Why is this so exciting? Well, many of our students hoping to move to the UK happen to be nurses, and Cambridge specifically built OET for nurses (and other medical professionals).
This means that our UK-bound nurses now have a more accessible test to practice for, and one that takes into account their nursing skills and experience in addition to their English skills.
Let’s break down the three top reasons why OET is often the right choice for nurses:
1. OET for Nurses: It’s tailored to your profession
If you’re a nurse, you are probably comfortable working in a fast-paced environment, dealing with difficult patients, making decisions under pressure, and understanding complex information quickly. These skills make you perfectly suited to the various OET sections, as each one mirrors real-life scenarios that nurses face in the workplace.
For example, the OET speaking section is a role-play exercise in which you must interact with a “patient” who has come in with a medical complaint. In the OET writing section, you must write a discharge letter using relevant information about a patient under your (hypothetical!) care.
The benefit of preparing for tasks like these is that nurses get a chance to practice important professional skills that they will need to showcase in a Western context (e.g. UK hospitals). It’s crucial to remember that moving to another country usually comes with massive cultural shifts on top of the language differences.
Preparing for the OET allows nurses the chance to practice highly valuable professional skills that may look slightly different in a Western context, like bedside manner expectations and appropriate follow-up questioning procedure.
I’ll give you an example. Many of our students have worked as nurses for many years, but still find it odd when they begin working in a hospital in the UK or Australia and find that they are given much more decision-making responsibility than they are used to. Furthermore, North-American hospitals in particular are very “patient-centric”, which means that patients often ask more questions or require more in-depth explanations than a foreign-trained nurse may be used to.
Bottom Line: OET for nurses hoping to immediately find work in countries like the UK is a great way to “kill two birds with one stone”. In addition to learning the appropriate English concepts to pass the test, nurses get to improve skills that will serve them well in their next workplace, and hopefully will come out of the OET experience with professional growth on top of their language success!
2. OET for Nurses: The Vocabulary Will Be Familiar to You
Along the same lines as the point above, the OET is extra applicable to medical professionals because it employs common medical vocabulary that you’ll be very comfortable with if you are a nurse. While the PTE, IELTS and TOEFL require that you learn complex English vocabulary that you will probably never use in real life (how many nurses need to write about why they think “education is a critical element to prosperity” in their workplace?)
In general, the nurses we prepare for OET feel a lot more comfortable and confident when they open up a practice exercise and see words like “aetiology” and “rheumatic fever” and “sterilization” (for the record, these words would absolutely terrify me!).
Bottom line: If you’re a pro with medical vocabulary, the OET will probably intimidate you a lot less than some of the other English tests out there!
Fill out the form below to receive a list of simplified medical vocabulary you can use on the OET!
3. OET for Nurses: It’s Suited to “Pencil and Paper” and “Face-to Face” People
We live in exciting times when it comes to technology, and it is pretty cool that lots of exams have become computer-based and offer all kinds of fancy automated grading and voice recognition! However, some people will just always feel more comfortable picking up a pencil and writing something out by hand.
In many hospital environments, medical professionals still use paper-based charts and other materials every day, and nurses talk to real patients in their workplace environments, not computers. Many nurses have come to us and complained about how strange and uncomfortable it felt to talk at a computer in exams like the PTE, and how they felt they would have done much better interacting with a human being.
Because the OET is paper-based and uses human examiners to test speaking, E2Language students coming from nursing backgrounds often consider it the ideal test. The “traditional” format sets them at ease, and this (combined with the familiar vocabulary and content) boosts their confidence quite a bit. One thing we definitely know from experience is that a little confidence goes a long way.
By the way, I should probably mention here that although E2Language is an online OET preparation school, our practice materials can easily be done on paper and we encourage students watching our live classes to take real notes! Cambridge OET even named us as an official Cambridge OET preparation provider last year!
One last thing to note is that although IELTS also offers paper-based, face-face testing, it’s not tailored to nurses in the same way that OET is. If you want the best of both worlds in terms of professional relevance and more traditional test methods, OET wins out.
Bottom Line: If you’re a nurse and you’re intimidated by English proficiency tests like TOEFL, or undecided over PTE or OET, the OET is probably a great option for you.
For OET online preparation be sure to watch E2 OET YouTube channel like this one below!
There you have it. Those are the reasons why we always recommend OET for nurses who want to work in Western countries, now including the UK! So, if you’re a nurse moving overseas to an English-dominated country, open up your old textbooks, brush up on your impressive medical vocabulary, and book your OET test date with confidence!
Follow our social media for more tips on how to pass OET!
In other words, you must score a B or above in all sub-tests in order to “prove” that your English ability is adequate for professional needs.
Exam Grading and Procedure
So, who grades the exam and what’s the procedure?
Listening and Reading
The entire Listening sub-test and Part A of Reading is scored by trained OET assessors on-site. All answer packets are randomly assigned to avoid possible conflict of interest.
These assessors score your answer booklet using a detailed guide. It specifies exactly which answers receive marks and how those scores are counted.
This guide helps assessors decide whether the test taker provided enough correct responses to be given the available marks (or mark). Every assessor is monitored and scores within data entry are double checked for accuracy.
Part B of Reading is automatically machine graded when the answers are scanned into the computer.
View E2Language’s method for passing your OET Reading Part Ahere!
Writing and Speaking
Writing and Speaking sub-tests are graded by at least two of the OET assessors. Similar to the Listening and Reading sections, your audio files and scripts with be given at random.
These assessors are monitored and the scores they give are adjusted depending on if they are a strict or lenient grader.
In order to ensure accurate scoring, the OET centre only accepts marks if both of the assessors award the same grade to a given performance, audio file or script.
If the two assessors award different scores, your piece will be passed on to at least one senior OET assessor (who has not previously been involved in your marking) to decide your grade.
View a previous post for three simple steps for passing your OET Speaking!
The Writing Sub-Test Criteria (all equally weighted):
Overall Task Fulfilment
Appropriateness of Language (The use of correct vocabulary and phrases)
Comprehension of Stimulus (Correct context)
Linguistic Features (Grammar and Cohesion)
Presentation Features (Spelling, Punctuation, and Layout).
The Speaking Sub-Test Criteria (all equally weighted):
Overall Communicative Effectiveness
Intelligibility (How easily you can be understood)
Fluency (Flow and ease of speech, “natural sounding”)
Resources of Grammar and Expression (Working vocabulary)
Grade B for Writing and Speaking requires a high level of performance on all criterion.
The OET standard is high but don’t let that scare you. With the right study plan, material, feedback and practice you’ll be closer to getting your desired score than you ever imagined! E2Language wants to help OET aspirants just like you reach your goal!
Do you require some OET preparation material on how to pass OET speaking sub-test? In this article, Jay from E2Language will give you three simple steps for you to follow that will help you ace your OET examination!
Fill out the form below to receive a list of simplified medical vocabulary you can use on the OET!
In the OET speaking exam the examiner will hand you a role play card. You will have a few minutes to prepare and then you will converse for up to five minutes.
To ace this part of the exam you need to follow a structure. You need three steps:
Step 1: initiate the conversation
Step 2: maintain the conversation and;
Step 3: conclude the conversation.
Initiating the conversation
It’s important to understand that although this is an English speaking exam it is a workplace simulation. As such, you are not the candidate; you are the medical professional. You need to take charge of the conversation.
When you look at the role play card the first section is the ‘scenario’. This section will tell you whether you know the patient or whether this is the first time you are meeting the patient. Use this information to construct your opening statement. If you know the patient then you can say something like:
Mrs Smith, it’s good to see you again.
Or if you don’t know the patient you can say something like:
Hello my name is Mr Doctor. What’s your name?
You then need to begin the consultation. It’s important that you follow the tasks on the role play card. They are your guide posts. Use them constructively. Understand that your tasks will relate directly to the patient’s tasks.
In a word, your tasks are ‘interconnected’. If you have to ask about “Meals on Wheels” you can be sure that the patient’s role play card will also have something there about “Meals on Wheels”. The role play cards are constructed in such a way that if you follow the tasks the conversation will follow a logical path.
How to pass OET speaking: Maintaining the conversation
OET examiners are not allowed to maintain the conversation. If it dries up, it is up to you to continue the conversation – not the OET examiner. You need to learn how to ask open-ended questions, not closed questions. Put simply ask questions that make the patient speak. Don’t ask questions that simply elicit a yes/no answer.
Don’t speak about nothing …
Although this is your speaking exam, you are being assessed on your ability to converse – not talk, the difference being that if you just talk, you are not talking with the patient. You need to engage the patient in a meaningful conversation. In short, you need to listen. Actually, you need to do three things:
Three tips on how to pass OET speaking:
a) Glance (at the task)
This is a cycle that you will follow for the full five minutes. You will glance at the role play card, ask a question of give a statement then listen to the patient’s response and either glance at the role play card again or answer the patient’s concern before glancing at the role play card.
If the conversation dies then you need to revive it. One way to do this is to prompt the patient to speak about something. For example, let’s say that you can see on your role play card something about ‘trouble while driving’.
So you know that the patient knows that he/she has trouble while driving. Why not ask him/her about that? Even though the topic has not been raised yet, you can simple ask: “Can you tell me about the problems you have while driving?” The patient will then begin to speak about that particular issue and the conversation will be revived. Keep it alive!
Another way to maintain the conversation is to complete the tasks in order. It’s not a good idea to skip tasks or do them in a random order. You don’t get points for being creative with the tasks. You just need to follow the logical order given to you and if you do happen to miss one then you can always come back to it.
How to pass OET speaking: It’s not a difficult puzzle (thankfully!)
Concluding the conversation
It’s difficult to tell how long you have been speaking for but if you take a tutorial with E2Language then you will have a much better idea. Either way, at the end of the conversation it’s a good idea to conclude it. You can this by summarizing the tasks that you have spoken about.
This is a neat way to chew up the extra time and it adds a sense of professionalism to your role play rather than you sitting there awkwardly. For example, you can say something like: “It’s been good chatting to you Mrs Smith. Let’s summarize what we have spoken about today. Firstly, you mentioned… You also described…” Of course, you don’t have to use your memory here; you can use your task card to remind you about what you spoke about to make a great conclusion.
Initiate, maintain and conclude
If want to know how to pass OET speaking, you’ve now found these key three steps: initiate, maintain, conclude. You will feel more confident on test day because you won’t have to ask the OET person what to do. You will know what to do. The biggest take home message is that you need to be professional. The OET examiners are listening for your ability to engage in a professional way and that means that you know how to start, continue and end a conversation as a nurse, doctor, dentist or physiotherapist, etc.
I hope you have found this OET preparation article helpful; make sure you use the three steps to to enhance your OET Speaking sub-test score! Please feel free to leave a comment below if you have any of your own tips on how to pass OET speaking, or if you have any concerns about the OET speaking section in general.
Follow our social media for more tips on how to pass OET!
Many of our students are confused about whether they should take PTE or OET for immigration and employment purposes, so we decided to provide some facts about which test may be right for your situation.
Hi my name is Jay and I’m one of the expert teachers at E2Language. E2Language is the OET’s only authorised ‘feedback provider’. We are the only institute trained by the OET to give feedback on writing and speaking. We have an online OET course that is second to none. Our materials and our methods get students the score they need.
But is OET the right test for you? Although you are a medical professional, you can take other tests, such as the PTE. Should you take the OET? Here are some reasons why and why not that you should consider…
PTE or OET: Why you should take the OET instead of the PTE.
The main reason doctors, nurses and physios take the OET instead of the PTE is because they feel more comfortable with the vocabulary associated with their profession. In the OET writing sub-test you must write a letter using vocabulary that you are familiar with. You will not be faced with a question prompt about ‘spaceships’ or ‘global warming’. The same goes for reading and listening: The words you hear will be medical words; they will be familiar to you.
The other big reason why doctors, nurses and physios choose the OET over other tests is because they feel it relates to their professional development. The tasks that you do in the OET are ones that mirror the workplace environment. Listening to a consultation and taking notes in the listening sub-test, for example, is one such real-life task. Writing a discharge letter is another. The test can prepare you for your upcoming job in the hospital or clinic whereas the PTE will not really apply.
PTE or OET: Why you should take the PTE instead of the OET.
The cost of the PTE is substantially less than the OET, so if money is an issue then PTE might be a better option.
The results of the PTE are released within 2-3 days of taking the test, so if time is an issue for you then the PTE might be a better option.
It has more tasks
Why would more tasks be a better thing? Wouldn’t that make it a worse test to take? Well… it depends on your attitude towards taking the test. If you see the PTE or OET as a barrier that you have to get through then it doesn’t really matter what you have to do, but if you see these tests as an opportunity to improve your spoken, written and comprehension of English then the PTE is arguably a more ‘rounded’ English tests. It tests more aspects of your language and as such gives you more opportunities to improve your English all ‘round. For example, in the reading section of the PTE there are five different tasks, each of which tests a different aspect of reading and vocabulary. Preparing for the PTE, then, gives you a better insight into English language.
I’m not sure about you, but I can’t write with a pencil anymore. Years of typing on a keyboard has rendered my handwriting skills redundant. While I haven’t taken the OET, I have taken the PTE and the IELTS. Typing, for me, is far easier than writing by hand.
There aren’t many OET preparation materials
One of the problems with the OET is that the preparation materials are extraordinarily difficult to create. As such, there are very few ‘sub-tests’ on the internet to practice with, and usually what you find is sub-standard. E2Language is different in that our preparation materials are top quality. However, if you need HEAPS of practice materials because your English is low, then you should opt for the PTE because we have more practice materials. On the other hand, if your English is already very good, then you should consider doing the OET because you don’t need that much practice.
If you decide to take the PTE, make sure you visit the E2 PTE YouTube channel for webinars and video lessons like this one:
What else do you need to know about the OET?
If you are leaning towards the OET as your preferred test, there are some other things you should know before you go ahead and book your test.
A) Get feedback
Vocabulary and grammar aside, the way that you write a referral or a discharge letter is quite complicated. The method of selection, transformation and organisation requires practice, and more importantly, it requires feedback. You shouldn’t just get any old feedback, however. You need expert feedback from people who are officially trained by the OET – in other words, us. We know what you need to do to get an A or B on the OET writing.
B) Learn methods
OET Reading Part A is a real killer. You have 15 minutes to answer about 30 questions – or 1 question per 30 seconds. Without a method – without a step by step approach to this sub-test it is virtually impossible to score highly. There are two skills that OET candidates consistently fail and they are writing and reading.
PTE or OET: What should I do now?
If you need to become a registered nurse or practice medicine in Australia, for example, and you need to pass the OET or another test like the PTE then you should start your preparation immediately. Don’t underestimate how challenging these tests are. We’ve had candidates who have completed a four year nursing degree in Australia – who have written essays and done workplace practice – yet fail the OET several times because they did not prepare adequately. This is the final step before you land your dream job – don’t let this test stop you.
If you decide to take the OET, make sure to visit our E2 OET YouTube channel for some free webinars and video lessons like this one:
Do you still feel like you need some expert advice about whether you should take PTE or OET? Contact us and one of our knowledgeable tutors can help you make your decision and select the PTE or OET preparation course that best suits your needs!
Follow our social media for more PTE & OET resources and updates!
The OET Reading Part A test is unlike anything that you’ll see on IELTS or PTE. It’s been designed to mimic the kind of fast-paced reading that you need to do in a medical situation. It’s hard! This blog will tell you exactly what it is and how you can pass it using E2Language.com’s “secret step-by-step method”.
What is the OET Reading Part A?
OET Reading Part A is a ‘summary completion’ task. What does that mean? It means that you are given a summary of four short texts with GAPS.
Your job is to fill the gap with the correct word taken from the TEXTS. Sounds simple? Well… keep reading because you need a Step-by-Step method to complete this one.
STEP 1: IDENTIFY THE TOPIC (3 seconds)
Just below the INSTRUCTIONS and just above the TEXTS is the TOPIC. Can you see it here in red?
That’s it: The topic of these TEXTS and the SUMMARY is Vasectomy. How long did that take you to identify? It should take you less than 3 seconds to find and understand.
Identifying the topic is the best possible start. It will prime your brain with relevant language on what the TEXTS and SUMMARY will be about. You don’t want to waste valuable seconds looking at the TEXTS trying to deduce what they are all about because the TOPIC gives it to you immediately.
STEP 2: IDENTIFY THE TEXTTYPES (10 seconds)
You need to be able to quickly identify the TEXT types.
There are usually 4 (but sometimes 3) of them. These TEXTS might be:
A research abstract
Q and A
A short case study
They’re short. Sometimes they are just a couple of hundred words, or a bunch of numbers. But they’re not exactly easy to read. Check this one out; it’s a Research Abstract:
These are Statistics:
Glancing at the TEXTS and being able to identify them will help you enormously because the SUMMARY will directly relate back to these TEXTS. If you see a reference to statistics in the SUMMARY you know that the answer will be in the statistics TEXT, for example.
STEP 3: SPEED-READ THE TEXTS (1-2 minutes)
I know it’s scary because the clock is ticking down but you need to spend 1-2 minutes speed-reading the TEXTS. You need to get an idea of what they are about. If you miss this step you will not be able to fill out the SUMMARY correctly.
You need to understand three things when you speed-read the TEXTS:
The general idea
The headings and subheadings
Look at this one again:
The title states the “risk of prostate cancer” after vasectomy. That’s the general idea.
The headings and subheadings talk about:
Design, setting and participants
The keywords are:
“Does not increase risk”
STEP 4: MATCH THE SUMMARY TO THE TEXT
Now it’s time to look at the SUMMARY. What you’ll notice in the SUMMARY is that there are clues as to which TEXT you should look at to find the word to fill the gap.
Look at this SUMMARY paragraph:
There are clues in here as to which TEXT you should look at to find the correct words to fill the gaps. Can you remember which one it might be?
Q and A? No.
Case study? No.
Research abstract? YES!
Look more closely at the KEYWORDS in this SUMMARY paragraph:
These KEYWORDS directly link back to the TEXT that was about research. Remember? Aha! This is where we need to go to fill the gap correctly.
KEYTIP 1: EACH PARAGRAPH IN THE SUMMARY CONTAINS INFORMATION FROM ONE OR TWO TEXTS
Keep in mind that each paragraph in the SUMMARY usually contains information from one paragraph. Sometimes, however, each paragraph in the SUMMARY may contain information from two TEXTS. As a result, you may have to look at the TEXT on research and the TEXT on statistics to fill the gaps for that single paragraph.
STEP 5: MAKE SURE THAT THE WORD FITS FOR MEANING AND GRAMMAR
Most of the time you cannot take a word directly from the TEXT and fit it directly into the gap in the SUMMARY. The word may have to be changed to fit for grammar or meaning.
If your OET exam date is nearing, you may need to do an OET preparation course. E2Language.com has OET sample tests, including OET reading sample tests including lots of practice for OET Reading Part A. Our course is 100% online – OET online. If you need OET writing tips or an OET writing sample then sign up today!
Ever failed an English test for the PTE, IELTS, TOEFL or OET exam? If you fell short of the score you needed in a particular English proficiency exams, one of the first things you’ll want to do is switch tests. You tell yourself: the “PTE must be easier than IELTS!”
Disbelief and blame is a common symptom of failure.
The truth is, after failing an English test, switching tests takes a lot of time and energy and may not be the solution to your problem. Each test has a very different format and each format takes a long time to learn.
Consider the different structures of the following listening tests and your head will spin:
TOEFL Listening: 60 – 91 minutes Listen to lectures, classroom discussions and conversations, then answer questions
Specific detail / Function / Attitude / Organization / Connecting / Inference
OET Listening: 50 minutes / 2 “parts” of 20-28 questions. Part 1 is a consultation where you take notes. Part 2 is an academic lecture on a medical topic. There are many different question types including:
Multiple choice / Short answer / Gap-fill
If you failed the PTE or the TOEFL because you’re digitally illiterate, then switch. I don’t think that the PTE or TOEFL are suitable for people who struggle to use a mouse or keyboard. Think older test-takers. It may be the machine and not the content that you failed on. And if you struggle to use a pen or pencil in the IELTS or OET, then switch to the PTE or TOEFL and use the keyboard.
But if you’ve unfortunately failed your English test because, well… your English is weak, there’s only really one thing to do: learn. And when I say learn, I don’t mean practice.
English practice tests are only effective after you have learned, or re-learned, your fundamental English skills.
If you’ve failed an English test more than, say, three times, and you have learned, reviewed and practiced the test then you may want to think about switching. If the essay topic in the IELTS threw you, and you are more comfortable with your medical topics because you’re a nurse, then the OET is probably a better choice. If you suffered anxiety in the OET speaking and you’d feel more comfortable talking to a computer, then switch to the PET or TOEFL.
But if you failed an English test because your English is weak, hold your horses and stick to the test that you know and concentrate on building your English.
Check out www.e2language.com for online preparation courses that are effective, enjoyable and convenient.
After sharing our tips on OET Writing, we now have some OET Speaking tips. If you want to get an A (or B) on the OET speaking sub-test then you need to know what the examiners are listening for when you speak. Your OET results will depend on how well you include the following criteria into the way you speak.
Fill out the form below to receive a list of simplified medical vocabulary you can use on the OET!
OET Speaking Tips 1 – Start the conversation
A lot of candidates make the mistake of thinking that the OET speaking sub-test is an examination and not a medical situation. As such they wait for the OET person (the patient) to do the talking. Imagine that you are in a professional setting and you are the nurse, doctor or dentist. You are in control. The OET person is the patient – not the OET person.
As such, it’s up to you to start the conversation.
Here’s an OET sample for nurses:
“Hello, my name is Jane and I’m the community nurse. Can I start with your name?”
Don’t sit there and make the patient start the conversation. It’s up to you.
OET Speaking Tips 2 – Keep the conversation moving
It’s also up to you to maintain the conversation. If the conversation stops and silence happens you need to bring it back to life.
Here’s a sample:
“So, please tell me a little bit more about your situation.”
“Is there anything that you would like to add?”
OET Speaking Tips 3 – Ask questions to get the patient to talk
If the patient is reluctant to speak, you will need to ask questions that force him to speak.
Consider the following two questions. Which one will get the conversation moving?
Do you feel sore?
Can you describe the pain to me?
Question A would give you a Yes or a NO answer.
You need to think of questions that will get the patient to talk – to open up and tell you more.
OET Speaking Tips 4 – Listen to the patient
Although the OET speaking sub-test is a test of your speaking ability, it is as much a test of your listening ability. In order to “reply” you need to understand what the patient says.
Perhaps more importantly, you need to “listen” in terms of hearing what the person has to say. Don’t just concentrate on your performance, concentrate on communication. You need to respond appropriately to what the patient says – even if you are nervous.
What’s interesting is that the more that you concentrate on communication through listening the less nervous you will be. When you focus on yourself – on your performance – the more nervous you will get.
OET Speaking Tips 5 – Adjust your language
Depending on who you are speaking to, you need to adjust your language to suit the scenario.
Think about this:
You are talking to a depressed 87-year-old man.
You are talking to an aggressive 18-year-old man.
How would your language change? How would the words and intonation change?
OET Speaking Tips 6 – Unexpected turns…
Every now and then the OET person will test you by asking you something a little odd. He or she wants to see how well you respond – how flexible you are in your thinking and language.
For example, “What’s the phone number of the occupational therapist?”
What do you do? Do you laugh? No. You give a phone number, or you say:
“I will give you the number after our consultation.”
OET Speaking Tips 7 – Organise the role play
If you really want an A you will have to organise the role play into clear stages with an introduction, body and conclusion.
In the introduction you introduce yourself, welcome the patient and summarise the scenario.
In the body you move through the tasks, one-by-one.
In the conclusion, if you have time, you should summarize the role play by saying:
“Ok, so we have discussed the use of X and although I understand you concerns, I think it’s the best thing to do.”
The key to OET speaking
Although you can read ABOUT the OET all day long, when it comes to success it’s all about OET preparation. You need to prepare for the OET. You do need to be careful of the OET material for nurses that is available online and for sale on Gumtree and other classifieds. Sometimes it can be very different from the actual OET. You need to make sure that the OET materials that you use are similar to the actual OET test. At E2Language, we uses OET materials that are identical to the actual OET so you can be sure that your OET preparation is effective.
An OET preparation course is a good idea, but again, you need to choose carefully. Many teachers don’t really understand the OET. While they may be able to give you an OET sample test for nurses, do they really know how to teach it? A good OET teacher is very rare because it is an uncommon test.
If you want to get optimal results then check out our OET preparation course at www.e2language.com because we are OET experts. We are the OET’s only authorised partner. We specialise in getting OET candidates the OET results that they need and we do it FAST.
Make sure you fill out the form below to receive a list of simplified medical vocabulary you can use on the OET!
In the IELTS and the PTE you have to write an ‘essay’. You are given a prompt and you write according to your thoughts. In the OET, you do not write according to your thoughts. In fact, there is very little room for creativity at all.
In the OET writing you have case notes and a task. You need to select from the case notes according to the task, create a logical structure for your letter and then make sure that the letter is written in your own words.
Whether you’re a nurse, doctor, dentist or physiotherapist, this blog post will show you how to write the OET sub-test to get an A (or a B)!
The task is the most important past of the case notes. It should be the first thing that you look at in the 5 minutes reading time. The Task tells you WHO you are writing to and WHY. By understanding the Task (who and why) you will then be able to select case notes that are relevant to the reader.
Does the reader already know the patient or are you introducing the patient to the reader?
Compare these two tasks:
Using the information in the notes, write a letter back to the referring GP, Dr Jones, detailing your findings and suggested treatment plan.
Using the information in the notes, write a letter to Dr Jones detailing your findings and suggested treatment plan.
In task 1 the doctor already knows the patient. In task 2 the doctor does not know the patient.
How do you think your selection of case notes will change if the doctor knows or does not know the patient?
The answer to this is significantly. For instance, if the doctor already knows the patient, do you need to include much information from the medical history? No. But if the doctor has never met the patient before? Yes!
Whether read knows or does not know the patient will influence which case notes you choose and why.
Who are you writing to?
Consider these two tasks:
Using the information in the notes, write a letter of referral to Dr Jane Smith at Cicil Dermatology Clinic.
Using the information in the notes, write a letter of referral to Dr Jane Smith at Cicil Neurology Clinic.
The person you are writing to – or what their job is – will almost completely change the way you write your letter. For example, which person would want to know about acne – the dermatologist or the neurologist? Who would want to know about visual perception issues – the dermatologist or the neurologist?
The OET examiners purposefully put in case notes to distract you from the Task. Make sure that you understand the task – who you are writing to and why. If you understand the Task your chances of completing the task successfully will increase dramatically.
Read the sample writing sub-test letters to see how they are constructed according to the Task.
We’ve already talked about the importance of understanding the Task in order to select relevant case notes. That is a big part of it.
After you have understood the Task you then need to be able to look at the case notes and understand WHICH ONES ARE IMPORTANT, and WHICH ONES ARE UNIMPORTANT.
The OET examiners purposefully put in UNIMPORTANT case notes to distract you. Be sure not to include these case notes. For example, if you are writing to a doctor about a patient’s diabetes don’t include that they broke their wrist twelve years ago. It’s completely irrelevant.
OET Writing Tips 2 – Organising case notes
You need to organise your case notes into neat paragraphs. This is a very common mistake made by OET candidates. They just mix all of their case notes into what looks like a paragraph, put a space under it and start another mixed paragraphs. I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to have a CLEAR STRUCTURE.
The way you structure your OET writing should be according to:
The main issue
The secondary issue
Any other details
The issue will most likely be medical but it might be social. The secondary issue might be medical or social. Any other details may include medication of something else of relevance that did not fit into 1. and 2. Finally, your letter should end with the request to the medical professional or whomever you’re writing to, and this often takes into account the discharge plan or management plan.
Let’s look at this structure in more detail:
The introductory sentence
In the case notes there will be one particular medical issue that will stick out. It is usually found in the ‘admission diagnosis’ section of the case notes. For example it may be “recurring headaches”. And in the Task, Discharge Plan or Management Plan you may be asked to refer the patient to a neurologist for assessment.
Therefore you need to include two pieces of information in your introductory sentence. (Let’s say that the neurologist knows this patient.)
I am referring Tim back into your care for full assessment of his recurring headaches.
You can see here that there are two pieces of information:
The main medical issue – the headaches
In a single sentence we have summarised what is happening is what we want the reader to do. This is a great way to start your letters.
The main medical issue
Following on from the introductory sentence we then need to specify in more detail the main medical issue – in this case the recurring headaches. So we should scan the case notes for ANY information relating to Tim’s headaches. We can then write this up into a single paragraph that encapsulates all the relevant information that the neurologist needs.
The secondary issue
You will notice when you are scanning the case notes that there will be a secondary issue emerging. This will be less important than the main medical issue but it will warrant its own paragraph. For example, following on from our example of headaches, let’s say that Tim is also getting dizzy. There will be several (3-4 case notes) explaining something about Tim’s dizziness. We then outline this secondary issue in the second paragraph.
It’s important to understand that we want to keep our paragraphs single-themed. That is, paragraph one should be about headaches and headaches ONLY. It should not include any other information. The second paragraph – though related to headaches – should only include information related to dizziness.
MIXING IDEAS IN YOUR PARAGRAPHS WILL RESULT IN A LOW GRADE
Any other details
There may be a few odds and ends in the case notes that are worth mentioning to the neurologist. For example, let’s say that Tim has been on a new diet, been drinking more and doing less exercise. Are these directly related to headaches or dizziness? No! Therefore, we do not include them in Paragraph 1 or 2. Instead, we can create a third paragraph for related information that the neurologist may want to know.
We have mentioned the Request in the introductory sentence but we should make it more explicit in the final paragraph. Here we should loudly say to the neurologist (or whomever) what it is that we want them to do. Remember, this information will be in the Task, Discharge plan or Management plan.
I am referring Tim back to your for assessment of his recurring headaches.
It may sound repetitive but it’s okay. You need to say the request twice: once at the beginning of the letter and once at the end of the letter.
OET Writing Tips 3 – Transforming case notes
The final step after you have selected and organised the case notes is to TRANSFORM the case notes for you MUST NOT copy the case notes directly into your letter. Of course, some allowance is given for transferring and some case notes you simply cannot change but most of the case notes are short and ungrammatical. Your job is to tell a story to the reader. You are taking the case notes and re-working them so that they make sense and fulfill the task.
Here’s a summary of some important OET Writing Tips to remember:
Tip #1 Make sure that you understand the task – who you are writing to and why. If you understand the task your chances of completing the task successfully will increase dramatically.
Tip #2 Read the sample writing sub-test letters to see how they are constructed according to the Task.
Tip #3 Look at the case notes and understand which ones are important, and which ones are unimportant.
Tip #4 Organise your case notes into neat paragraphs with a clear structure: introductory, main and secondary issues, any other details and the request.
Tip #5 Select and organise your case notes by transforming the case notes. You MUST NOT copy the case notes directly into your letter, rather tell a story to the reader to fulfil the task.
You need a good approach to writing these types of letters. Without a good approach the case notes can be overwhelming. There is often a lot of information and for physiotherapists, dentists and doctors, there is often more than there is for nurses…
Remember, you need to be able to:
Transform the case notes into a letter of between 180-200 words.
It’s no easy task, but it is possible with practice, feedback and guidance.
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Research shows that this test is advocated by past test takers as the most suitable test for registration, employment and visa purposes because the test focuses on medical English (note: the test does not quiz you on your medical knowledge).
As a healthcare professional you know how important communication is in your job. OET is designed for you, simulating real workplace tasks and testing relevant language skills. For example, for the writing section of this test you must write a referral letter or a discharge letter a task that you must learn how to do in your job anyway.
OET is recognised and trusted by healthcare boards and councils in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore. Many organisations, including hospitals, universities and colleges, are using OET as proof of a candidate’s ability to communicate effectively in a demanding healthcare environment.
You should take the OET because:
● The test materials reflect real workplace scenarios.
● You will use the test skills you learn immediately, and for the rest of your career.