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Do you want a higher score for your OET speaking roleplay? We can help you with
that! You should:
1. Read this article.
2. Watch its companion video to learn how expressing ‘empathy and sympathy’
relate to the ‘effective communication’ speaking assessment.
3. Finally, go to, sign up for free and practice a few OET
speaking exercises.

Effective communication is crucial in a healthcare setting as it enables healthcare
professionals to understand a patient’s needs, provide appropriate care, and build
trust and rapport with patients and their relatives.

What is the OET Speaking Roleplay?

The OET (Occupational English Test) speaking roleplay is one part of the OET
speaking test. The roleplay involves you (the candidate) playing a ‘role’ of a
healthcare professional. You will have a conversation with an interlocutor (an OET-
trained interviewer) who takes on the role of a patient or a patient’s relative.

During the roleplay, you will be given a scenario. The scenario requires you to communicate with the patient or patient’s relative in a way that demonstrates their ability to communicate effectively and professionally in an English-speaking healthcare environment. The scenarios are designed to simulate
real-life situations that you as a healthcare professional will encounter in your work.

Watch this video with expert OET teacher Mark to learn the best way to show empathy in the OET Speaking Test. 

OET Speaking Assessment Criteria: Effective Communication

Effective communication

‘Effective communication’ is an OET (Occupational English Test) speaking assessment criteria that has several sub-parts. You will read below how ‘empathy and sympathy’ are part of the ‘interactiveness’ sub-criteria. The complete list of sub-criteria includes:


Your pronunciation, word stress, and intonation should be clear and accurate to ensure that the patient can understand what is being said.


Your ability to speak smoothly and without hesitation, using appropriate pausing and phrasing, is important for effective communication.

Appropriateness of language

Your ability to use language appropriate for the healthcare context is important. This includes using medical terminology and avoiding jargon or slang, is essential for effective communication.

Resources of grammar and expression

You should be able to use a range of grammatical structures and vocabulary accurately and appropriately to ensure
effective communication.

Discourse management

You should be able to organize your ideas and communicate them effectively, including responding appropriately to questions and
providing relevant information.


Your ability to engage in a conversation with the patient or patient’s
relative in a way that shows interest, empathy, and understanding of their needs
and concerns is important for effective communication.

Expressing Empathy and Understanding

So, whilst empathy is not specifically listed as an OET speaking assessment criteria, it is an important aspect of effective communication. As such, it falls under the OET assessment criteria of
appropriateness of language” and “interactiveness“.
For example, a candidate may use appropriate language to show empathy towards a
patient who is anxious about their medical condition. This could include using
phrases such as “I understand how you feel,” or “It’s natural to be worried in this

The candidate may also show empathy by actively listening to the
patient’s concerns and responding in a way that addresses those concerns.

Examples of Empathetic communication

Practice and find your style in empathetic communication; listen to the audio file of the below communications.

Other examples of empathetic and sympathetic communications are:

“I can understand how difficult this must be for you.”

“I’m sorry to hear that you’re feeling this way.”

“I can imagine how frustrating that must be.”

“It sounds like you’ve been through a lot. How can I help?”

“I’m here to listen and support you in any way I can.”

“That must have been a really challenging experience for you.”

“I can see that this is upsetting for you. Would you like to talk about it?”

“I appreciate how hard you’re working to manage your condition.”

“It must be tough dealing with this on a daily basis. What coping strategies
have you found helpful?”

“I understand that this is a sensitive topic. Please let me know if there’s
anything you’d prefer not to discuss.”

By expressing empathy and sympathy in your OET speaking role play, you demonstrate
to the OET interlocutor that you are in command of the scenario, as reflected in the
language you use. This demonstrates that you understand the context of the role play to the interlocutor. It also improves your professionalism to your patients, too.

OET Practice Tools

Keen for more help on your OET Speaking?

The OET Speaking Intensive package includes over 25 live classes, 100’s of practice questions

and 2 Assessments marked by expert teachers where you receive detailed feedback in 48 hours.

Are you hoping to increase your OET Writing score as well? Read our OET Writing blog and learn how to satisfy the examining criteria, understand the purpose of the document, how accuracy of case notes is important and to incorporate vocab and grammar.

Learn how you can score an A on the OET Writing subtest, read out blog article on this topic.

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