Monday, February 18, 2013

PTE Academic English test: My personal experience

I sat for the PTE Academic English test for my UK spouse visa.  It was a horrible experience so I'm blogging about it so you will be aware of what can happen, regardless of what their wonderful website says.

Malaysians applying for a UK spouse visa (ie your sponsor is your spouse/partner who is legally resident in the UK) need to show that they meet a minimum requirement in English.  This is correct as of today's post and if you are reading this sometime in the far future, please re-check all requirements on the UK Border Agency website.

When I applied for mine, I sent in my documents for that purpose.  However, my documents were rejected and I then faced a mad scramble to get the correct documents (as specified by the UK Border Agency) within 10 working days to the UK Visa Processing office in Manila.  To add to my problems, I was more or less "homeless in KL" by then as we'd already packed up our belongings 3 weeks earlier and Dear Hubby had already left for the UK as per his work contract requirements.

So there I was, with a 4yo in tow as I queued up at the KL visa agents' office numerous times, emailed, called, faxed and shuttled back and forth between my hometown and KL as I did my best to sort things out. Oh... and not forgetting I was in my first trimester and prone to tiredness by 2pm daily as my body adjusted once more to having a baby on board.

To cut a long story short, the PTE Academic was the only test that fitted my timeline requirements as their website said results would be available within 5 working days.  So I paid up the fees, I think it was in the region of US$100++ and sat for the test.

The very next day, I noticed my test results had "On hold" status.  Now on the PTE Academic FAQ page, they had said "On hold" meant there was an error with your test results and would result in a delay.  Naturally I panicked as I couldn't afford that.

I called up Customer Service who assured me that "On hold" is a perfectly normal status and to only worry if it still said "On hold" after 5 working days.  And so I (stupidly) believed them and waited it out.

On the 4th working day, I received an email from PTE Academic informing me "with much regret" that there was a problem with my results and that I would not be receiving my results on time.  I damn near exploded there and then.

Repeated calls to their Customer Service people both here in KL and in the UK were of no use.

Why are my results on hold?  Dunno
Is there a problem?  Yes
What is the problem? Dunno
Am I the only candidate in the test centre with a problem?  Dunno but no one else who took the test with you at the same time has had their results on hold

Is it a computer problem?  Dunno
Was it me or the test centre problem? Dunno

Anyone I can speak to who knows what is going on? No one here knows what's going on
Where's your boss?  She/He also dunno
Who knows what is going on? Not us.  Oh.. it's some mythical PTE Academic bigwig in US who is in charge of all the results
Can I have the contact of that bigwig?  No.  We don't even know it ourselves.  We can only wait for Him to call us
When can I know my results then? Dunno.  Keep checking your email for updates!  Have a nice day!

All Customer Service could do was write an email report to the PTE Academic bigwig.  And after that, I bet they were congratulating themselves on what a good job they did on placating the customer.   Day after day, I called.  Morning, afternoon, night (to UK) and each time I got the same answer.  Didn't matter who I spoke to.

I received my results 2 days late.  With NO explanation whatsoever about why it was ever held back in the first place.  Until today, I don't know why or what went on.

So I missed my deadline set by the Manila office.  Fortunately for me, someone in the Manila office was feeling Christmas-y and accepted my late submission.   This is why my son and I are now sitting in our rented apartment here in Aberdeen and I've got a UK spouse visa in my passport.

If my late submission had been rejected, I had two alternatives:
1.  re-apply and pay the application fee of RM4,000+  all over again
2.  appeal and prepare to wait for at least 6-12 months for a reply

I later found out that the PTE Academic test is quite new to the market and only available in selected countries.

My advice to all of you out there looking to sit for English requirement tests, be it for a visa or your university application, is to take one of the more established tests such as the IELTS or TOEFL.  Don't take chances.

My peeve was not that there was a problem with my results.  If there was, then yes, they should investigate it.  My peeve is that they kept me in the dark, no one could help me with an explanation that I could have used to plead for a deadline extension with the UK visa office and didn't bother to explain it later either.

If I were all of you out there, I would steer well clear of the PTE Academic test.  Just in case.


  1. Thanks for sharing your test experience which will clear a lot of doubts from people's mind before going to write this test. Moreover your blog will help to prepare for it with right information about these tests like belts and tool.

    Posted by ezekielztang | PTE Academic Test Training

  2. Thanks for sharing information. However I have to sit for PET academic exam in KL as well, because of time limitation. would please let me know some information about your result? I mean would you satisfy with the score that you achieve? and the problem was one by the 2days delay?

    1. Hi, hope my reply gets to you in time. My score was as I expected, there was no problem with the score. I was very fortunate that whoever was handling my visa application chose to be lenient and still accepted my score submission even though it was over the deadline.

      It's quite a tough test though, so be well prepared. Good luck!