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OET: The Complete Guide

OET Test Preparation Specialists

Structure of the OET

The OET is divided into four sections: Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking.

The listening section is divided into three parts, making up 42 marks in total. These three parts are:

Part A – Consultation Extracts. Here, you will listen to short extracts taken from a typical consultation and identify specific information in each. You must complete notes using identical words or phrases to those that you hear.
Part B – Workplace Extracts. Here, you will listen to recorded speech drawn from common healthcare scenarios like a handover, team briefing, doctor-patient consultation, etc. You will need to answer one multiple choice question for each extract.

Part C – Interviews & Presentation Extracts. Here, you will listen to information presented on a range of healthcare topics. All are readily understood by any healthcare professional and do not require specific knowledge.

The reading section is divided into three parts, again making up a total of 42 marks.

Part A is ‘expeditious reading.’ It consists of four short passages that candidates must use to quickly find information. There is a severe time pressure in this section that requires candidates to be able to quickly pick out keywords.

Part B is ‘careful reading.’ Here you will read short passages on healthcare topics and try to identify the points being made. Expect commonplace healthcare texts like hospital regulations or emails.

Part C is also ‘careful reading.’ Here though you must try to gauge opinion, which requires a broader understanding of the text.

The writing section is 45 minutes long. Here you will need to write a letter. This is typically a discharge letter or referral. You will be provided with case notes, and have to choose which information is relevant and which is not. Ensure that you write formally.

The speaking section is 20 minutes long. You will take on two role plays, in which you play a professional from your own field. You will have three minutes to prepare for each role play. You will speak to an ‘interlocutor’ who takes no part in the assessment process – they are only there to speak to you.

OET Medicine Online Course & Question Bank

Our OET Medicine Question bank features questions from UK doctors, as well as tutorials and techniques.

OET Nursing Online Course & Question Bank

Our OET Nursing Question bank features questions from doctors and admissions specialists, with a range of tutorials.

OET Pharmacy Online Course & Question Bank

Our OET Pharmacy Question bank features questions from UK doctors and pharmacists, with tutorials and tips.

What to Expect on Test Day

Before test day, make sure that you are confident with the test timings. These will be emailed to you in advance. You will find the timings of each subtest, and the location of your test venue. Make sure that you are prepared to get to the right place at the right time! Bring with you the same piece of identification that you used to register for the test. The identification must be a government certified form of ID, and must not have expired before you sit the test (i.e. it cannot expire between you booking the test and sitting it). You must also bring a 2B pencil that you will use to fill out the multiple choice sections. You should bring another pencil for writing notes. We recommend bringing a pencil and eraser.. Paper for taking notes on is provided at the test centre – at home you will need to provide the blank paper yourself. You may also bring a clear, plastic water bottle.

OET Top Tips

  • Focus on continuous preparation, and going back over content covered in the preparation session before. Try to switch as much of your work to English as possible – be it reading English medical journals, attending conferences in English, or anything else that you can think of!
  • Focus on your weakest area. The temptation to focus on areas of strength is always there, but this doesn’t lead to improvements.
  • Set a preparation timescale, and then begin preparation. When you have a great understanding of your level, book the test. Don’t book the test before you have explored how difficult it will be and the level that you are at!
  • Make sure that you know the ins-and-outs of each section. The requirements for one section might be different to the requirements for another. For example, the listening section allows you to make spelling errors, whereas the writing section does not.
  • Do as many practice questions as you can to ensure that you are confident in approaching questions in the format that you will encounter.
OET Test Resources & Tutoring

Find our 1-1 tutoring for OET Medicine and Nursing here. We also offer 1-1 tutoring for Pharmacy.

OET Scoring & Assessment

For both listening and reading, your Part A is marked by two assessors and the Parts B and C marked by a computer. Assessors are trained specifically for the OET and provided with mark schemes that ensure they mark efficiently and to the same standard throughout. The writing and speaking subtests are marked by two assessors in their entirety.

For the Writing section, you will be marked according to six criteria: Purpose, Content, Conciseness & Clarity, Genre & Style, Organisation & Layout, and Language. Each criterion is marked from 0 to 7, bar Purpose, which is marked from 0 to 3.

The speaking section is marked by two assessors who listen to your recorded speaking session – the interlocutor has no part in the assessment process. You are marked according to Intelligibility, Fluency, Appropriateness of Language, and Resources of Grammar and Expression – all marked from 0 to 6, and Indicators of Relationship Building, Indicators of Understanding & Incorporating the Patient’s Perspective, Indicators of Providing Structure, Indicators for Information Gathering and Indicators for Information Giving – all marked from 0 to 3.

To understand how OET scores translate to IELTS or CEFR, look at our dedicated article on OET assessment. As an overview, you should know that a score of ‘A’ is equivalent to an IELTS of 8.0 – 9.0 and shows clear and fluent communication with complete understanding of language, both written and spoken. Equally, that score of ‘A’ is equivalent to a CEFR score of C2. C1 is equivalent to B (effective communication with only occasional hesitancies or inaccuracies). B2 is equivalent to C+ or C (able to maintain the interaction despite occasional errors and lapses).

Bear in mind that there is no overall score for the OET – your score for each section will be taken independently by the boards or councils to which you are applying.

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