Essential knowledge: Microphone positioning

Are you making this mistake?

We all know that the scoring for the speaking section of the PTE exam is done by a computer software, Right?

How do you know that the software is picking up your voice accurately?

Here’s a question I frequently receive from test-takers.

“My speaking scores were lower than expected in the exam. I think it may be due to the mic position. Can you let me know what the ideal position is? “

Often, the microphone position is not the real reason your speaking scores are so low. However, just to ensure that this isn’t coming in your way, the guidelines below will help you.

When talking to a human if they can’t hear you or you aren’t clear, they will tell you so. However, when talking to a computer(in the PTE exam), it’s going to accept whatever sound comes its way, whether you intended or not.

So how do you really know that unwanted sounds are not being captured and what is the ideal mic position?

We have checked with the official PTE Academic team and here’s what they had to say.

 “We have no guidelines around ideal mic position. At the start of the exam, you will be allowed to test the microphone. Please use this period to decide position of mic to ensure audio is captured clearly”

What’s the bottom line?

Test your mic is the key takeaway based on the official PTE Academic teams response. I’ll add a few more tips to this below.

In my experience, the only time the mic position will be a problem is if you have kept the microphone too close to your mouth.
Why is this a problem? Try the below exercise:

Try keeping your palm directly in front of your lips and start speaking.

You will notice bursts air now and then as you speak (plosive sounds). When you keep the mic this close, it can pick up some of these bursts of air as an audio component, and it could get recorded as incomprehensible words in your answer, impacting your score.

Here’s what you need to do:

The position you want to aim for is about 2-3 cm away and slightly away from the front of your mouth, to the side. Like in the image below.

This ensures that the mic is at a position close enough to capture what you say, without capturing the breathing sounds that we highlighted earlier.


As advised by the PTE Academic team as well, do not start the exam without testing your microphone. At the beginning of the exam, you will be allowed to test the microphone. Use this time speak into the microphone and listen to your recording to ensure that what you say is being captured correctly. Make sure you test speaking an entire sentence and not just a few words. The below sentence should be good enough.

“Mic check 1, 2, 3. The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog”  

Check that no breathing or static sounds are being captured. Adjust the microphone if required until you are happy with what you hear.

That’s all there is to this. After doing the above checks, you are all set to tackle the speaking section of the exam.

Still wonder why your speaking score is low? check out these 5 mistakes you may make: