A guide to the OET for international medical graduates
The OET is an English language exam designed to specifically assess the language skills of healthcare professionals.
What is the OET exam?
Designed for healthcare professionals, the OET is an English language test that assess a person’s English reading, listening, writing and speaking capabilities within a medical or healthcare setting.
There are 12 different versions of the OET exam. Each version has been designed for the different healthcare professions, including:
- Occupational Therapy
- Speech Pathology
- Veterinary Science
Overseas doctors wanting to register for a licence to practice with the GMC must sit the Medicine version of the test.
OET exam structure
The OET exam assesses all four language skills:
The OET listening and reading sections are the same for each version of the test however, each profession has tailored speaking and writing sections.
Broken down into three parts (A, B and C), the OET listening sub-test has circa. 42 questions. During each part of the test, you’ll listen to a recorded speech with pauses throughout, allowing you time to write your answers.
The OET Listening sub-test lasts for approximately 40 minutes.
Part A – Consultation extracts (about 5 minutes each): Two pre-recorded health professional – patient consultations will be played. You’ll need to identify specific information during these consultations, whilst completing the health professional’s notes using the information that you hear.
Part B – Short workplace extracts (about 1 minute each): You’ll listen to six recorded extracts from the healthcare workplace (i.e. team briefings or handovers). You’ll then need to answer one multiple-choice question for each extract.
Part C – Presentation extracts (about 5 minutes each): Part C of the OET listening sub-test will examine your ability to follow a recorded healthcare related presentation or interview. You’ll listen to two different extracts and will then need to answer six multiple-choice questions for each.
The OET reading sub-test consists of three parts and a total of 42 questions covering topics of generic healthcare interest. This sub-test will last for approximately 60 minutes.
Part A – Expeditious reading task (15 minutes): Part A of the OET Reading sub-test will last for approximately 15 minutes. You’ll be tasked to read four short texts and then source specific information from these. Each short text relates to a single healthcare topic and you will answer 20 questions during the allocated time period.
Part B and Part C – Careful reading tasks (45 minutes):
Part B: You’ll be given six short texts from the healthcare workplace. Each text will contain between 100-150 words each and may consist of extracts from policy documents, hospital guidelines, manuals or internal communications (i.e. emails or memos). Your ability to identify the details or main point of each text is what you will be assessed on.
Part C: You’ll be provided with two texts on topics of interest to healthcare professionals. You’ll need to identify the detailed meaning and opinion of each text by answering eight four-option multiple choice questions.
The OET writing sub-test is profession-specific and lasts for approximately 45 minutes. The task set for each profession is based on a typical workplace situation.
Usually, the task is to write a referral letter however, this can occasionally be a letter of transfer or a letter of discharge. The stimulus material (i.e. case notes) will be provided to you to assist you with the context of the letter.
Scoring in the OET writing sub-test is made against six criteria:
- Conciseness & Clarity
- Genre & Style
- Organisation & Layout
Delivered individually, the OET Speaking sub-test takes approximately 20 minutes. You’ll be examined on your ability to effectively communicate in a profession specific role-play scenario; in each role-play, you’ll take your professional role whilst the interlocutor plays a patient, a client, or a patient’s relative or carer.
The OET speaking sub-test structure
Each role-play will be be based on a typical workplace situation. Whilst you do the role play, you’ll have a card with information about the situation on.
Prior to starting, you’ll have 3 minutes to warm up and ask any questions that you may have.
Each role play lasts around five minutes each and the interlocutor will follow a script to ensure that the test structure is similar for each candidate.
Scoring in this sub-test is based on the below criteria:
- Appropriateness of Language
- Resources of Grammar and Expression
Clinical Communication Criteria
- Relationship building
- Understanding and incorporating the patient’s perspective
- Providing structure
The four OET sub-tests which make up the OET are reported on a points scale from 0-500.
The numerical score is then mapped into a separate letter grade ranging from E (lowest) to A (highest).
|A||450 – 500|
|B||350 – 440|
|C+||300 – 340|
|C||200 – 290|
|D||100 – 190|
|E||0 – 90|
For the GMC to accept your OET certificate, you will need to score an overall grade B or above (350 points) across all of the test areas.
The Occupational English Test (OET) costs $587 AUD (approximately £330).
Click here for a full list of test dates, locations and venues.
OET practice materials
Click here to access OET practice materials.
If you’re interested in working in the UK and would like to discuss the positions available in your specialty, and how we can assist you, please contact our team.