Specialist Language Courses

What is the Occupational English Test (OET)

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The Occupational English Test (OET) is used in the UK, USA, Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand and Singapore among others to assess the Medical English skills of a wide range of international healthcare professionals, including doctors, nurses, pharmacists, dentists, vets and allied health professionals.

OET Background

The OET was established in the late 1980s and developed under contract to the Australian Government. It was designed by Professor Tim McNamara at the University of Melbourne – one of the original developers of IELTS.

Since then, it has undergone continuous assessment and review, led by the Language Testing Research Centre (LTRC) at the University of Melbourne, in order to ensure it is fit for purpose today. LTRC is an international leader in research and development in language assessment.

The test is now owned by Cambridge Boxhill Language Assessment, a joint venture between Cambridge English Language Assessment (who co-own IELTS) and Box Hill Institute, a leading vocational and higher education provider.

OET Objectives

The OET is designed specifically to assess the English language skills of international healthcare professionals wanting to work in an English-speaking environment and reflects over 30 years of research and practice.

It consists of 4 papers: Listening and Reading cover a broad range of generally applicable healthcare topics, while Speaking and Writing test the specific language used by 12 professions within healthcare.

These are:

Dentistry, Dietetics, Medicine, Nursing, Occupational Therapy, Optometry, Pharmacy, Physiotherapy, Podiatry, Radiography, Speech Pathology, Veterinary Science.

OET Test Format

There are 4 skills-based papers: Listening, Reading, Writing, Speaking.

The Listening and Reading papers are designed to assess a candidate’s ability to understand spoken and written English, based on health-related topics and tasks common to all professions. Texts range from short workplace notices and dialogues to longer articles and talks.

The Writing and Speaking papers are specific to the 12 individual healthcare professions. They are designed to reflect common tasks performed in the workplace. The writing asks candidates to write a referral letter, for example, while the Speaking asks candidates to role play a conversation in a clinical setting.

OET scores

Most healthcare regulators who recognise OET, require candidates to score C+ or B in the 4 papers to achieve the standard of English deemed sufficient to provide safe and effective care.

In the UK, for example, the General Medical Council (GMC) requires doctors to score B in all 4 papers in 1 sitting, whereas the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) requires nurses to score a B in Reading, Listening and Speaking and a C+ in Writing. The NMC also allows nurse to ‘club’ different tests taken over a 5-month period together to achieve the grades, as long as no paper was graded at under C+.

OET Recognition

The OET is recognised by regulatory healthcare bodies and councils, as well as university and Higher Education institutions, in the US, UK, Canada, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malta, the Maldives, Philippines, Qatar, UAE, Spain, Ukraine and Namibia.

How do you take OET?

OET can be taken at test centres around the world, either on paper or on computer. In 2021, OET launched its at-home testing service, so candidates who did not have a test centre in their country could take it at home instead. Know more about the different ways of taking the OET exam here.

OET Free Preparation Materials

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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.

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