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OET Writing can be challenging if you don’t prepare properly. Read on to find some common OET Writing issues that cause low scores on the content criteria and learn some useful tips to get your letter right. 

Hello from the E2 Team! Whether you are taking the OET for the first time, or you already had a go at it; it is undeniable that the writing task is one of the more challenging sections of the exam and one that many people need more help with.  If you need OET Writing help, this article is for you.

For help with other OET tasks, check out these articles on Listening Part A, Reading Part A and Speaking.

The OET writing task

The OET writing task, based directly on the workplace context, requires you to plan and write one of 3 types of letters; referral, discharge or transfer to another healthcare professional. The OET Writing task requires you to select and organise relevant information and present it in a clear, accurate form that is appropriate for the intended reader. You will need to use a range of skills to ensure the recipient fully understands what they need to do in order to continue the care of the patient.

The examining criteria

The content criteria examines several aspects of the letter:

-Content is appropriate to the intended reader

-Content addresses what is needed to continue care 

-What the reader needs to know

-All key information is included

-No important details are missing

-Information is accurately represented

Top tips for your OET Writing task

Healthcare professionals are well-known for being time-poor. By starting your letter with a clear explanation of its purpose, the reader doesn’t have to spend time searching for what’s important. 

The purpose of the document

In your OET Writing, the purpose of the document must be immediately apparent and expanded giving  four key details: the type of letter being written, (referral, discharge or transfer),  the full name of the patient, what main issue the patient has, and what is required from the reader. It is important to make it clear in the purpose paragraph, why you’re writing the letter and why the reader should read it.  

The second part of the purpose paragraph is “sufficiently expanding” the reason for your letter. What is meant by this is that the letter should build on what is initially outlined as the reason for writing by adding relevant details giving more information to the reader about the issues of the patient that they are being asked to deal with. 

The case notes that you choose to include in the letter must be related to the request. This way, the reader has the necessary background information to understand why the requests are being made, and what has led to the situation the patient is in, either physically or psychologically. To check, imagine that you are the reader. What would you need to know and what do you not need to read in this letter?

At the end of the letter, you will need to give the reader a clear understanding of what actions they are being requested to take and to expand the detail of any further requests or treatment which is suggested.

The request paragraph

The request paragraph needs to be well organised – meaning that the most important requests are prioritised in the paragraph – and accurate so that immediately, the reader knows what is expected of them. Make sure your letter is perfectly clear in what it is requesting. Ask yourself: If you read this request would you know exactly what to do or what is being asked of you?

This can be tricky when there is a long list of things to be done which are not necessarily grouped together in similar topics. Careful consideration of the requests/discharge plan is needed before writing. The most important request should go first, then the others need to be grouped together according to their focus, such as wound care, medications that need to be  monitored, mobility issues of the patient, for example.

Accuracy in interpreting case notes is important

Getting your writing accurate and avoiding misinterpretation of case notes is important. So why do so many students find it difficult to interpret the case notes and especially the management plan accurately?

The most common mistakes of accuracy are made in the request paragraph. What is being asked of the reader? In the final paragraph of your letter, you need to use the material in the case notes where a request or the management plan is mentioned and formally state this as a request to the person you are writing to. However, misinterpretation of the management or discharge plan is common.

In discharge letters, it is important to clearly distinguish what the patient is to do upon discharge, versus what the reader is being asked to do. The reader might be the patient’s GP, or The Director of Nursing in an aged care facility. This must be worked out and clearly separated before writing. It is often better to write the two sets of instructions in two short separate paragraphs to make these two things clearer.

In referral and discharge letters, there is often detailed information on what is to be requested from the medical professional who the letter is being written to. 

For more help analysing case notes and writing a high scoring letter, watch this video:

Vocabulary and grammar for OET writing

Using appropriate vocabulary and correct grammar makes a difference. If you use general adjectives rather than facts when talking about a patient, it can give an inaccurate picture of the patient’s habits. For example, instead of saying ‘Mr Brown is a heavy smoker’, state exactly how many cigarettes he smokes per day. Instead of saying ‘Ms White is overweight’, use their BMI or actual weight in your letter. You will not get penalised for using the same words that are in the case notes. Make sure you do not  lose the accuracy by paraphrasing the wording incorrectly. When an opinion is requested, for example, this does not mean assessment and management is being asked for.

In addition, incorrect verb tenses give incorrect information. Whether a patient had asthma or has asthma, is very different. If someone is  hypertensive or hypotensive it is also not the same thing. Incorrect adverbs also change the information. For example, does someone exercise frequently or occasionally? It’s important to be precise.

Another common error is in calculating the patient’s age rather than using their date of birth. It is not necessary to work out how old the patient is. Often, mistakes are made when calculating the patient’s age, and doing the calculation wastes your precious writing time. Also, the date of birth is much more important from a medical perspective as it is the only way that a patient can be located or registered on a database. 

Consider the style of the letter

Another aspect to consider is the fact that this writing style is a business letter, not academic writing or trying to prove a point. It is colleagues working with colleagues to achieve excellent and specialised care for their patients. They need to be able to understand the necessary details so that they can do what is requested. So, avoid using overly long sentences and adverbs like greatly appreciate or your professional care. It is their job as your colleague that you are asking them to do and their care would naturally be professional.  

These points and the remaining OET criteria are the foundation to communicating clearly and efficiently by letter in both your OET Writing test and your professional life. These foundations are taught, discussed, and illustrated in E2Test Prep’s live writing classes for doctors or nurses

If you’re not feeling confident with your Writing, there are skill building exercises you can do in E2’s one-stop learning platform. 

How E2 can help your OET Writing

The activities in Course Materials will cover the methods to perform well on your Writing. There are videos with the OET writing overview, writing guide and letter structure. Videos on the method, focusing on each of the six marking criteria; purpose, content, conciseness and clarity, genre and style, organisation and layout, and language. 

There are also six practice case notes and sample letters, as well as three comprehensive OET grammar practice sections to help you further develop your writing skills to the level desired for your OET exam.

There is also an online correction service, in which you submit your writing for assessment, and then receive a detailed report from our expert teachers with corrections and suggestions for further study in order to excel in your OET writing task.

In E2’s tutorials, you can also get in depth oral feedback from the letters you have submitted for assessment which come with tutorial packages and from your mini mock test, as well as general support for all aspects of your writing. A bronze package has 1 letter for assessment, silver has 2 letters and gold has 3 letters. 

We hope this information helps you to get the score you need for your OET Writing task. You can learn more about OET packages that can help you excel in OET Writing. Our paid packages give access to a mock test, live classes, tutorials, writing practice case notes and teacher feedback and assessments.

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