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To lift your OET speaking score, you must learn how OET examiners grade your roleplay conversations. Before getting into the matter, remember that our OET online courses have everything you need to understand the official OET speaking assessment criteria.

The OET speaking assessment might seem challenging at the beginning. To help you simplify your experience with the assessment criteria, there are several things you can do to master OET speaking. These are:

OET speaking role play assessment criteria overview

Here’s what the official OET speaking criteria looks like. One half targets your linguistic criteria, and the other one your clinical communication.

Linguistic criteria OET speaking marking rubric
Clinical criteria OET speaking marking rubric

We have simplified the rubrics and made a handy checklist to download that you can use as an OET speaking roleplay practice aid. With our checklist, you will learn how to do well in many of these speaking criteria in your role play conversations. 

But, before the roleplay speaking criteria make sense, a quick overview of the OET Speaking test and its requirements will be helpful.

OET speaking role play overview

The OET speaking section has two graded and one ungraded speaking tasks. All three involve in-person conversations with an OET interlocutor. Even though the interlocutor conducts the interview, they aren’t the person who will grade you. The interlocutor records your conversation and sends the recordings to OET. Your answers are graded after test day by at least two OET assessors. 

The OET speaking ‘Warm-up’

The first task is the ungraded ‘warm-up’ conversation. After ticking off some formalities, such as checking your candidate number and identity documents, the interlocutor will ask you to introduce yourself and talk about your professional specialization and work experience. This is the ‘warm-up’ task. Don’t worry if you get off to a bumpy start. The ‘warm-up’ isn’t graded. Use the warm-up to settle in, shake off your nerves and become familiar with the interlocutor’s voice. 

After the warm-up questions, the interlocutor will hand you the first two roleplay cards. For each role play, you will have three minutes to prepare with your role-play card. 

The OET speaking roleplay card

A typical roleplay card looks like this: 

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Roleplay cards have a format with three sections: the setting, the scenario and the tasks (or prompts). All three are important. As you can see on the card, the setting is the General Surgery Ward. Though brief, this is essential information because it describes the context of your conversation. 

The scenario paragraph identifies the key people involved in the conversation. In this scenario, you are the nurse, and the interlocutor is the patient. In other scenarios, the interlocutor might play the role of a guardian or parent. The scenario tells you about the subject of the conversation. In this one, the patient is scheduled to have a hernia operation. The scenario also gives you important information about the patient- in this case, the patient’s job requires him or her to do the heavy lifting. Finally, you are told that the patient seems unaware of how the post-op recovery will affect their ability to work.

Finally, there are the prompts. These are shown as the list of bullet points that you must talk about in your conversation. I will take a deeper dive into how to handle these prompts in a moment.

The OET speaking scoring criteria – A deep dive

Now that we have covered some speaking sub-test basics let’s take a closer look at the criteria examiners use to assess your roleplay conversations. 

The criteria are divided into two broad categories:

  • The first is the linguistic criteria- the linguistic criteria are used to evaluate your language skills, such as your correct use of grammar and pronunciation 
  • The second category is the clinical communication criteria which are used to evaluate your ability to communicate effectively and accurately in a healthcare setting. 

Even though the linguistic criteria are worth more in calculating your speaking score, let’s first look at the clinical communication criteria and its 5 sub-criteria.

A. The OET speaking clinical communication criteria

As mentioned above, the clinical communication criteria evaluate your ability to communicate effectively and accurately in a healthcare setting. It has 5 sub-criteria, which are referred to as indicators. These indicators are:

  • relationship building
  • understanding the patient’s perspective
  • providing structure
  • effective information gathering
  • effective information giving

1. The relationship building criteria

The first clinical communication indicator to assess your conversation is ‘relationship building’. Building a good professional relationship with a patient is important. Often, patients will be feeling uncomfortable, anxious, or afraid. Helping patients is an important part of your job. You can begin addressing this as soon as you start the conversation by introducing yourself in a polite and friendly way and using sympathetic language and tone of voice to make your patient feel more comfortable. 

2. Understanding the patient’s perspective

This indicator assesses how well you listen and respond to your patient. This means picking up on the patient’s cues and responding to their questions, concerns, and comments. 

3. Providing structure

This is a big one and is the backbone of your conversation. This indicator indicates whether your role-play conversation has a logical and purposeful sequence. What does that mean? If you look at the role-play prompts in the card above, you can think of the prompts as having a 4-part sequence: 

  • First, you need to introduce yourself.
  • The second part is to enquire about your patient (this lines up with the first prompt on the roleplay card).
  • Next are the middle prompts that ask you to explain some condition or procedure to the patient (the second and third prompts)
  • finally, there are the ending interactions where you give advice or instructions to the patient (the fourth and fifth prompts).

In short, the sequence of your conversation is: i. introduce ii. enquire, iii. explain and iv. advise. 

4. Information gathering

The next indicator is ‘information gathering’. This indicator focuses on how effectively you ask your patient questions to elicit useful answers from your patient throughout the conversation. For example, at the start of the conversation, use open questions such as “What symptoms have you been experiencing?” to get general information. Then, as the conversation continues, move on to closed questions to gather specific information, such as “Do you have a headache?” 

5. Information giving

The final clinical communication indicator is ‘information giving’. This indicator requires that you be clear, give concise, simple instructions or advice, avoid using technical, medical language the patient will struggle to understand, and give your advice as suggestions, not orders. 

Now that we know the communicative criteria better let’s look at the linguistic criteria.

B. The OET speaking linguistic criteria

The OET Speaking linguistic criteria are made up of four sub-criteria. These are:

  • Intelligibility
  • Fluency
  • Appropriateness of language
  • Grammar and expressions

Let’s look at each in more detail.

1. Intelligibility

The first of the OET Speaking Linguistic criteria is intelligibility. In brief, intelligibility is whether your speech is easy to understand. For example, is your voice and pronunciation clear? Is your word stress, intonation, and rhythm correct? 

2. Fluency

The second linguistic criterion is fluency. This is the smoothness of your speech. It includes finding the right pace (not too slow or fast), using natural pauses, avoiding stops and starts and saying too many ‘ums and ahs’. 

3. Appropriateness of language

The appropriateness of language linguistic criterion is used to assess whether you use suitable language and explain things to patients simply and clearly. Try not to use too technical and medical terms and language.

4. Grammar and expression

This criterion examines whether you can use a range of grammar, vocabulary and idioms accurately and flexibly. This includes using different phrases to communicate the same idea. If we add this to our checklist as item #8, our list is complete.

Building an OET speaking criteria practice checklist

We simplified and consolidated the assessment criteria into a simple practice checklist. Click here to download it!

Clinical communication indicators

  1. Introduce yourself politely and friendly and build a relationship with the patient using sympathetic language and tone of voice.
  2. Enquire about your patient’s condition, listen to their concerns and be responsive to their questions to better understand their perspective or circumstances.
  3. Gather information throughout the conversation moving from open questions to closed questions, summarise and give clarifications when necessary to make sure the patient understands you.
  4. Give information and advice that is clear and concise, give simple instructions and advice, avoiding the use of overly technical medical language.

Linguistic Indicators

  1. Use clear speech and pronunciation.
  2. Use smooth (fluent) speech without hesitation.
  3. Explain technical concepts in a way that is easy to understand.
  4. Use a wide range of grammar and vocabulary.

Now that we have the complete list. Let’s try using it! Watch our video below.

Author Bio: 

E2 is the world’s leading test preparation provider. Our expert teachers are fully accredited English teachers with TESOL, British Council or other relevant certifications and years of OET examiner or OET teaching experience.

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