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The Importance of Pauses

The importance of pauses in speech
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When using Medical English in conversation, it’s important that you’re as clear as possible. Your choice of vocabulary and phrasing is vital, but so is your use of NVC – or non-verbal communication. Strangely, it’s sometimes the lack of sound – or the pauses you use – that can help your fluency.

Pauses in speech are a useful way to break up long sentences. Using them gives the listener a chance to understand what you’re saying. They’re a natural tool for a native speaker. And if you decide to take the OET speaking exam, adding pauses in won’t only make you appear more natural. They’ll also give you a rest so you can gather your thoughts and decide what to say next.

Of course, you mustn’t pause for too long. But when taking an exam, adrenaline may mean that you speak too quickly without realising. Remembering to pause will slow down your speech. It’s probable that a break that you think has lasted forever has only lasted a second or less.

Where should you pause? Think of where you’d add a comma or full stop in written English. Add around a second for a comma, and two seconds for a full stop. Practise by recording yourself reading aloud a written piece. Afterwards, listen back and check whether you’ve put pauses in the right places.

However, it’s important when speaking that you don’t sound as if you’re reading from a script. Remember a previous conversation you had with a patient. Then repeat it in English, speaking into a recorder. Finally, and when you’re confident, record yourself speaking spontaneously in English.


  • Pauses are as important in conversation as the speech itself.
  • Use pauses in the way you would a comma or full stop.
  • Record yourself for practice, with the aim of speaking ‘off the cuff.’

For more tips on how to pass the OET speaking exam, check out SLC’s two YouTube channels. One will help you to pass the OET exams, and the other will help you with Medical English advice.

Stephanie Lam
About the author

Stephanie Lam is a writer, journalist, and English teacher. She specialises in writing fabulous words for the wellbeing and health industries.

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