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OET vs IELTS

OET Test Preparation Specialists

The Occupational English Test, or OET, is often considered in the same breath as the International English Language Testing System, or IELTS. Both are designed to test your ability in English, and both will assess your ability to read, write, speak, and listen. If you wish to be a doctor in the UK, you’d need to take the academic IELTS. Here, we’ll focus on the academic IELTS.

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.

The Academic IELTS

This test is designed for professionals in a range of different spheres, meaning that you should expect more general questions. For the speaking part, you might expect to answer general questions about who you are and your interests, before discussing a particular topic. This means that you won’t need to understand the ins-and-outs of how doctors or nurses might be expected to communicate in the UK, Australia, or elsewhere.

IELTS is more established than OET, meaning that there are more test centres available, and a greater range of dates on which you can sit tests at those centres. Therefore, in certain countries you may find it far easier to sit IELTS than OET, simply due to a lack of OET centres near you. The fact that IELTS is so well established also means that

The fact that IELTS is well established means you will find many preparation resources, and there’s been a significant amount of time for these resources to accrue.

However, the IELTS mark scheme is geared much more towards grammar than the OET’s, across both the speaking and writing exercises. The IELTS rewards complex words or phrases very highly, and it is entirely possible that you could have great professional vocabulary but still score poorly in the IELTS simply due to not demonstrating a range of idioms or particularly varied phrasing.

The OET

The OET will differ most noticeably from the IELTS in the speaking and writing components, although the reading and listening components are healthcare-specific as well.

Looking at the speaking section, we must consider that it is not only healthcare-specific, but specific to the exact profession that you are in. That means that as a doctor, you will take on doctor-specific situations, whereas as a pharmacist you will take on situations as a pharmacist. This could be seen as either an advantage or disadvantage; an advantage given that you will be comfortable in the situation, or a disadvantage given the specificity of vocabulary that may be required. However, given that you will need to master healthcare specific communication in time anyway, we believe that it should be seen as a distinct advantage and a chance to polish your skills before moving to your new job.

Note that showing empathy and an ability to explore a patient’s concerns are part of the mark scheme – this might be alien to many doctors who are more used to a paternalistic model of healthcare, and less used to the ‘patient-centred care’ model found in the UK, US and Australia in particular. In this situation, your training and being very used to delivering information in a certain way might play against you. However, as stated above you will need to become accustomed to this method of communicating in time, so being prepared for it can easily be seen as a positive.

In the writing section, you will need to write a letter – normally for a patient being discharged or referred on. This is entirely different to the more general task that you will need to take on for the IELTS. It should be seen as a huge selling point for the OET, as you will be entirely au fait with the required vocabulary – compare this to the IELTS in which you might have to write an essay about a topic on which you have very little subject-specific vocabulary. However, as with the speaking there is a drawback – it can often be difficult understanding what information should be omitted and which information should be highlighted. Whilst the exam is not a medical test, you will still have to decide whether information is important or not – and getting the hang of this can be quite difficult.

You should also bear in mind that the OET is typically more expensive than IELTS, and this could be very noticeable if you need to retake.

OET Test Resources & Tutoring

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

Conclusion

Don’t plan which exam to sit on based on whether retakes are expensive – instead focus on which exam is the more efficient qualification for healthcare professionals. If you are living in a territory where you can sit the OET with relative ease, we would recommend the OET for this reason.

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