OET | an English test for healthcare professionals going abroad

OET - Occupational English Test, which is meant for healthcare workers. To work in the healthcare sector abroad the oet test must be completed.
By Aaron Dmello


OET - Occupational English Test is specifically designed for healthcare professionals. Candidates need to clear OET as proof of their proficiency in the English language if they are planning to study or work in the healthcare sector abroad. Countries like the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Ukraine, Dubai, Singapore, and Namibia require Healthcare Professionals to clear OET to work or study in their healthcare sectors.

Since OET is made for healthcare professionals like doctors, nurses, and paramedics, it is available for 12 different healthcare professions. Hence, applicants have the opportunity to apply for the English proficiency exam based on their field of expertise. The 12 healthcare professions include Occupational Therapy, Dentistry, Nursing, Radiography, Veterinary Science, Medicine, Speech Pathology, Physiotherapy, Dietetics, Podiatry, Pharmacy, and Optometry.

As mentioned above, OET is an English language proficiency test specifically made for individuals in the healthcare sector and planning to pursue higher education or work in the same field abroad. Although there are many other tests that check an applicant’s proficiency in the English language, the questions, and content posed in OET revolves around the field of healthcare and hence, might turn out to be slightly less tedious for an individual who already is from that field. 

The Occupational English Test assesses the applicant`s ability to communicate effectively in English by checking four language skills. Through its tests, OET checks how well the candidate communicates in a healthcare environment. This is achieved through the OET test format which is divided into Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking.

OET Listening Test

The listening test is divided into three parts. The content for this test is selected from generic healthcare topics which are available to candidates from all professions in the healthcare industry. Applicants will hear a recording once and will have to answer while listening to the recording. 

Part A is based on patient consultation. The candidate`s ability to find certain information during a consultation is tested during this test. There will be two recorded health professional-patient consultations that the candidate will have to listen to and also will have to furnish the health professional’s notes based on the record they heard. The recordings in question can be from any twelve healthcare professions mentioned above. 

Part B is based on short audio extracts from a healthcare work area. The applicant`s ability to realize the purpose, detail, opinion, or gist from the provided audio extracts of a healthcare workplace setup is put to test in Part B. The candidate will listen to six recorded extracts like dialogues between a patient and a health professional, handovers, or team briefings among others. Post every extract, the candidate will have to answer one multiple-choice question

Part C contains extracts from presentations. The test checks the candidate`s ability to understand an interview or a presentation on a variety of available healthcare topics. The candidate will have to listen to two different extracts and answer six multiple-choice questions (MCQ) for each extract.

The OET Listening test assesses the candidate through a variety of listening skills like finding certain information, gist, detail speaker`s purpose, or opinion. The skills are tested through MCQ and note-completion tasks.

The applicant`s test response is checked by highly trained, qualified assessors against an established marking guide. It must be noted that to maintain fairness and consistency, all papers are double-marked and in case of an unforeseen or problematic answer, guidance is sought from a sub-group of senior assessors. 

OET Listening test answers are scored differently for the three parts. Part A is double-marked by trained OET assessors while the Part B and Part C answers are computers scanned and automatically scored.

The three-part listening test has a total of 42 questions. The total time allotted for listening to the recording along with any pauses is no more than 40 minutes.

OET Reading Test

The reading test is divided into three parts. Generic healthcare topics which are available to candidates from all professions in the healthcare industry will be the content for this test. Candidates will have to read from an assortment of extracts given from the healthcare field and write answers to the related questions. 

Part A is a quick reading task. It aims to find out how quickly and efficiently the candidate can find the required information from four short texts. All four short texts will be from a single healthcare topic. Applicants will have to answer 20 questions within the provided time. The questions will be in the form of matching, short answer questions, and sentence completion. The candidate will have to complete the test in 15 minutes

Part B and Part C  are careful reading tasks lasting together for 45 minutes.

Part B test seeks to assess the applicant’s ability to find out the main point, gist, or detail from the given six short texts from a healthcare workplace. The extracts will be around 100-150 words each. The candidate will have to answer a three-option Multiple Choice Question (MCQ) for each text. The content of the texts provided may be extracted from materials like hospital guidelines, manuals, internal communications, policy documents, emails, or memos. 

Part C tests the candidate’s ability to identify opinion and meaning from the given two texts. The content of the two texts will be around 800 words each and will be topics of interest to healthcare professionals. Candidates will have to answer eight MCQs made of four options each

Important points concerning OET Reading Test

  • Part A test is designed for quick reading through the different texts and locating specific information. 
  • Part A requires the candidate to complete the test within 15 minutes by answering the 20 questions since it is strictly timed
  • Part B test aims to test your ability on understanding the main point, gist, or detail of the complex texts generally found in the healthcare industry. 
  • Identifying the specific content at a sentence level will help the candidate complete the task efficiently. 
  • Part C requires the applicant to find out the implied or explicit meaning and the opinion and attitude of the provided text which will be of a longer size. 
  • Candidates will do well in the test if they can understand the connection between the ideas at the sentence and paragraph level. 
  • Part C also tests the applicant’s accuracy at understanding complex phrases and lexical references in the provided extracts.

The marks for the reading test will be given by qualified, highly trained assessors. The answers by the candidates are checked against an established marking guide and any unforeseen or problematic answers will be assessed under the guidance of a sub-group of senior assessors

OET Writing Test

The Writing Test is not a general test but is a profession-specific test. The test is for 45 minutes and the task is specific to each profession depending on a typical workplace and the requirements of the profession. For example, a dentist`s task is for dentistry while a nurse does the task for nursing. 

  • The task for the writing test will usually be in the form of writing a referral letter
  • There could be other types of letters like a transfer letter or a discharge letter.  
  • Some healthcare professions like Speech Pathology, Pharmacy, Occupational Therapy, or Veterinary Science may need to write a letter of advice or information to a carer, patient, or a group. 
  • The variation for the task can be also in a different focus like writing a response letter to a complaint and can be given for applicants from Radiography. 

To complete the task, the candidates will be provided with stimulus material like case notes and related documentation which will have information concerning the required answer. 

The writing test answers are valued under six criteria receiving a band score for each. The answer is checked for its purpose, content, clarity and Conciseness, organization and layout, genre and style, and for its language accuracy. The answer is marked separately by two trained assessors independently.

OET Speaking Test

The speaking test is a profession-specific test conducted individually and lasts for 20 minutes. The test is held in the form of a role play where the candidate will assume the professional’s role of their expertise and converse with the interlocutor acting as a patient, a patient’s relative or carer, or a client. In the case of Veterinary science, the interlocutor acts as the owner or carer of the animal. 

During the speaking test, the interlocutor will check the applicant’s identity and profession for each test. It will be followed by a warm-up conversation concerning the candidate’s professional background for a short period. Next, the role-plays lasting 5 minutes each will be introduced one after another. Three minutes of preparation time will be given to the candidate before each test. 

A card bearing information of the role play. will be provided to the candidates. It explains the situation and what the candidates need to do. You are allowed to jot notes on the card and any doubts regarding the content of the role-play or how it works can be asked during the preparation time provided before the test. 

The role-plays are designed to simulate the usual workplace and the demands a health professional faces in such situations. The speaking test structure will be similar to every candidate since a script is provided to the interlocutor. Different applicants will face different role-plays and the interlocutor will have detailed information to use in each role-play. 

The candidate`s performance in the speaking test is scored against nine criteria which are sub-divided into Linguistic and Clinical Communicative segments. Each criterion will receive a band score. 

The Linguistic Segment has four points of concern including Intelligibility, Fluency, Language Appropriateness, and Grammar and Expression Resource. The candidate`s answers will be checked for pronunciation, accent, speed, smoothness, tone and professionalism, choice of vocabulary, and grammatical accuracy. 

The Clinical Communicative Segment bears five criteria which include relationship-building, understanding the patient`s perspective and its incorporation, providing structured information, ability to gather information, and the ability to give information. The applicant`s responses are checked for their abilities to 

  • open a conversation
  • demonstrate empathy
  • involve the patient in the conversation comfortably
  • organize the information you provide
  • introduction of new topics at the listener`s level of understanding
  • the type of question you ask and understanding the response you get from the listener`s understanding
  • providing information to the patient so that he understands it

OET fees and eligibility

  • OET is a profession-specific English language proficiency test and hence is designed for healthcare professionals.
  • It is vital that the applicants possess in-depth certification in similar fields of healthcare. 
  • OET test can be attempted as many times as the candidate wants
  • Since the OET exam is divided into 4 parts, candidates are advised to set a full day aside for the exam although a whole day may not new 
  • OET exam costs $587 AUD and includes a variety of services