hear – no one can write that quickly – so it is important to use strategies to help you identify and write down as much information as you can.

Strategy one: Take notes in the same order as the lecture

When you take notes, start in the top left hand corner of the page and take notes down the page. For each new point, start a new line. This will ensure that your notes are in same order as the lecture. This provides a clear order to follow in your retelling.

It would be illogical to retell the lecture backwards or in a different order. This might make it difficult to follow the ideas in your retelling.

Strategy two: Use symbols and abbreviations

It is not necessary to write full sentences or even full words at times. You can use point form, abbreviations and symbols to save yourself time.

There are some commonly used symbols and abbreviations but you can use any abbreviations which make sense to you.

It is important to practise using these as you need to make sure that you can recognise them.

Look at the example notes. How have they used the strategies discussed above?

Strategy three: Select relevant ideas

The next step is to select which ideas from the lecture you will use in your retelling. The lecture is 60-90 seconds long and you have 40 seconds for your retelling. You cannot include all the information but you want to include all the main ideas.

Therefore, you must select the main or key ideas to include in the retelling. This means that you may not necessarily use all the information you have in your Erasable Note Booklet.

Remember that you are also assessed on your use of details and examples so it is important to include some of these to support the main ideas. You should also look to include a conclusion or implication.

Reporting verbs

Reporting verbs are words which allow us to repeat what we have heard or read. You will need these in the Re-tell Lecture item types in PTE Academic. The most common reporting verb is the verb say. What other reporting verbs do you know?

Download the Reporting Verbs handout at the end of this article and let’s look at how to use them in a sentence. Look at the sentences from Re-tell Lecture responses using some common reporting verbs and the grammatical patterns they follow.

Many reporting verbs are followed by a noun clause starting with ‘that’.

Subject + reporting verb + that + noun clause

The speaker said that not everyone is open to psychological help. She claimed that some people are nervous to get help as they have had negative experiences in the past. She argued that better access to mental health services is key to lowering rates of depression.
There are some exceptions to this. Let’s have a look at two common exceptions to this rule.
Subject + discuss + noun or noun clause
The speaker was discussing the reasons why people are reluctant to visit health professionals. The speaker discussed how the rate of smoking has decreased in recent years.
Subject + talk about + noun or noun clause
He talked about how the number of people diagnosed with diabetes has dramatically increased. He was talking about the dramatic increase in the number of people diagnosed with diabetes.


Focus on following a structure for the lecture retelling. If you stick to a similar structure each time when you practise, it will be easier for you to follow a logical order on test day.

Opening sentence

The first sentence should give an overall summary of the topic of the lecture. For example:

  • The lecture was discussing the ways that people can show self-confidence through their body language.

  • The speaker spoke about how humour differs between cultures.

Summary sentences

The following sentences should introduce main or supporting ideas and examples from the lecture. Again, remember that these should be in the same order that the speaker presented them.

Each of these sentences should be introduced by a new reporting verb. These verbs should be in past tense as you are reporting on a lecture that you heard in the past. For example:

  • She stated that + idea one

  • She said that + idea two

  • She claimed that + idea three

  • She suggested that + idea four

These are just examples of reporting verbs and you can use them in a different order or use different reporting verbs from the Reporting Verbs handout below.

© Macquarie University
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