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By now you’ve most likely heard that beginning 3rd August 2019, the updated OET writing criteria will take effect. So, what does this mean for you?  

Let me start by saying there is absolutely NO CHANGE to the test whatsoever. This means that you will still be required to write a formal letter. You will still have 5 minutes of reading time and 40 minutes of writing time.

The test will not be any easier and certainly won’t be any more difficult. There will be NO CHANGE to the language proficiency level, NO CHANGE to the writing skills required, and NO CHANGE to the strategies you’ve been learning to successfully pass the writing test. So don’t panic!


What then is being updated?

Basically, the way the test is being assessed. The criteria names will change, as well as how the skills are being assigned in each criterion. There will also be a stronger emphasis on what health professionals – in this case the reader of your letter – want to know. In other words, the purpose of the letter and the language you use that allows the reader to retrieve the information easily, accurately and concisely.

OET Writing Criteria: Old vs. New

In their current form there are 5 criteria totaling 30 points. These are:

  • Overall Task Fulfillment
  • Appropriateness of Language
  • Comprehension of Stimulus
  • Linguistic Features
  • Presentation Features

In the upgraded version there will be 6 criteria totaling 38 points. These are:

  • Purpose
  • Content  
  • Conciseness and Clarity
  • Genre and Style
  • Organization and Layout
  • Language

So again, there is NO CHANGE to what is being assessed. Only the names have been changed and the same skills are assessed only under different criteria.  

Why is the OET Writing Criteria being updated?

Let me tell you why the update to the OET writing criteria is happening. OET is determined to keep the writing test fit for purpose. Meaning they are keeping up to date on what is expected from you while you’re working in an English-speaking healthcare environment. Many people were involved in the decision-making process including consultations with range healthcare professionals. This is what they said about each criterion.

Purpose – must be immediately apparent and clear.

Content – must include the necessary information, and that information must be accurate.

Conciseness and Clarity – means excluding the irrelevant information and only including what is relevant to the reader.  

Genre and Style – means the way you write your letter must be suitable for the intended reader.

Organisation and Layout – means your letter must be structured to aid the retrieval of information.

Language – should aid the retrieval of information.

This all means that the skills that make up the old OET writing criteria have now been incorporated into the new. For example, spelling, punctuation and layout which make up presentation features in the current system, will be separated with layout moving to Organisation and Layout and spelling and punctuation moving to Language for obvious reasons.

Read: 5 Step Guide to OET Listening Part A

A brief summary:

Purpose gives a quick and precise sense of what is being asked. Purpose should be developed later in your letter (specific instructions). It should appear early in your letter and be immediately identifiable.

NB: This does not mean simply saying “this is a referral letter” but rather providing the reason “why” you are writing to this particular reader.

Content tells the reader what they need to know so they can continue the care of the patient.

Conciseness and Clarity is omitting what the reader doesn’t need to know and summarising the relevant information accurately, efficiently and effectively.

Genre and Style is choosing the appropriate register and tone that is suitable for the reader.

Organisation and Layout is organising your letter in a logical sequence, with appropriate paragraphing and layout.

Language is using suitable, accurate vocabulary, grammar, spelling and punctuation to enhance readability. This is not showing off, but rather selecting vocabulary etc. that best fits the situation and reader.

I hope this has helped clarify any misconceptions you may have had. My advice is to keep practising the way you are now. Focus on who will be reading your letter, what you want that reader to do and why you want that reader to do it.

Keeping this in mind from the outset, will ensure that you have a good understanding of the test itself and help you identify and select the case notes needed and transform those notes into a formal letter.

For more information visit the E2Language website and sign up!

Written by Jarrad
MA Applied Linguistics, Grad Dip Ed, BA


All Comments 12
  • Badrun tani says:

    Hello ..I got 77 in one of my writing sub test which was evaluated my e2 tutor ..can you please tell me what will be the grading of 77 ..

  • I want help in writing only
    I need corrections as well
    Which course is best ?
    If you provide writing only courses with corrections will help many doctors and nurses
    Thank you

    • GOOD NEWS! This was our most recent social media post & it directly addresses your question:

      “From today onwards, all FREE and E2 Students can buy Writing and Speaking Assessments separately from the packages. These Assessments are marked by E2 Experts around the world.

      How to buy a Writing and/ or Speaking Feedback?

      1. Login to your account;
      2. On the left panel, click “ASSESSMENTS”;
      3. Choose whether you’ll get just the Writing Feedback or the Speaking Feedback or both;
      4. Proceed to checkout!

      Don’t worry, you can always Upgrade to any of the packages anytime and avail 1:1 Tutorial with our E2 Experts, Live Classes, and a lot more!

      Visit and #DoMoreBeMore today!”

      The E2 Team

  • Hello,
    I want to do oet on september 2019, and i came to know that they are going to update the writing criteria. Could you please advise me. Recently i appeared oet examination and i got B in 3 modules expect reading. Please help me

    • Hi there, I found this on the OET website:

      “You might find it quicker and clearer to cross out any mistakes you make while writing and carry on with the correction rather than erasing and writing over the top.”

      Hope that helps!

      Maree from your E2 Team

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