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An exciting development!

On 15 July 2020, it was announced that the General Medical Council (GMC), the UK’s independent regulator for doctors, decided to accept results from [email protected], OET’s remote-proctored, computer-based version of the test.

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This means that overseas-trained doctors who wish to work in the UK can now achieve their goal by taking OET safely and securely, under strict test conditions, in the comfort of their own homes. It should be noted that while remote proctoring will bring changes to the delivery mode, the test format and tasks, and level of English assessed will remain the same. This is indeed welcome news for all doctors wishing to come and work in the UK. Having the option to either take a computer-based test or the paper version in test centres means that doctors can crack on with preparation in the knowledge that OET can be taken from home as of this September.

An endorsement from Richard Hankins, Head of Assessment at the General Medical Council:

“We have reviewed the test with policy colleagues, and we are confident that it provides a sufficient level of security at this time. We will, therefore, accept remotely proctored OET results for both PLAB and registration”.

How will the test be administered?

OET have been working closely with Prometric, who are highly experienced in delivering high quality online testing worldwide. They are leading experts in this field with their priority being to maintain the integrity of the test using live human proctors, 360 scanning of the test environment, continuous biometric facial and audio detection, locking down the candidate’s computer to allow the test to run whilst preventing other applications from running at the same time.

Confidence in OET

This decision underpins the high regard for [email protected] in its ability to effectively assess and evaluate the necessary communication skills expected from doctors coming to work in the UK. Ultimately, the focus is on delivering patient-centred care, which is safe and of the highest quality. This confidence has developed on the basis of OET’s ability to provide an effective test which is valid, secure and reliable, and is in line with medical training and real-life experience within the healthcare sector. In my extensive contact with doctors preparing for this test as a language trainer, I am always impressed with the positive feedback from students in terms of the way it meets the requirements of health care in the workplace in the UK.

What about the speaking sub-test?

 So, listening reading and writing sub-tests of [email protected] will be administered via computer, but of course the speaking sub-test will still be with an interlocutor via ZOOM. In this specific sub-test, there are certain assessment criteria measuring vital communication skills for doctors, such as conveying empathy and understanding. This human element of patient care is essential and often the most challenging for doctors operating in a second language, not least because it requires a sensitivity to the needs or concerns of patients in a face to face setting.

Pilot study

A pilot of this remote-proctored test was carried out last month with around 300 doctors. I personally worked with a Spanish doctor who was offered the opportunity to participate, and her feedback was extremely positive. Not only did it provide an opportunity to test out the process, but she was also able to compare the experience by taking the paper-based test as well. She reported that it was user-friendly and did not present any difficulties. This was always a long-term goal of the OET, but with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, this mission went into overdrive!

Pandemic-proof

Ultimately, the future is uncertain as to whether we will face a significant second wave of the current pandemic, but irrespective of this, there is now an alternative option to physical attendance in a test centre. This really has huge ramifications, as doctors often need to travel significant distances just to take the test, sometimes flying to another country. I think it also reduces the stress factor if you are able to sit the [email protected] in a familiar environment.

Will [email protected] be available outside of the UK?

With regard to other regulators getting on board with [email protected], it is still early days. It is my understanding that [email protected] will also be an option for residency and fellowship programs in the US starting next year. Meanwhile, discussions with other healthcare regulators beside General Medical Council around their acceptance of [email protected] results are ongoing. The future looks bright😊

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Reminder

Please check the official OET website regularly for updates under Latest News https://www.occupationalenglishtest.org/latest-news/ for up to date information on test centres and rest assured that OET is also working to implement new testing protocols to safeguard health and safety at these sites.

Marie-Claire, Expert Tutor

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