Language Tests and Registrations

OET For International Doctors


An overview of the OET exam for International Doctors

The Occupational English Test is an English language exam designed to specifically assess the language skills of healthcare professionals. We’ve written a comprehensive guide to the OET exam for International Doctors and will cover:

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:

  • Dentistry
  • Dietetics
  • Medicine
  • Nursing
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Optometry
  • Pharmacy
  • Physiotherapy
  • Podiatry
  • Radiography
  • 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. 

Both the GMC and the UK Home Office recognise the OET as evidence of your ability to communicate effectively in English. This means that if you’re an IMG looking to move to the UK, you will only need to pass one test for both your GMC registration and visa purposes.

Structure of the OET exam

The OET exam assesses all four language skills:

  • Listening
  • Reading 
  • Writing
  • Speaking

The OET listening and reading sections are the same for each version of the test. Each profession has tailored speaking and writing sections.

OET Listening

Broken down into three parts – A, B and C – the OET listening sub-test has around 42 questions. During each part of the test, you will listen to a recorded speech. There will be 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 will need to answer one multiple-choice question for each extract and will be assessed on your ability to understand the meaning or purpose of the 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 will listen to two different extracts and will then need to answer six multiple-choice questions for each.

OET Reading

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: In Part C, you’ll be provided with two texts, with approximately 800 words each, 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. 

OET Writing

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.

Typically, 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:

  1. Purpose
  2. Content
  3. Conciseness & Clarity
  4. Genre & Style
  5. Organisation & Layout
  6. Language

OET Speaking

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 will 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 will 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:

Linguistic Criteria

  • Intelligibility
  • Fluency
  • Appropriateness of Language
  • Resources of Grammar and Expression

Clinical Communication Criteria

  • Relationship building
  • Understanding and incorporating the patient’s perspective
  • Providing structure
  • Information-gathering
  • Information-giving

OET Scoring

The four OET sub-tests (writing, reading, listening & speaking) 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).

A450 – 500
B350 – 440
C+300 – 340
C200 – 290
D100 – 190
E0 – 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. 

OET Exam Fees

The Occupational English Test (OET) costs approximately £330 ($587 AUD).

Research shows that 85% of OET candidates consider the exam to be excellent or above average value for money. 

Exam Dates

The OET is available in 44 countries. Simply click here for a full list of test dates, locations and venues.

OET Practice Material

For material on Reading, Listening, Writing and Speaking, please click here to access the OET’s free sample tests.

OET vs IELTS for International Doctors

There are a number of differences between the OET and IELTS exams so for many international Doctors, deciding which language test to complete can be difficult and confusing. 

Click here to view our comprehensive ‘OET vs IELTS’ guide for all of the information and differences that you need to know.

If you are interested in working in the UK, want to discuss available job opportunities or may have already begun your journey and need further advice, please contact our team today.