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In OET speaking you have to complete two role-plays where you play the role of the medical professional and you’ll be speaking to a patient or the carer of a patient. These role-plays are designed to mimic real life health-care scenarios.

What Happens on Test Day?

First, you will be asked to show your identification. Easy, you just hand over your passport and answer a few simple questions.

  • Next, you will be asked some warm-up questions such as:
  • Why did you choose to become a nurse / doctor?
  • What kind of person makes a good nurse / doctor?
  • Tell me about a typical day at your workplace.

These questions are not assessed. It’s just a chance for you to become familiar with the interlocutor’s voice.

What’s an OET Interlocutor

Who or what is an interlocutor? Who is this person that you do the role-play with?

Importantly, the interlocutor is not the examiner. He or she is your conversational partner. A paid actor if you will. He or she will not be assessing you at all. He or she is there to play the role of the patient or the carer of the patient in order to capture language, language which is recorded and then sent to OET official for assessment.

So you’ll have to do two role-plays on test day with the interlocutor.

The Role-Play Card

It’s critical that you become familiar with the role-play card and do practice before test day.

Setting: Suburban General Practice
Doctor: Your patient is a 25-year-old student who has come in to discuss a recent onset of fatigue. He/she has generally experienced good health in the past.
· Find out why the patient has come to see you.
· Request more details about his/her symptoms (e.g. onset, how it affects their day, if resting helps etc.).· Find out about possible triggers (e.g. recent routine/lifestyle changes, sleeping patterns, other illnesses etc.).· Explain that the symptoms are likely related to their previous illness. A blood test is needed before making a diagnosis.· Highlight the importance of diagnostic testing to rule out any underlying medical conditions (e.g. anaemia, vitamin deficiencies etc.).· Reassure the patient and suggest ways to manage the fatigue (e.g. putting time limits on activities, asking for help from family and friends, etc.).

This role-play card is for medicine, but they’re all the same in terms of layout. As you can see, right at the top, you can see the SETTING. It will tell you where the role-play is taking place. It might be a clinic or a home care visit or in an ICU or ER. Paying attention to the setting will inform you of the level of ‘urgency’ of the role-play. Predictably, a home care visit will be far less urgent than a setting in the ER.

The next part of the role-play card is the scenario. This is critical. This tells you what’s been going on, what’s been happening, or the background of the patient. You will use this information to initiate the discussion and in the first part of the role play to gather information.

Next we have the all-important tasks. These tasks will guide you and the interlocutor through the role-play. You’ll see between three to six tasks. The tasks always start with a verb where you have to DO something. Some of the tasks have additional tasks embedded within them. Of course, you get to hold the role-play card throughout the role-play.

Preparation Time

oet-speaking-sub-test-preperation-time

Before the role-play begins you get 2-3 minutes to prepare. I say 2-3 minutes because you can begin sooner if you wish, if you feel like you’re ready before the 3 minutes is up. You just let the interlocutor know.

In the preparation time you want to pay attention to the SETTING, SCENARIO, and most importantly, the TASKS.

You are allowed to write on the role-play card, and there are a few things that I recommend you underline before you begin speaking.

Setting: Suburban General Practice

Doctor: Your patient is a 25-year-old student who has come in to discuss a recent onset of fatigue. He/she has generally experienced good health in the past.
· Find out why the patient has come to see you.· Request more details about his/her symptoms (e.g. onset, how it affects their day, if resting helps etc.).· Find out about possible triggers (e.g. recent routine/lifestyle changes, sleeping patterns, other illnesses etc.).· Explain that the symptoms are likely related to their previous illness. A blood test is needed before making a diagnosis.· Highlight the importance of diagnostic testing to rule out any underlying medical conditions (e.g. anaemia, vitamin deficiencies etc.).· Reassure the patient and suggest ways to manage the fatigue (e.g. putting time limits on activities, asking for help from family and friends, etc.).

Do you see the verbs in the tasks? It’s critical that you underline or at least pay attention to these verbs because these verbs dictate the type of language – the kinds of expressions – that you need to use during the role-play.

For example, the critical verbs in this role-play are:

  • FIND OUT
  • REQUEST
  • EXPLAIN
  • HIGHLIGHT
  • REASSURE
  • SUGGEST

That’s exactly what you’ll have to do in the role play.

Role Play Topics

The role-play is not going to be on a technical topic. You don’t have to worry about encountering some strange illness or condition that you’ve never heard of. They’ll be about back pain or headaches or asthma or very common conditions associated with your particular profession.

Asking the Interlocutor Questions

In the preparation time, before the role-play begins, you’re allowed to ask the interlocutor any questions you may have about the role-play.

But you can ask the interlocutor questions like:

  • In this role-play, have I met you before?
  • What should I call you in the role-play?
  • Am I speaking directly to the patient or to the carer of the patient.

Please don’t be afraid to ask any question. You paid for this exam, and if anything is unclear, just ask. You won’t lose points. Remember, the interlocutor is not the examiner and you are only assessed on the role-play, nothing beforehand or afterwards.

OET Speaking Timing

The role-play is designed to last for five minutes. And at the five minute mark, the interlocutor will stop you, even if you’re mid sentence. This isn’t a problem; it just means you’ve reached the five minute mark and enough of your language has been recorded.

But notice how many tasks there are and how many minutes you have. Here, there are six tasks that you should aim to complete in five minutes. That means you should spend about 45 seconds to a minute on each task. Some will be quicker than others, but it gives you a rough idea.

OET Speaking Scoring

You are scored in two main ways in OET Speaking. You’re scored on your:

  • Linguistic Skills, and your
  • Clinical Communication Skills
  • Your linguistic skills of which you’re scored out of 6 points include:
  • Intelligibility
  • Fluency
  • Appropriateness
  • Grammar and Vocabulary

Intelligibility refers to:

The impact of your pronunciation, intonation and accent on how clearly your listener can hear and understand what you’re saying

To get a top score for Intelligibility you need to:

Have clear pronunciation. You also need to have effective prosody including word and sentence stress, intonation and rhythm. Your accent should not impede the clarity of your speech. You should be easily understood.

Fluency refers to:

The impact of the speed and smoothness of your speech on your listener’s understanding

To get a top score for Fluency you need to:

Speak at a normal rate. Don’t hesitate to search for words or grammar. Speak effortlessly.

Appropriateness refers to:

  • The impact of your language, tone and professionalism on your listener’s understanding and comfort
  • To get a top score for Appropriateness you need to:
  • Use appropriate formality, tone and phrasing for the context. Have no difficulty explaining complex procedures simply.

Grammar and Vocabulary refers to:

The impact of your language, tone and professionalism on your listener’s understanding and comfort

To get a top score for Grammar and Vocabulary you need to:

Use wide-ranging and accurate grammar. Use wide-ranging and precise vocabulary. Use natural sounding phrases.

I won’t go into too much detail here on each of these but if you check out www.e2language.com you’ll find scoring videos there that take you through each of these criteria in depth and our 1:1 tutorials will help you out enormously.

You are also scored on your Clinical Communication Skills on a score from 0 to 3.

Broadly, the Clinical Communication Criteria include:

  • Relationship building
  • Understanding & incorporating the patient’s perspective
  • Providing structure
  • Information gathering
  • Information giving

Each of these criteria have many sub-criteria – in fact, there are 20 Clinical Communication Skills in total. You might be great at English, have perfect grammar, vocab and pronunciation and perform well in the linguistic skills, but that’s not enough. You also need to do well in each of the clinical communication criteria as well.

In fact, according to OET official, to get the equivalent score of a B or 350 in OET speaking you need to: Get mostly scores of 5/6 on the Linguistic Criteria, and mostly scores of 2/3 on the Clinical Communication Criteria.

If you want to learn how to maximise your Clinical Communication Skills then I highly, highly recommend taking a mini mock test with feedback at E2 that includes a 1:1 speaking mock exam with one of our expert teachers and it also includes feedback. You’ll be able to see exactly what these criteria are and how well you’re performing in them. What’s more, we have a special video on the platform that takes you through each of the clinical criteria that is NOT on YouTube.

Recap

So, all up, the OET speaking test will take about 20 minutes and will include the ID check, the warm up questions and the two role plays. I think the key to this is having a good understanding of the scoring – both the linguistic and clinical criteria – and practising under exam simulation, and getting feedback from an expert, all of which you can do at www.e2language.com Good luck!

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