When news broke yesterday that an Irish vet with two degrees failed an English language exam required to stay in Australia, we had to check it out for ourselves.
Louise Kennedy from Wicklow in Ireland, speaks English as her first language, has lived in Australia for two years and has degrees in history and politics.
So needless to say she was shocked when she got the results back from the Pearson Test of English (PTE) Academic and discovered a machine has deemed her unable to fluently speak her own language.
Louise has claimed there’s flaws in the way the test is conducted after she scored 74 when the Government requires candidates to score 79.
The test takes about three hours and asks about 20 different questions in a range of accents, from English to Australian and American.
People are asked to wear headsets throughout the exam and each answer is recorded by the computer.
We took a look at the PTE exam, which includes reading, writing, listening and speaking, to see if we would pass the Aussie English language exam.
Speaking and Writing
The speaking and writing part of the test takes between 77 and 93 minutes and asks people to introduce themselves before repeating sentences, describing images and reading aloud.
Examples of the questions you're asked in the introduction are about your interests, your plans for future study and why you chose to sit this test - all of which is untimed.
Next the candidate moves on to reading sentences aloud and repeating sentences back to the computer.
They’re also asked to describe images, maps or diagrams, re-tell lectures, answer short questions and summarize written text.
Candidates are expected to write a 200-300 word argumentative essay in response to the computer’s prompt.
An example on the PTE website says:
“Education is a critical element of the prosperity of any nation. The more educated the people in a country are, the more successful the nation becomes. Discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with this statement. Support your point of view with reasons and/or examples from the your own experience or observations.”
The reading section takes about 40 minutes to complete and people are asked to read sentences and paragraphs to test their ability to understand the English language.
The first part is multiple-choice single-answer questions candidates have to answer from a paragraph of English text.
During the next part, people can pick numerous answers from multiple-choice answers and for the next part they're asked to re-order paragraphs.
The last parts asks people to fill in the blanks by dragging the word into a box and then using the appropriate word from the dropdown list of responses.
Then there’s an optional break before you’re tested for about an hour on your listening skills.
You hear the first clip once and then you have ten minutes to write a 50-70-word summary on what you heard.
Another recording is then played once and you’re asked to answer multiple-choice questions.
The third listening test asks you to fill in the blanks and in the next one you’re required to highlight the correct answers.
There are four other audio segments and candidates are expected to select missing words, highlight missing words, choose single answers and write from dictation.
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