New PTE Marking Update: Do you worry or rejoice?
- January 1, 2021
- Posted by: PEC- Education
- Category: PTE
PTE marking update: PTE Academic, a widely used English language test has recently seen an update in its marking alignment. PTE Academic language test, also known as the Pearson Test of English Academic is a test that was launched by Pearson in 2009 to test the English skills of nonnative speakers. Today, along with other language tests like the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) and Toefl (Test of English as a Foreign Language), this test is used around the world by government bodies and Educational Institutions for academic or immigration purposes.
The recent alignment and PTE marking update has been the cause of a lot of confusion and controversy among future test takers. The PTE scoring update is a newly published scaling report which compares the IELTS band scores with PTE scores. On the surface, this means that there is no change in how the PTE scores can denote a test taker’s overall English Proficiency. The only real information, we can glean from the current PTE marking update is PTE scores relations with the IELTS exam. However, there are a few things to consider before we decide what the update means for now and in the future.
Read further to get an in-depth understanding of the changes, it’s purpose and how this can affect your future. All things you should know before deciding to take PTE and things you won’t normally hear from other common sources.
Why the PTE marking update?
It is actually common for test providers to regularly research and take reviews about their exam. This helps to validate or make changes to their current system and keep track of their competition. This is especially a necessity for global English language tests such as PTE, whose scores impact the lives of students and professionals alike. Furthermore, analyzing feedback data at regular intervals can help organizations better assess the quality of PTE exam so that they can use the exam scores as a standard for the English proficiency requirements.
One of the studies that helps maintain the accuracy and quality of PTE exam is alignment studies which explore the score concordance between two tests; in this case IELTS and PTE. According to Pearson, other test providers also carry out regular research to check it’s score alignment, but the results are rarely published. The comparison between PTE and IELTS is a crucial data since both are similar high stakes tests, used for similar purpose by organizations over the globe.
You might be then wondering, why an update was necessary if we already have a previous accepted score comparison table for the two tests. The linking of IELTS and PTE academic scores that we have today originally came from a research done back in 2011, at a time when the PTE exam had just been introduced. The research was part of the initial field Testing of PTE done at that time. It is the duty of the test provider to make sure the test’s alignment with other tests are kept up to date. Thus, the recent study is simply the PTE team’s endeavor to update the original concordance report.
What exactly is the PTE scoring update?
The simplest way one can describe the PTE scoring update is that it is an equivalency table published by Pearson which links the current PTE scores with its correspondent IELTS band score. That is, in theory, it tells us the IELTS band score an average test take with achieving if they have a particular PTE score and vice versa.
Now, it is important to remember that the research only ‘links’ the two test scores and does not ‘equate’ it. It is impossible to equate the two test scores since while the two tests serve a similar purpose, the test format, content, tasks and scoring criteria and process are likely to vary by a wide margin.
But even so, an attempt to make an approximate concordance report has been made. The details about the scaling of the two scores have changed from the previously accepted comparison are summarized below.
A 5 band in IELTS is equivalent to PTE score of 29 now when it was 36 before.
A 5.5 band in IELTS is equivalent to PTE score of 36 now when it was 42 before.
A 6 band in IELTS is equivalent to PTE score of 46 now when it was 50 before.
A 6.5 band in IELTS is equivalent to PTE score of 56 now when it was 58 before.
A 7 band in IELTS is equivalent to PTE score of 66 now when it was 65 before.
A 7.5 band in IELTS is equivalent to PTE score of 76 now when it was 73 before.
A 8 band in IELTS is equivalent to PTE score of 84 now when it was 79 before.
It is clear that the recent update, if followed by educational organizations or government bodies, is actually favorable for test takers who aim for scores in the middle range. The scores in this range that is from band 5 to 6.5 have seen only minor adjustments, in most cases the equivalent PTE score requirement being less than the previously assumed score. So, we can draw the conclusion that the update is mostly advantageous for students who often require scores in the aforementioned range.
On the other hand, for those aiming for a 7 band and above in IELTS need a higher PTE score to be considered “equivalent”. This change could mostly reflect in the way government bodies set their English proficiency requirements, since a band score of 6.5 or above is often mandatory to earn points for immigration programs in many countries. So, getting the required band for professionals who hope to work abroad will be more difficult if the present equivalency is followed. This is especially true for those aiming for a 7.5 band or 8 equivalent score in PTE. To get an 8 band, test takers now have to aim for a PTE score of 84 which is 5 points higher than the previously considered mark.
The research story behind the update
PTE Academic and IELTS Academic while being vastly different in terms of content are interestingly, quite similar in design. In order to understand the authenticity of the update we think it is important to realize the scope and the method in which the data collection and research was done. For their update, the PTE team undertook the research through extensive data collection and analysis to obtain a result that can be close to substantive.
The research data for this purpose was collected from 562 unique testers who were primarily between 23 to 31 years in age. The research sample had candidates from 59 different countries who spoke more than 50 languages as their native tongue. This ensured cultural diversity among the candidates in hope to make the results are applicable for people worldwide.
The research had 2 phases in which test scores were collected from candidates who ook both the tests within a short timeframe. The sample size was widely chosen to emulate the normal PTE test takers worldwide in terms if their age, gender and native tongue.
In the first phase, self-reported test scores were collected from volunteers who were given some renumeration for their efforts. The second phase however, involved a more controlled data collecting method with selected candidates who were monitored and given the exact facilities for preparation. This means that all selected candidates were given the same free PTE and IELTS training. This also means that they sat for their respective exams at a comparable interval and were counterbalanced in terms of testing order, i.e., approximately half the candidates were made to complete the PTE academic while the other half took the IELTS first.
The gathered data for the two tests were then linked based on their percentile scores. A strong correlation was found between the overall scores of both the tests and the recent update is based on this analysis. The relation between the communicative skills of the two tests was however found to be not as strong. The results from this analysis is what you see in the present update
How will the PTE scoring update affect you?
And finally, we reach the question that has been on everyone’s minds when they first heard news of the update. Does it concern you? What can change with this update? And should you be worried?
All these are extremely pertinent questions with no straight answers. From the PTE team’s perspective, the current update does in no way require the government and institutions to change their requirements, and Pearson itself is unaware of how the respective bodies will interpret the results of this update.
As such, this update does not affect the test takers yet since, for all intents and purposes, the official English Requirements are set by the concerned bodies. So, whether you wish to give the PTE exam for university study or relocation to another country, you will have to wait for those official bodies to decide and update their requirements. This is mainly because, despite Pearson’s attempts at equivalency, most Universities and Government bodies have their own separate requirements for each test type, be it IELTS, PTE or TOEFL. Hence, Pearson’s equivalency update won’t directly affect you.
Interestingly enough, the concerned bodies may decide to not make any changes in which case everything stays the same regarding the scores you have to aim for.
In any case, even if institutes or governments do change their English requirements based on this PTE marking update, it will still take around 4-5 months to take effect. It is therefore our assessment that for now, students should not assume the update changes their score requirements and continue to prepare as before.
But can you use this recent update unofficially to your advantage? For students hoping to study abroad there may be something. Since the ultimate decision to accept your scores, you could appeal to your institute in case you are a few points short of your mark but according to the recent update, your PTE scores match the corresponding IELTS band in their stipulated score for the course. Of course, it is still up to the University on whether they want to consider you for their course, but the recent update can make such an appeal carry some weight which can only be a boon for students taking the PTE exam for their study purposes.
Prepared by, Fabliha Khan, English Test Trainer, PEC-Education.