A common question that students ask is: “Why is my PTE Written Discourse mark so low?” Then ollowing this, “What is Written Discourse?!”
If you check the meaning of ‘discourse,’ it means a formal conversation where one expresses one’s ideas in a logical flow and progression.
In the PTE score guide, in regard to PTE Written Discourse they say:
‘Written discourse skills are represented in the structure of a written text: entailing its internal coherence, logical development and the range of linguistic resources used to express meaning precisely. Scores for enabling skills are not awarded when responses are inappropriate for the items in either content or form.’
So, what on earth does all that mean for you in the test and which questions does it affect?
Basically, it’s referring to a few things: firstly, the meaning and logical sequence of your content, also, your sentence, paragraph overall essay or summary structures, in addition to usage of linking words, correct punctuation and accuracy in how your express your ideas.
Importantly, as noted above, if you go off topic in your essay or do not get all the main points in your summary, and/or do not follow the requirements of the word count you, will miss out on marks in the PTE Written Discourse enabling skills.
Therefore, your PTE Written Discourse score will be determined by your essay and summary content, for both the written text and spoken text summary questions in terms of content and structure quality as above.
Read the PTE written discourse advice and learn how the response is constructed below!
Take time to deeply understand the essay topic: check what is the general/ broader topic, and then in your own words interpret the specific topic and question being asked.
So if you had the essay question:‘ In the past 100 years there have been many inventions, such as antibiotics, airplanes and computers. Which do you think is the most important invention and why?’
The broader topic is about great inventions in the modern era, and the question or specific topic is about which you believe to be the most significant one; then the instruction is to choose one and explain why you believe that to be the case.
Follow a structure, for your whole essay, including an introduction, 2 main body paragraphs and a conclusion, as well as a structure for each paragraph. Also, make sure that you use appropriate formal tone, academic words, as well as linking words.
For example, for the above topic you could introduce your first main body paragraph as such: Firstly, computers have had an enormous positive impact on communication in the workplace.
This is a simple but clear topic sentence to introduce the main idea of the whole paragraph: the linking word, Firstly, is used to indicate it’s the start of your main argument and academic words and collocations such as, have an enormous positive impact on… and workplace are effective, natural-sounding word choices to make your initial point in a powerful way.
Compare the above to: Computers are very good to use at work for your job. While this second version is correct, it sounds much less formal/academic and has less impact. However, at the same, be sure not to go to the other extreme, meaning, you don’t have to go crazy with difficult vocabulary that you aren’t at all familiar with!
This can lead to lack of clarity and sounds ‘flowery’ (overly wordy) and unnatural, which is not what you are aiming for.
For example, don’t write: Computerised systems in venues of employment have prolifically infiltrated the world of work to exponentially enhance the work experience and add significant value to our workplace practices!
This sounds ridiculous as it’s so convoluted and the reader is left thinking: what exactly does that mean and what is wrong with the person who wrote it as it sounds so strange!
As well as addressing essay and paragraph structure, it is important use a range of sentence structures, such as compound (sentences which contain 2 independent clauses) and complex sentences (ones which contain an independent clause and a dependent clause).
Also, it’s important to check you know English punctuation rules, including comma usage, colons, semi-colons and apostrophes.
For example, following on from our topic sentence above, we could use a complex sentence structure with appropriate punctuation to explain our topic sentence and give evidence:
Firstly, computers have had an enormous positive impact on communication in the workplace. In general, they have increased the speed and ease of communication at work, which consequently improves efficiency and thus leads to business growth.
To illustrate, we could conclude our paragraph by adding an example to support our main idea and a concluding sentence for our paragraph relating back to the topic sentence and overall essay topic.
In summary, this is how you can address and improve on your PTE Written Discourse enabling skills: