Specialist Language Courses

Using Gestures

Share This Post

As you now know, effective non-verbal communication is key to fluency. In Medical English, getting your meaning across using NVC is crucial. It’s also important to show that you’re listening properly.

Gestures are movements using the body, especially the hand or the head. They’re an important aspect of NVC. You may use your hands a lot when you’re speaking, to help you explain your meaning. Yet if you’ve decided to take the OET speaking exam, you may think that gestures aren’t important. The exam is recorded and only an audio is sent to the examiner. They won’t be able to see how many times you’ve nodded. You could hunch your shoulders, look at the floor, and nobody will know.

But that’s not true. If you’re not sure, look up, smile, and say ‘Hello.’ Then look down, slouch, frown, and repeat the word. Listen to your tone of voice and how it changes. That change will come across in the recording – so if you want to sound confident and fluent, yet still empathetic, remember your gestures.


Nod as you use certain sounds to show agreement or understanding. (See this post from last week that explains what sounds to use and when).


Smile as you greet your patient or colleague. Look at the other person as you speak (you don’t have to look directly into their eyes, just in their direction).


Sit upright when you speak – don’t slouch. Your voice will contract, and you will sound muffled if you sit hunched over.


You may be used to using your hands when you speak. But if you’re not, remember that using them aids communication. It may also help to loosen any tension in your body during a stressful situation (such as an exam). As a small example, use your fingers to count steps you want someone to take.

For more tips on how to pass the OET exam generally, watch this video from SLC.

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.

Want to pass the OET exam? We want to help!

OET Preparation with Specialist Language Courses

SLC was the OET-accredited Premium Preparation Provider in Europe and is the leading provider of OET preparation services to the UK National Health Service.

SLC offers a wide range of OET preparation services, including self-study, tutoring, practice tests, and writing correction.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Get updates and get the latest materials on Medical English, OET and IELTS

More to explore