By: Eric Shrestha
4 min read
An Unnatural Test
We simply weren’t wired to sit in front of a computer monitor for nearly three hours, trying to stay focused on material that, for most of us, is about as engaging as watching paint dry on a wall. For this reason, PTE is not just a test of language, or whatever the test makers purport. Rather, PTE is a test of endurance and the ability to remain focused.
So, how do you stay focused throughout the test so you can avoid careless errors, such as a simple misreading of a question? Below are five ways to keep your energy up and your focus laser-like.
Take Advantage of the Break
One of your greatest enemies on PTE is the simple act of sitting. Researchers have shown that sitting, even for a few hours, significantly lowers our metabolism and causes our energy levels to drop. Think how difficult it can be to peel yourself from the couch after watching two hours of T.V. Now, transfer that pleasant lethargy to a 30-line passage on the way in which plants use different chemicals to transmit information.
While you are not allowed to randomly get out of your seat and whimsically go for a stroll about the testing room—take advantage of the one break by raising your hand (part of testing room protocol), leaving the room and taking a walk outside in the hallways. Short of doing jumping jacks, you want to make sure that your blood is flowing, and that blood is flowing to your brain.
Our data shows that students who do not take the optional 10-minute break after the Reading section tend to score lower in the Listening section. So, go take that break while making sure that you do not access the locker (accessing your locker during the break is not allowed).
Feed your Brain
Speaking of cerebral blood flow—your brain runs on glucose, and you get glucose from food. Make sure you bring a snack or two. Avoid junk food or anything loaded with lots of sugar. While these “foods” will give you a short burst of energy, once you crash, which will be within the hour, even writing a straightforward sentence in the essay section will seem convoluted.
And speaking of crashes…coffee is great for about 45 minutes, and then your energy will come crashing down. Couple a cup of caffeine with junk food and that passage about chemical signaling in plants will look like the Rosetta stone. Seriously, avoid it. If you can’t function without any caffeine in your system, make sure to go for weaker brews.
Posture and Breathing
I know, I’m starting to sound like a health instructor. But, so much of your focus relates to your energy level. And, if you are hunched over for two hours, quick shallows breaths accompanying your slog through PTE, then remaining focused becomes a near-Herculean task.
So, catch yourself if your breathing is too quick and shallow. Instead, take a deep breath (not too many as this will induce the pleasant lethargy we talked of earlier) and sit upright. Your energy levels will return and you will be able to focus better.
Prep Hard, Test Easy
If you are used to practicing a few questions and then getting up to take a break, you may want to reconsider. As often as possible, take timed sections while studying. You also want to make sure that the questions are in the same sequence as the real test, even the sequence of the sections: Speaking, Writing, Reading, and Listening. And, about once a week, you want to take a mock test (again, take a break in between sections much as you would on the actual test).
If your body is used to taking a 3-hour simulated test, and the accompanying eyestrain, then the real deal will not be as difficult. On the other hand, if your first or even second experience with a full-length exam is the actual exam, then your body will be in for an unpleasant surprise. If you require simulated practice, Progressive Study Centre has multiple simulated tests (Scored Mock Tests).
Finally, don’t do questions in your comfort zone. Always push yourself to try more difficult questions, because, on the actual exam, you will get a mix of easy and difficult question. You must prepare yourself psychologically for a question that you are unsure of how to approach. If you don’t, such a question can often frazzle you to the point that your focus becomes compromised.
The Key Takeaways:
- Keep your energy up with food, movement, and good posture.
- Keep yourself mentally prepared by simulating conditions while prepping.
- If you adhere to the two above, the focus will come far more naturally.
P.S. Ready to improve your PTE score? Get started today.
About the Author
Eric scored 90 in all four Communicative Skills of PTE with 90 in all of Enabling Skills. He scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT with 117 out of 120 in TOEFL. He went on to graduate with a degree in Genetics and Biochemistry followed by 7 years of post-graduate study in Biomedical Sciences with a focus on cancer research. His GRE score was in the 99th percentile. Before migrating to Australia from the US, he attained 9 in Reading, 9 in Listening, 8.5 in Writing, and 8 in Speaking in IELTS. He is passionate about bringing education and the tools to succeed to students from all backgrounds and walks of life. He has years of tutoring experience and researches Natural Language Processing, Machine Learning, and Automated Essay Scoring in his free time.