PTE Academic Interview with Ms Freya Thomas, Senior Vice President – English Assessment & PTE Academic

The PaGaLGuY team had the opportunity to discuss with Ms Freya Thomas, Senior Vice President, English Assessment and PTE Academic. She was on a visit to India on Oct 14, 2019, and shared insights on the study abroad trend in India and how the landscape is changing for English assessment exams globally and in India.

Ashish Shaw, Manager- Sales & Marketing managed to have a word with her.

Below is the brief transcript of the discussion.

1. PTE Academic is a well-known and established test; how does an MBA aspirant benefit from the PTE test?

 PTE Academic launched ten years ago, and when we did: MBA students were right on the top of our list for who we should be targeting.

The reason for this: a lot of MBA programs recognize PTE Academics- what that means that they would be happy if people provide their PTE score as evidence of their English proficiency. MBA Programs, i.t- the Global Top Ten would recognize PTE scores for the same purpose, we have got Harvard and other colleges in the same league. It is very well known in the MBA circle.

The second reason is: the way that our test is designed is that we use real-life content from the study scenario. By this, I mean that this is the test where examples that would be given to you are around studies: they might be listening to lecture or writing a short essay. So, the way English is used and tested matches the way their English would be when the test-takers are in the MBA classes and taking their courses.

2. Can you help us understand as a person who is aspiring to take a PTE test, when should he/she start preparing for the PTE test?

This is an excellent question. We get people coming starting preparations just days before taking the test- but I think you need longer than that.

There are two groups of people here:

First of all, there are a group of people who need to learn more English to get ready. They need to learn more not just to take the test, but also to get prepared to move abroad for their jobs or their study. It takes time to learn a language, and it just doesn’t happen overnight. So, the test-takers who need to build their English language to get ready to move abroad- they need to take quite some time. But it all depends on your starting position.

The second group of test-takers who already have the English language skills they need and what they are looking is a way of improving it. I would still recommend them to prepare for another 2-4 weeks. But, if you are ready to go, you can book to take the test- one or two days ago, and off you go. That would be easy. As they are getting familiar with the test, they need to learn what to expect on the test days, so they are comfortable and confident.

3. How PTE Academics ensure that the quality of test and the qualified test- takers remains intact in the long run?

This is another good question. My team is responsible for that, and we make sure that we devote a lot of time and effort for the same. First of all, we undertake research studies every year to ensure that the test is okay. That if you took the test in 2019- it is of the same level if you received it in 2015 or time of the year.

We also refresh our analysis all the time. We randomize so that people get different question set on different days. But this checking is scored day on the day, which is a core part of what we do, and we have automated scoring engines behind the scene.

The tests are not scored by humans but by the machines, in such an algorithm that can be tested in terms of the scores that should be achieved. We do ensure that we use machine scoring for this so that everyone is treated the same, and the level of achievement stays the same year on year.

4. How is PTE different from others?

Our test is computer-based and has automated scoring.

Others are too computer-based but have human doing the scoring.

The reason they are computer-based is because of the speed and accuracy. We have evidence for both of those. We know that we have got an excellent efficiency and correlation process, and that is true for all the skills that we test.

Another different thing is the flexibility we are offering as to which one test- taker can take a test. You don’t need to wait for a specific time to retake the test.

You can go to the website; you choose a city, you choose a test- centre, and you can decide when you want to take the test. And we have tests from 8 am right through the evening. Sometimes we have exams even during the weekends as well.

The reason is we know people have to sit through the test when they are busy with their daily lives. There is a lot of flexibility while you take the test.

Some of the other key difference is that the speed with which we get our scores back. People et their scores back in two days. This is very quick- and allows people to understand how they have fared, where they stand, and what they need to do next.

5. How does PTE ensure that there are no unfair means exercised at the test centres?

This is another good question. Some people want to get a good score, and sometimes they do try to get into some unfair means. We again- spend a considerable amount of time and money to ensure that it is not possible. The security in our test centre ensure that test- takers are correlated with biometric information.

We have fingerprint scanning for people at our test centres. Any other malpractice is assured that never takes place, and if one caught doing the same, we would ensure that the person is never allowed to retake the test. We review a lot of security systems within the test centre itself.

We use biometric; we use video monitoring; we use a lot of different methods. We cannot make public of all the security measure we take, but I can assure you that there is a lot of hard work that goes behind the scenes. I mentioned earlier that we use a machine to the machine scoring, which uses our unique intelligence- we all use the specialized knowledge at our test centres as well.

You can visit the PTE Academic page here: https://pearsonpte.com/

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