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About the Listening sub-test
The Listening sub-test consists of three parts, and a total of 42 question items. The topics are of generic healthcare interest and accessible to candidates across all professions. The total length of the Listening audio is about 40 minutes, including recorded speech and pauses to allow you time to write your answers. You will hear each recording once and are expected to write your answers while listening.
The Listening sub-test structure
Part A – consultation extracts (about 5 minutes each)
Part A assesses your ability to identify specific information during a consultation. You will listen to two recorded health professional-patient consultations and you will complete the health professional’s notes using the information you hear. Note: the health professionals may be any one of the 12 professions who can take OET.
Part B – short workplace extracts (about 1 minute each)
Part B assesses your ability to identify the detail, gist, opinion or purpose of short extracts from the healthcare workplace. You will listen to six recorded extracts (e.g. team briefings, handovers, or health professional-patient dialogues) and you will answer one multiple-choice question for each extract.
Part C – presentation extracts (about 5 minutes each)
Part C assesses your ability to follow a recorded presentation or interview on a range of accessible healthcare topics. You will listen to two different extracts and you will answer six multiple-choice questions for each extract.
How is listening ability assessed in OET?
The Listening sub-test is designed to assess a range of listening skills, such as identifying specific information, detail, gist, opinion or the speaker’s purpose. These skills are assessed through note-completion tasks and multiple-choice questions.
Assessors who mark the Listening sub-test are qualified and highly trained. Candidate responses are assessed against an established marking guide. During the marking session, problematic or unforeseen answers are referred to a sub-group of senior assessors for guidance and all papers are double-marked to ensure fairness and consistency.
How is the listening test scored?
Your answers for Part A are double-marked by trained OET assessors.
These answers are randomly assigned to assessors to avoid any conflict of interest.
Your answers for Part B and Part C are computer scanned and automatically scored.
For Part A, Listening assessors use a detailed marking guide which sets out which answers receive marks. Assessors use this guide to decide whether you have provided enough correct information to be given the mark. Assessors are monitored for accuracy and consistency.
About the Reading sub-test
The Reading sub-test consists of three parts and a total of 42 question items. All three parts take a total of 60 minutes to complete. The topics are of generic healthcare interest and are therefore accessible to candidates across all professions.
The Reading sub-test structure
Part A – expeditious reading task (15 minutes)
Part A assesses your ability to locate specific information from four short texts in a quick and efficient manner. The four short texts relate to a single healthcare topic, and you must answer 20 questions in the allocated time period. The 20 questions consist of matching, sentence completion and short answer questions.
Part B and Part C – careful reading tasks (45 minutes)
Part B assesses your ability to identify the detail, gist or main point of six short texts sourced from the healthcare workplace (100-150 words each). The texts might consist of extracts from policy documents, hospital guidelines, manuals or internal communications, such as emails or memos. For each text, there is one three-option multiple-choice question.
Part C assesses your ability to identify detailed meaning and opinion in two texts on topics of interest to healthcare professionals (800 words each). For each text, you must answer eight four-option multiple choice questions.
How is reading ability assessed in OET?
Reading Part A (the expeditious reading task) tests your ability to skim and scan quickly across different texts on a given topic in order to locate specific information. For that purpose, Part A is strictly timed and you must complete all 20 question items within the allocated 15 minutes. To complete the task successfully, you will also need to understand the conventions of different medical text types and understand the presentation of numerical and textual information.
Reading Part B tests your ability to understand the detail, gist or main point of complex texts commonly found in the healthcare workplace. To complete the task successfully, you will need to identify specific ideas at sentence level.
Reading Part C tests your ability to understand the explicit or implied meaning as well as the attitude or opinion presented in a longer text. To complete the task successfully, you will need to identify the relationship between ideas at sentence and paragraph level. Part C also tests your ability to accurately understand lexical references and complex phrases within the text.
Assessors who mark the Reading sub-test are qualified and highly trained. Candidate responses are assessed against an established marking guide. During the marking session, problematic or unforeseen answers are referred to a sub-group of senior assessors for guidance.
The Writing sub-test takes 45 minutes and is profession-specific. There is one task set for each profession based on a typical workplace situation and the demands of the profession – a nurse does the task for nursing, a dentist does the task for dentistry, and so on.
The Writing sub-test structure
- The task is to write a letter, usually a referral letter. Some alternative letter types are a letter of transfer and a letter of discharge. A letter to advise or inform a patient, carer or group is sometimes used in Pharmacy, Veterinary Science and occasionally for Speech Pathology and Occupational Therapy. Another task variation, with a different focus, is a written response to a complaint (for Radiography).
- Along with the task instructions, you will receive stimulus material (case notes and/or other related documentation) which includes information to use in your response.
How is writing ability assessed in OET?
Your performance on the Writing sub-test is marked independently by a minimum of two trained Assessors. Neither Assessor knows what scores the other has given you, or what scores you have achieved in any of the other sub-tests.
Your performance is scored against six criteria and receives a band score for each criterion:
- Purpose (Whether the purpose of the letter is immediately apparent to the reader and sufficiently expanded in the course of the letter)
- Content (Whether all the necessary information is included and accurate for the reader)
- Conciseness & Clarity (Whether unnecessary information is omitted so that the letter is an effective summary for the reader)
- Genre & Style (Whether the register, tone and use of abbreviations are appropriate for the reader)
- Organisation & Layout (Whether the letter is organised and well laid out for the reader)
- Language (Whether the accuracy of the grammar, vocabulary, spelling and punctuation communicates the necessary information to the reader)
About the Speaking Sub-test
The Speaking sub-test is delivered individually and takes around 20 minutes. This part of OET uses materials specifically designed for your profession. In each role-play, you take your professional role (for example, as a nurse or as a pharmacist) while the interlocutor plays a patient, a client, or a patient’s relative or carer. For veterinary science, the interlocutor is the owner or carer of the animal.
The Speaking sub-test structure
In each Speaking test, your identity and profession are checked by the interlocutor and there is a short warm-up conversation about your professional background. Then the role-plays are introduced one by one and you have three minutes to prepare for each. The role-plays take about five minutes each.
You receive information for each role-play on a card that you keep while you do the role-play. The card explains the situation and what you are required to do. You may write notes on the card if you want. If you have any questions about the content of the role-play or how a role-play works, you can ask them during the preparation time.
The role-plays are based on typical workplace situations and reflect the demands made on a health professional in those situations. The interlocutor follows a script so that the Speaking test structure is similar for each candidate. The interlocutor also has detailed information to use in each role-play. Different role-plays are used for different candidates at the same test administration.
How is speaking assessed in OET?
The whole Speaking sub-test is recorded and it is this audio recording that is assessed.
- The Speaking sub-test is marked independently by a minimum of two trained OET Assessors.
- Neither Assessor knows what scores the other has given you, or what scores you have achieved on any of the other sub-tests.
- Your test day interlocutor plays no role in the assessment of your performance.
- OET Assessors’ judgements are targeted and specific, not a general evaluation of candidates’ ability in spoken English.
- OET Assessors are trained to focus on how a candidate responds to the particular task on the day. They apply specific assessment criteria that reflect the demands of communication in the health professional workplace. Remember that OET is a test of English-language skills, not a test of professional knowledge
Candidates who are familiar with the assessment criteria and pay attention to the details of the specific role-play task have a better chance of demonstrating their ability in the key areas. Candidates who use memorised material or merely rely on techniques that worked in other circumstances tend not to perform to their full potential in the test.
Your performance on each of the two Speaking role-plays is scored against nine criteria and receives a band score for each criterion. The nine criteria are seperated into two different segments: Linguistic and Clinical Communicative.
- Intelligibility: The impact of your pronunciation, intonation and accent on how clearly your listener can hear and understand what you’re saying
- Fluency: The impact of the speed and smoothness of your speech on your listener’s understanding
- Appropriateness of Language: The impact of your language, tone and professionalism on your listener’s understanding and comfort
- Resources of Grammar and Expression: The impact of your level of grammatical accuracy and vocabulary choices on your listener’s understanding.
Clinical Communication Criteria:
- Relationship-building: The impact of your choice of opening to the conversation and demonstration of empathy and respect on your listener’s comfort
- Understanding and incorporating the patient’s perspective: The impact of how fully you involve the patient in the conversation on your listener’s understanding and comfort
- Providing structure: The impact of how you organise the information you provide and introduce new topics for discussion on your listener’s understanding
- Information-gathering: The impact of the type of questions you ask and how you listen to the responses on your listener’s understanding
- Information-giving: The impact of how you provide information and check this information is being understood on your listener’s comfort and understanding.