In OET Speaking you will have to complete two role plays. Each role play will go for 5 minutes and you will have 2-3 minutes to prepare for each role play. But what exactly is the best way to start the role play? What should you say to the patient to get off the best start possible? Let’s find out.
Before we look at the best way to start the conversation on test day, we need to have a quick look at how you’re scored bearing in mind that you are actually scored on how you initiate the conversation.
How is OET Speaking Scored
So, you’re scored in two main ways. You’re scored firstly on your language skills and you’re scored secondly on your clinical communication skills.
Your spoken language skills include:
- Grammar and Vocabulary
This is very broad. Each of these language skills are in fact filled with lots of details that you can find out more about in the E2 Live Classes that on www.e2language.com – I highly recommend you check those out.
As mentioned, you’re also scored on your Clinical Communication Skills, which include:
- Relationship building
- Understanding & incorporating the patient’s perspective
- Providing structure
- Information gathering
- Information giving
Each of these criteria contain quite a few sub-criteria. So the way you’re scored is very precise, and what the examiners do when they’re marking your speaking is they cross-reference your performance with each of the criteria and sub-criteria.
OET Role Play – Clinical Communication Skills
Let’s take a closer look at the first of the clinical communication skills:
1. Relationship building
This is the clinical communication skill that scores you on how you begin the role play. Broadly, it gives you a score from 1 to 3 on:
- Beginning the role play
- Being attentive
- Being respectful
- Being non-judgmental
- Showing empathy
As you can see, these aren’t exactly language skills per se. I mean, they’re not grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation. They’re more than that. They’re ‘how’ you use language in the conversation to interact with the patient. And remember that those five sub-skills I just showed you are just a small part of the overall clinical communication skills you need to demonstrate on test day.
If you haven’t yet done so, I highly recommend that you take E2’s OET Mini Mock Test. It’s the best way to begin your preparation and to find out exactly what you need to focus on to maximise your scores. In addition to listening and reading, it includes writing feedback and a 15 minute 1:1 speaking mock test with one of our expert teachers who will give you detailed feedback on your performance according to the criteria.
I really do recommend doing this as part of your preparation even if your English is already excellent. The exam simulation is really important. And it will help to ease your nerves before test day.
Okay, now that we know how you’re scored, let’s pay closer attention to the particular scoring criterion:
A1. Initiating the interaction appropriately
Which more simply means starting the conversation well.
So how do you do this? Well, if we dig a little deeper into the official scoring guidelines, to maximise your score for this sub-criteria you need to:
- Greet the patient (clarify the patient’s name if need be)
- Introduce yourself
- Clarify your role in their care
- Explain the nature of the interview (if necessary)
Now, greeting the patient, introducing yourself, clarifying your role in their care and perhaps explaining the nature of the interview kind of depends on the role play card. Let’s take a look at the setting and scenario from a nursing role play card and I’ll show you how to do an ideal introduction, and then we’ll take a look at a medical role play card and do it again.
|Setting: Patient’s Home Nurse: You are a community nurse visiting a 75-year-old patient who has cataracts (cloudy, blurry patches on the lens of the eye) in both eyes and is awaiting cataract surgery. His/her general health have been declining in recent months. This is your first visit after taking over the patient’s care.|
So we can see from this role play card’s setting that you are at the patient’s home. So that kind of sets the tone of the way you will speak. You’re not in an emergency department; it’s probably a lot more relaxed.
You can also see from the scenario that you’re speaking to a 75 year old man. This will have an impact on the way that you communicate. I mean, it would be very different to speaking to a teenager, for example.
You can also see that the patient’s health has been declining recently. This means that he or she will probably be quite anxious. Keep that in mind.
And finally, it says that this is your first time seeing the patient. That will certainly impact the introduction.
We won’t worry about the tasks; we have all the information we need from the setting and scenario to know how to begin.
Starting the role play
So how would you begin this role play? Take a look at this role play and tell me what you think.
Hi Tom. How’s it going?
This is not a great introduction. You have not factored in who Tom is and how he’s feeling. Nor have you indicated that you’re meeting for the first time and introduced yourself properly.
Compare this introduction:
You: Hello Mr Smith. It’s Mr Smith, is that right?
Mr Smith: Yes.
You: Mr Smith, I’m the community nurse. My name is Jay. I’m taking over from your previous nurse. I’m going to be checking up on you today to make sure you’re okay. Is that okay with you?
Mr Smith: Yes.
You: I’m going to ask you a few questions to make sure you’re okay. Do you mind?
Mr Smith: No, please go ahead.
You: How have you been coping recently Mr Smith?
This is much better. Let’s check it against the scoring to make sure we’ve maximised our scores:
|Greet the patient (clarify the patient’s name if need be)||You: Hello Mr Smith. It’s Mr Smith, is that right?|
|Introduce yourself||You: Mr Smith, I’m the community nurse. My name is Jay.|
|Clarify your role in their care||You: I’m going to be checking up on you today to make sure you’re okay. Is that okay with you?|
|Explain the nature of the interview (if necessary)||You: I’m going to ask you a few questions to make sure you’re okay. Do you mind?|
You may not need to clarify the patient’s name, or you may not need to explain the nature of the interview but start well with a nice, gentle and through introduction just like this one.
Now, sometimes you will not be speaking directly to a patient; instead, you’ll be speaking to the carer or parent of a patient. So let’s see how to maximise our scores if we get a role play card like that:
|Setting: General Practice Doctor: A long-term patient has presented with their 6-year-old daughter who has a painful and itchy rash and flaking on her mouth and nose. The parent is very worried about the rash.|
Here you can see from the setting that you’re at a General Practice. This time you have a long-term patient. So you won’t need to clarify their name. However, this time you’re speaking to your patient about their daughter. You’re not speaking to the daughter herself; you’re speaking to the mother or father of the daughter. You can also see that the parent is very worried, which will impact your tone.
This time you kind of want to cut straight to the chase. You don’t want to exchange pleasantries – “oh, hi how are you?” etc. because this parent is worried. So let’s see a good introduction.
You: Hi John. Thanks for coming to see me today. Now, I understand that Sally has a nasty rash. You must be concerned. What I want to do today is find out what’s going on so we can help her. Please tell me: when did you first notice this rash?
This introduction is perfect for the context. Let’s check it next to the official scoring:
|1) Greet the patient (clarify the patient’s name if need be)||You: Hi John, good to see you again.|
|2) Introduce yourself||NA – you know the patient|
|3) Clarify your role in their care||You: Now, I understand that Sally has a nasty rash. You must be concerned.|
|4) Explain the nature of the interview (if necessary)||You: What I want to do today is find out what’s going on so we can help her.|
Here you can see the greeting. It’s short and to the point and it also shows the examiners that you know that you know the patient – clever! There was no need for an introduction so you wouldn’t lose points there. Clarifying your role was by simply stating the medical issue and offering some condolences. And then you explained that you will help out poor young Sally.
So, just to recap, one more time. On test day:
|1) Greet the patient (clarify the patient’s name if need be)|
|2) Introduce yourself|
|3) Clarify your role in their care|
|4) Explain the nature of the interview (if necessary)|
And all of this information is found in the setting and scenario on the role play card.
If you want to practice under exam-like conditions at the time of your choice and receive expert feedback, I highly recommend our Mini Mock Test that comes as part of the Express+, Bronze, Silver or Gold package and we also offer 1:1 tutorials with expert OET teachers if you really want to dive deep into your practice.