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PTE listening: tips for answering highlight incorrect words

The PTE Listening section assesses your ability to comprehend spoken English in various contexts. One challenging task in this section is "Highlight Incorrect Words," where you need to identify the words or phrases that differ from what is spoken in the audio. To excel in this task, it is crucial to develop specific strategies and sharpen your listening skills. In this blog, we will provide you with valuable tips to effectively tackle the "Highlight Incorrect Words" task in the PTE Listening section.

Understand the Task:

Before the audio begins, carefully read the instructions for the task. Understand that you need to identify the words or phrases that do not match what you hear in the audio. Pay attention to any examples or explanations provided to familiarize yourself with the task's requirements.

Focus on Contextual Clues:

Listen attentively to the audio and pay close attention to the context. Often, the incorrect words or phrases will stand out because they do not fit logically or grammatically within the context. Use your understanding of the topic, the speaker's intention, and the overall meaning of the conversation to identify inconsistencies.

Anticipate Possible Errors:

While listening, anticipate potential errors that could occur. Consider common mistakes such as mispronunciations, word omissions, word substitutions, or grammatical errors. By mentally preparing for these possibilities, you'll be more attentive to subtle deviations from the expected words or phrases.

Focus on Connected Speech:

In spoken English, words are often connected and pronounced differently than in isolation. Pay attention to how words blend together and the way syllables are stressed or reduced. This awareness helps you recognize any discrepancies between what you hear and the written words.

Utilize Your Note-Taking Skills:

Take advantage of the erasable noteboard provided during the PTE Listening section. As you listen, jot down keywords or phrases that you believe might be incorrect. This helps you compare the spoken words to the written options and identify any discrepancies more accurately.

Use Pauses to Your Advantage:

In the audio, there may be brief pauses or hesitations between words or phrases. Take advantage of these pauses to mentally review the written options and evaluate their alignment with the spoken words. Use this momentary break to reassess your choices and confirm your answers.

Be Mindful of Homophones and Synonyms:

Pay close attention to homophones (words that sound similar but have different meanings) and synonyms (words with similar meanings). In some instances, the speaker may use a word that sounds similar to the written option but carries a different meaning. Stay vigilant to such variations and select the correct response accordingly.

Evaluate the Grammar and Syntax:

Focus on the grammar and syntax of the spoken words to identify any discrepancies with the written options. Listen for subject-verb agreement, verb tenses, articles, prepositions, or other grammatical markers. Deviations from the expected grammatical patterns can indicate incorrect words or phrases.

Review Your Answers:

Once the audio concludes, review your answers before moving on to the next question. Cross-check your selections with the written options to ensure accuracy. If you're unsure about a particular response, trust your instincts and choose the option that aligns most closely with what you heard.

Practice with Authentic Materials:

To sharpen your skills, practice with a variety of authentic listening materials, such as podcasts, interviews, news reports, or academic lectures. Familiarize yourself with different accents, speech patterns, and audio quality to become comfortable with diverse listening scenarios.


Mastering the "Highlight Incorrect Words" task in the PTE Listening section requires focused listening, context analysis, and attention to detail. By understanding the task, using contextual clues, anticipating errors, focusing on connected speech, utilizing note-taking skills, being mindful of homophones and synonyms, evaluating grammar and syntax, reviewing your answers, and practicing with authentic materials, you can improve your accuracy and confidence in this task. Remember to allocate sufficient time for practice and remain consistent in honing your listening skills. With perseverance, you'll excel in the "Highlight Incorrect Words" task and perform strongly in the PTE Listening section overall.