PTE: summarize spoken text…

pte summarize spoken text

Hello again, following on from last weeks posts, it’s time to look at the summarize spoken text task. This is not strictly just a writing task, it is an integrated task that asks you to listen to a piece of audio (60 to 90 seconds) then write a summary between 50 to 70 words (no more, no less) in ten minutes. It will typically look like this:

You will hear a short lecture. Write a summary for a fellow student who was not present at the lecture. You should write 50-70 words.

You will have 10 minutes to finish this task. Your response will be judged on the quality of your writing and on how well your response presents the key points presented in the lecture.

The audio plays automatically (once only) and there is a counter to show you your word count, you can also, cut, paste, and copy your text and move it around just like in Word. You have to summarize the main and supporting points, and you will be assessed on your use of grammar, spelling, and vocabulary. For this task, your listening skills need to be good, and very important, your note taking skills need to be equally as good or it is impossible to get a high score. You are given an electronic notepad and pencil for this purpose.


Let’s talk about method, I recommend this

  1. take notes as soon as the speaker starts to talk..(topic + supporting details)
  2. recall the main ideas and support..
  3. use the structure to draft your answer
  4. don’t submit immediately, make full use of the time
  5. check, review, redraft (word count, main ideas, support, spelling, grammar, etc)


This is the structure I suggest (note discourse markers in bold, verbs in italics)

Summarize spoken text structure

Sentence 1: The speaker was discussing (topic)……..general idea

S/he first talked about how(keyword 1)…..

S/he then mentioned that (keyword 2)…..

In addition -S/he highlighted (keyword 3)…..

S/he described (keyword 4)

Finally, S/he suggested that (keyword 5)…..

(You can also replace the above verbs with, told, pointed out, stressed, referred to, expressed, etc)

The structure above is all you need to remember, it allows you to show the main idea, and the supporting details, just as if you did take notes at a real lecture.

Example text

About 20 years ago Kent Anger and Barry Johnson came up with 750 chemicals that could harm the brain during development. Nobody has since then dared to update that number, it’s just a guess today, there has to be more than a thousand if there was 750 twenty years ago. But the problem is also that we have put too little emphasis on this type of, uh, research.
For example, it has taken so far the OECD 10 years to devise a battery of tests that they could recommend for systematic testing of chemicals for developmental neurotoxicity. That panel, that battery, has not yet been completed and authorised by OECD so it’s taking way, way, way too long because it is complicated. But there is so much at stake.
Children are just losing IQ points and losing their concentration span, memory or motor functions. But in the present world where there’s so much emphasis on knowledge and brain functions this can also translate into dollars. The EPA has calculated that every time a child loses one IQ point because of chemical pollution it costs society something like $8,000 or $10,000.

Example summary

The speaker discussed chemical damage to brain development. S/he first talked about how twenty years ago, 750 chemicals were affecting developing brains. S/he then mentioned that this figure may now be 1000. In addition, S/he highlighted the difficulty of identifying the damage this causes. S/he described how it took ten years to devise neurotoxicity tests. Finally, S/he suggested every IQ point a child loses to chemical poisoning costs over $8,000.

70 words

There you have it, 70 words, only the main idea and supporting details, that will do. I hope that helps…