In this OET Writing Tips article, we will share how you can get high score on this sub-test. The OET writing sub-test is unlike any other writing test.

Make sure you fill out the form below to receive a list of simplified medical vocabulary you can use on the OET!

In the IELTS and the PTE you have to write an ‘essay’. You are given a prompt and you write according to your thoughts. In the OET, you do not write according to your thoughts. In fact, there is very little room for creativity at all.

In the OET writing you have case notes and a task. You need to select from the case notes according to the task, create a logical structure for your letter and then make sure that the letter is written in your own words.

Whether you’re a nurse, doctor, dentist or physiotherapist, this blog post will show you how to write the OET sub-test to get an A (or a B)!

The Task

OET Writing Tips - Writing Sample
Material from


The task is the most important past of the case notes. It should be the first thing that you look at in the 5 minutes reading time. The Task tells you WHO you are writing to and WHY. By understanding the Task (who and why) you will then be able to select case notes that are relevant to the reader.

Does the reader already know the patient or are you introducing the patient to the reader?

Compare these two tasks:

Task 1:

Using the information in the notes, write a letter back to the referring GP, Dr Jones, detailing your findings and suggested treatment plan.

Task 2:

Using the information in the notes, write a letter to Dr Jones detailing your findings and suggested treatment plan.

In task 1 the doctor already knows the patient. In task 2 the doctor does not know the patient.

How do you think your selection of case notes will change if the doctor knows or does not know the patient?

The answer to this is significantly. For instance, if the doctor already knows the patient, do you need to include much information from the medical history? No. But if the doctor has never met the patient before? Yes!

Whether read knows or does not know the patient will influence which case notes you choose and why.

Who are you writing to?

Consider these two tasks:

Task 1:

Using the information in the notes, write a letter of referral to Dr Jane Smith at Cicil Dermatology Clinic.

Task 2:

Using the information in the notes, write a letter of referral to Dr Jane Smith at Cicil Neurology Clinic.

The person you are writing to – or what their job is – will almost completely change the way you write your letter. For example, which person would want to know about acne – the dermatologist or the neurologist? Who would want to know about visual perception issues – the dermatologist or the neurologist?

Take-home message

The OET examiners purposefully put in case notes to distract you from the Task. Make sure that you understand the task – who you are writing to and why. If you understand the Task your chances of completing the task successfully will increase dramatically.

Read the sample writing sub-test letters to see how they are constructed according to the Task.

The E2-OET Writing Tips and Method

Male doctor taking notes has created a powerful method to help you to write your OET letter successfully. The method works for nurses, doctors, dentists – all professions.

The method is simple and has three steps:

  • OET Writing Tips 1 – Selecting case notes
  • OET Writing Tips 2 – Organising case notes
  • OET Writing Tips 3 – Transforming case notes

Let’s look at each of these steps in more depth.

OET Writing Tips 1 – Selecting case notes

We’ve already talked about the importance of understanding the Task in order to select relevant case notes. That is a big part of it.

After you have understood the Task you then need to be able to look at the case notes and understand WHICH ONES ARE IMPORTANT, and WHICH ONES ARE UNIMPORTANT.

The OET examiners purposefully put in UNIMPORTANT case notes to distract you. Be sure not to include these case notes. For example, if you are writing to a doctor about a patient’s diabetes don’t include that they broke their wrist twelve years ago. It’s completely irrelevant.

OET Writing Tips 2 – Organising case notes

You need to organise your case notes into neat paragraphs. This is a very common mistake made by OET candidates. They just mix all of their case notes into what looks like a paragraph, put a space under it and start another mixed paragraphs. I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to have a CLEAR STRUCTURE.

The way you structure your OET writing should be according to:

  1. Introductory sentence
  2. The main issue
  3. The secondary issue
  4. Any other details
  5. The request

The issue will most likely be medical but it might be social. The secondary issue might be medical or social. Any other details may include medication of something else of relevance that did not fit into 1. and 2. Finally, your letter should end with the request to the medical professional or whomever you’re writing to, and this often takes into account the discharge plan or management plan.

Let’s look at this structure in more detail:

The introductory sentence

In the case notes there will be one particular medical issue that will stick out. It is usually found in the ‘admission diagnosis’ section of the case notes. For example it may be “recurring headaches”. And in the Task, Discharge Plan or Management Plan you may be asked to refer the patient to a neurologist for assessment.

Therefore you need to include two pieces of information in your introductory sentence. (Let’s say that the neurologist knows this patient.)

I am referring Tim back into your care for full assessment of his recurring headaches.

You can see here that there are two pieces of information:

  1. The request
  2. The main medical issue – the headaches

In a single sentence we have summarised what is happening is what we want the reader to do. This is a great way to start your letters.

The main medical issue

Following on from the introductory sentence we then need to specify in more detail the main medical issue – in this case the recurring headaches. So we should scan the case notes for ANY information relating to Tim’s headaches. We can then write this up into a single paragraph that encapsulates all the relevant information that the neurologist needs.

The secondary issue

You will notice when you are scanning the case notes that there will be a secondary issue emerging. This will be less important than the main medical issue but it will warrant its own paragraph. For example, following on from our example of headaches, let’s say that Tim is also getting dizzy. There will be several (3-4 case notes) explaining something about Tim’s dizziness. We then outline this secondary issue in the second paragraph.

It’s important to understand that we want to keep our paragraphs single-themed. That is, paragraph one should be about headaches and headaches ONLY. It should not include any other information. The second paragraph – though related to headaches – should only include information related to dizziness.


Any other details

There may be a few odds and ends in the case notes that are worth mentioning to the neurologist. For example, let’s say that Tim has been on a new diet, been drinking more and doing less exercise. Are these directly related to headaches or dizziness? No! Therefore, we do not include them in Paragraph 1 or 2. Instead, we can create a third paragraph for related information that the neurologist may want to know.

The request

We have mentioned the Request in the introductory sentence but we should make it more explicit in the final paragraph. Here we should loudly say to the neurologist (or whomever) what it is that we want them to do. Remember, this information will be in the Task, Discharge plan or Management plan.

For example,

I am referring Tim back to your for assessment of his recurring headaches.

It may sound repetitive but it’s okay. You need to say the request twice: once at the beginning of the letter and once at the end of the letter.

OET Writing Tips 3 – Transforming case notes

The final step after you have selected and organised the case notes is to TRANSFORM the case notes for you MUST NOT copy the case notes directly into your letter. Of course, some allowance is given for transferring and some case notes you simply cannot change but most of the case notes are short and ungrammatical. Your job is to tell a story to the reader. You are taking the case notes and re-working them so that they make sense and fulfill the task.

Check out this article for OET Speaking tips.

OET Writing Tips

Here’s a summary of some important OET Writing Tips to remember:

Tip #1 Make sure that you understand the task – who you are writing to and why. If you understand the task your chances of completing the task successfully will increase dramatically.

Tip #2 Read the sample writing sub-test letters to see how they are constructed according to the Task.

Tip #3 Look at the case notes and understand which ones are important, and which ones are unimportant.

Tip #4 Organise your case notes into neat paragraphs with a clear structure: introductory, main and secondary issues, any other details and the request.

Tip #5 Select and organise your case notes by transforming the case notes. You MUST NOT copy the case notes directly into your letter, rather tell a story to the reader to fulfil the task.

You need a good approach to writing these types of letters. Without a good approach the case notes can be overwhelming. There is often a lot of information and for physiotherapists, dentists and doctors, there is often more than there is for nurses…

Remember, you need to be able to:

  1. Select,
  2. Organise, and
  3. Transform the case notes into a letter of between 180-200 words.

It’s no easy task, but it is possible with practice, feedback and guidance.

Follow our social media for more tips on how to pass OET!

Start your OET course today!

Written by Jay Merlo


47 thoughts on “OET Writing Tips – How to get an A on the OET writing sub-test

  1. Dear Merlo
    First of all , thanks for your writing tips and your attention.
    I am still confuse about how to start a referal letter by main issue OR medical and social issues . Unfortunately, some OET teachers believe that before start the first paragraph, we can write 1 or 2 sentences by only focusing on his/her medical and social issues.
    For example :
    – Introduction
    -Mr. Boag has been working in a coper mine for 18 years. He is regular smoker ( 2 packs of cigarettes per day) and a social drinker. The patient has no family history of pulmonary disease.

    – Initially, the patient presented at my clinic on 10.08.15 with complaints of cough and shortness of breath. On examination, ………………………………… …………………………………………..

    – Six months later, he returned to see me because his condition had worsened. On examination, ……..

    – On review today, ………………..

    – Based on my provisional diagnosis, I would appreciate………………

    Yours sincerely,
    Signature( Name)

    1. Hi there Ali!

      If you’re confused about the referral letter, check out our OET writing webinar for some clarification:

      We also have expert OET tutors if you sign up for any of our courses, and you can have a free information session with one when you sign up to our free trial: 🙂

  2. Good day!.i just took my oet exam this month and i am very worried because i forgot to put a date on the heading..will it affect my score?thank yoi

        1. Hi Zierra,

          Absolutely not! Don’t worry about that, you can still pass despite that error. In the grand scheme of things, it’s a relatively small mistake to make. It will ding you a bit, but will not be the difference between passing and failing! 🙂

          1. Thank you ma’am..that’s a relief!i hope i could really pass it.still waiting for my results.More blessings to come for you!

  3. Hi
    Last time i did the exam the patient was attending to clinic to change the dressing and the nurse noticed abnormal changes in BP when pt set and stand. The patient is HTN and DM . GBL was normal. The refereal letter to pt family Doctor to ask cardi assessment.
    I wrote one paragraph about the wound care and one paragraph about the BP and introduction and conclusio.
    I forgot to mention the every single reading to BP and GBL and the possipility to have ortho hypotension and i have grammar mistakes . I didnt write any thing about past medical and family history and daily habits.
    Did i include the important information?Can i get pass ?
    Thank you

    1. Hi Maryam,

      I attended the same OET test in December, which has released the result yesterday (22/12). I failed the writing test, and I think I covered similar but less context compared to yours. Just wondering if you pass the writing sub-test as I am considering re-marking. Thanks

      1. Hi Maryam and Lusi,

        I sat the same exam last December and unfortunately, failed the writing subset. There were too many information on the case notes and I had difficulty selecting which ones should be included and not. I will be sitting the exam this coming Feb.12. I hope I’ll pass it 😀

    1. Hi Doha,

      We don’t have a specific writing only course, but you can focus completely on our writing material in our online course AND your tutorials with your tutor can be completely based around writing. In addition, you can get up to 3 writing assessments based on the package you choose with us. You can find the options at the bottom of the page here:

      Good luck! 🙂

  4. Hi. I’m sitting ort tomorrow. Just wondering what to do in writing if the receivers name is not given. ie: the person we writing to. Thanks in advance

    1. Hi there!

      If the medical professional’s name is not given you can just write “To whom it may concern”. The patient’s name will always be given.

  5. good day..

    do you have sample letter on how to refer back a patient to his family doctor.. ?.. it was so unfortunate that the first time i encounter that kind of exam is on the exam day… thats why i fail..

    thank you..

  6. Hello
    I would like to know the correct format for the order correct as follows

    Date(the date of exam)

  7. Hi there. Myself Jitha and I am booked for my test on 11 march. Jus wondering is there any way to get a corrected copy of my writing task back if I send it to you ? Thanks.

  8. For clarification. It is true in OET writing au test that you will do discharge letter with referral? My friend told me she did discharge with referral. If it’s true, do you have some sample ?

    Thanks in advance

  9. Hi,

    Could you advise if the OET writing test has to be written in plain English, or if medical lexicon will be accepted?
    Thanks in advance.

    Kind regards,


  10. Hi,

    Just want to ask in writing test in the last part the signature, do you have to write your name or just charge nurse or senior nurse? And do we have to affix our signature? Thank you.

  11. Dear Jay,

    Can I please ask which of the following sentence is better to use in the discharge letter for a patient to be discharged.

    (1) I am writing to refer this patient who is under our care for…..

    (2) I am writing to refer this patient who has been under our care for….

  12. Dear,

    If I exceed the word count, will it effect my grade? Will I get a Band B if my word count is more than what they asked? Please respond. Thanks in advance.


    1. Hello Vinil,

      The OET exam is quite flexible. As long as you are in the range of 180-200 words, your grade will not be affected.


    1. Hello Michael,

      There is no reason for worrying as long as your word count is in between the range of 180-200 words 🙂


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *