IELTS vs OET : What are the Differences and Similarities

IELTS and OET English Proficiency tests exist for specific reasons. Find out which English test you should take
By Aaron Dmello


IELTS vs OET: What are the Differences and Similarities?

Students planning to study abroad often have to prove their proficiency in the English language to gain admission to their desired educational institutions. This is achieved by attempting any of the many English proficiency tests however, there are two tests in particular that are preferred globally by students as well as educational institutions, companies, and countries.

The two English language proficiency tests are IELTS (International English Language Testing System) and OET (Occupational English Test). Most of the time, students are unsure of what exam to attempt and wonder which of the two would be easier or valid for their prospects. Hence, we would like to resolve this confusion by presenting to you the differences between IELTS and OET.

The basic difference between IELTS and OET is that although both are an English language proficiency test, the latter is designed to check the candidate’s ability to communicate in English in a Healthcare environment. Meanwhile, IELTS leans towards the applicant’s overall capacity to communicate effectively in the English language. Similarly, OET checks the communication skill of healthcare professionals like doctors, nurses, and paramedics with patients and colleagues in English.

Although the English tests are designed for the same purpose, in a different setting, the exams have some similarities along with their differences. Hence, let us see what similarities IELTS and OET have and then follow it with their differences.

Similarities between IELTS and OET

  • Both the tests are sub-divided into 4 tests which include Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking.
  • The results of both the exams are available after a period of two weeks
  • The result of both the tests is valid for 2 years
  • The exam result is based on a graded score and hence, there is no pass or fail

Differences between IELTS vs OET

IELTS is mainly for studying, working, or immigrating abroad and although it can be used for the Healthcare industry, it is limited to checking the candidate’s ability

  • To follow lectures
  • Write essays
  • Discuss a variety of topics and
  • Understand academic articles.

OET is particularly designed to check the communication ability of the candidate in a medical scenario including

  • Writing a referral, discharge, or transfer letter
  • Understanding and communicating with the patient or colleague and
  • Ability to follow and understand a medical journal or guidelines.

IELTS test is offered in two versions differentiated as Academic and General Training.

  • The Reading and Writing for both versions are at a level that is more suited for vocational or immigration purposes.
  • Listening and Speaking varies as it is more towards higher education for Academic test than the General Training.

OET test is available in 12 versions specific to 12 different healthcare professions it tenders to including

  • Nurses, doctors, dentists, pharmacists, optometrists, podiatrists, occupational therapists, vets, speech pathologists, dieticians, physiotherapists, and radiographers
  • The Reading and Listening sections of the tests remain the same
  • The Speaking and Writing sections are however is limited to the English the professional will use in their specific profession.

IELTS test will require the students to prepare for the test by

  • Learning a lot of vocabulary on a variety of academic subjects.
  • Responding to abstract questions
  • Writing reports and opinions


OET test will require the students to prepare for the test by

  • Learning a variety of healthcare-related material and profession related jargon
  • Learning to follow, participate and engage in different medical scenarios
  • Writing different healthcare-related letters

IELTSrecognition is spread to universities, immigration authorities, companies, and regulatory bodies globally.

OETis recognized by Higher Education healthcare educators and healthcare regulatory bodies in the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Dubai, Ukraine, and Namibia.

 IELTS was taken by over 3 million people globally last year because of its reach in the Higher Education market worldwide.

OET was opted by thousands of candidates due to its specialist nature specific to a particular field of profession.

IELTs has a wider spread of its infrastructure globally including many private language schools, universities, training institutions, online content, and others.

OET is comparatively smaller in its size of global infrastructure with limited specialist training providers but is nonetheless constantly growing. 

IELTS test lasts for 2 hours and 45 minutes (165 mins)

OET test is for 2 hours and 55 minutes (175 mins)

IELTS test score grading is from 1 (lowest) to 9 (highest)

OET test score grading is from A (highest) to E (lowest)

IELTS exam fees are Rs 13,250

OET exam fees is AUD$587

IELTS test is conducted every week

OET test is held twice a month


Thus, both the English proficiency test measures the candidate’s ability to communicate effectively in the language. Yet, it is vital to remember that one must first check what the admission requirement is and take the required test accordingly. It may be noted that many times, educational institutions and universities may prefer one test over the other. This choice is left to the university’s discretion to design its admission guidelines. Hence, candidates are advised to bear in mind the fact that IELTS exam covers a generic base of students while OET exam is specific and/or limited to healthcare professionals.