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Failed IELTS! Why not Look into OET?

By Dr. Kaustubh Patil


OET is an international English language test that assesses healthcare professionals' language communication skills who seek to register and practice in an English-speaking environment. It is currently available for 12 healthcare professions. The one we are interested in as doctors is OET Medicine. OET is accepted as evidence of your knowledge of English by the GMC, UK, for giving the PLAB exam and registration and licensing purposes - LINK: -your-knowledge-of-english/using-your-oet-certificate

Please note, a minimum score of 350 in each domain is required for GMC registration. However, a minimum score of 400 in each domain is required for the FY 2 Standalone programme.

Components of the Examination:

OET comprises of four sections:

1.👂Listening (45 minutes):

The listening part of the test is the same for all healthcare professions. It consists of 3 parts and a total of 42 questions.

Part A, two consultation extracts (5 minutes each)

The audio is played on speakers from a computer. You need to complete the consultation notes. A total of 24 blanks need to be filled—twelve for each extract.

Part B, six short work place extracts (1 minute each)

You need to answer a total of 6 multiple-choice questions—one for each extract.

Part C, two presentation extracts (about 5 minutes each)

You need to answer a total of 12 multiple-choice questions—six for each extract.


● You are given some time to read the questions; you should quickly go through the questions during this time.

● You must answer the questions as you go. There are only two minutes at the end of the test to check your work.

● In the Listening sub-test, you will NOT be penalised for misspelling, provided the meaning is clear to other healthcare professionals. Any reasonable attempt at spelling, similar to the correct answer has a good chance of being accepted.

● You can use abbreviations that are commonly accepted in your profession and are clear to other professionals, for example, "BP" for blood pressure.

✓ Please remember to do the official OET practice tests. They are the best representation of the exam - ✓ Please read in detail about the listening part of the OET test here -

2. 📖 Reading (60 minutes):

The reading part of the test is the same for all healthcare professions. It consists of 3 parts and a total of 42 questions.

Part A (15 minutes)

There are 4 short texts based on a single healthcare topic. You need to answer 20 questions bases on these texts in 15 minutes only. This tests your ability to locate specific information quickly.


  • Read the headings of the four short texts; this will help you go to that text quickly.

  • Read a question and try to find the answer in the texts.

  • Do NOT try to read the whole text from the first word to the last.

Part B & C (45 minutes)

Part B

Part B consists of 6 short texts with 1 multiple-choice question for each text.


● Read the question first and then read the complete text before choosing the correct option.

● You must use the same form of the word or short phrase as given.

Part C

Part C consists of 2 texts with 8 multiple-choice questions for each text.


● Abbreviations are not accepted in the Reading sub-test unless they appear in the texts.

● You must use correct spelling in the Reading sub-test to get the marks. To prepare: One can read articles on various healthcare topics. OET recommends the following resources:

✓ Please remember to do the official OET practice tests. They are the best representation of the exam - ✓ Please read in detail about the reading part of the OET test here -

3. 📝 Writing (45 minutes):

This part of the test is specific to your profession. So we will usually have the task of writing a referral letter to any other healthcare professional. This can be a specialist, physiotherapist, carer and so on. Some alternative letter types are a letter of transfer and a letter of discharge. You will be given stimulus material (case notes and/or other related documentation) which includes the information you need to write your letter. The OET uses SIX Criteria to score the writing task:

● Your letter should fulfil the ​purpose ​of writing the letter. This means that the reader should immediately understand why you have written a letter to them, and this should be sufficiently elaborated on in the letter by providing appropriate information.

● The letter's​ content​ should be appropriate and include the necessary and important information required for the reader. We should omit other irrelevant information. For example, a physiotherapist does not need to know many details about what treatment the patient received in the hospital. However, they must know the patient's condition, any underlying health problems the patient has, and how they should continue the patient's care. ● The letter should be ​concise and clear f​or the reader. We should omit any unnecessary information.

● The ​genre & style ​should be appropriate for the reader.

● The ​organisation & layout​ should be appropriate for the reader.

Language ​(Whether the accuracy of the grammar, vocabulary, spelling and punctuation communicates the necessary information to the reader)


● Read the case-notes (stimulus material) thoroughly and underline the important points.

● Prepare a rough outline before starting to write the letter.

● Practice, practice and practice.

● You should use the title and address details specified in the task instructions. Go to the end of the task to find this information.

To prepare:

● If possible, get your writing tasks checked by an experienced OET teacher. You can also find correction services online.

● If you are working in a hospital, read the referral letters written by the consultants. This will give you an idea about the important information.

● Please remember to do the official OET practice tests. They are the best representation of the exam.

● The official OET youtube channel can provide useful information about how to approach the writing task. The following video is one of the best free resources available d4K5b&index=5

● You can also check out the complete writing playlist here

➢ A detailed description of these criteria can be found here

➢ Please read in detail about the writing part of the OET here

4. 🗣 Speaking (20 minutes):

The speaking test is specific to the profession. We will always be the doctor, and the interlocutor will usually be a patient or a relative. The test starts with the interlocutor checking your ID and profession. This is followed by a short warm-up conversation about your profession. This part of the test is not scored; it is simply an opportunity to get comfortable with each other's voices. You can also ask any questions about the test during this time. The speaking part of the OET consists of 2 role-plays. Each having a 3 minute preparation time, followed by the role-play, which lasts approximately 5 minutes. You are provided with the necessary information on it. You can keep this card with you when you do the role-play. Once you are handed over the card, you have 3 minutes to prepare. During this time, you can make notes on the card. If you do not understand anything written on your card, you can ask that during this time. This is then followed by role-playing, which lasts for 5 minutes.

The interlocutor has a similar card which includes his or her responses. The role-plays are recorded, and these audio recordings are sent for analysis. The interlocutor is not the examiner. ➢ You must be familiar with the marking criteria of the speaking test. These can be found on the OET website -

➢ It is worth taking time to go through a detailed description of the criteria -


● Stick to the points in role-play card. Unlike the PLAB 2, The interlocutors are not trained actors.

● Greet and smile

● Explain the condition

● Address the emotions

● Address the questions

● Do not be rude

● Moreover, the consultation only lasts for 5 minutes, so try not to add any extra information. If you have given PLAB 2, these are very similar to the PLAB 2 consultations. However, unlike the simulators in PLAB 2, the interlocutors are not trained actors. We should keep this in mind and appear for the speaking test. To prepare:

● Please remember to do the official OET practice tests. They are the best representation of the exam.

● You can practice with a friend.

● The free official OET videos can be useful

🔰 Please remember to read about the speaking part of the OET test here 📌 Expenses OET costs approximately twice that of the IELTS.


● The topics are familiar to healthcare professionals.

● Spelling and grammatical mistakes are tolerated in some areas, as long as the meaning is clear.


● Expensive than IELTS

● The results take longer compared to the IELTS.

Good Luck. 🎯 References Test Information | OET, English Language Test for Healthcare.

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