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SPEAKING
Occupational English Test Preparation: How
to Speak Without Getting Stuck
5 minutes may seem like a short time, but if you encounter a topic or situation that is
unfamiliar, the 5 minutes can feel like an eternity.
OET speaking session is a dialogue between you (the health professional) and the
interviewer (the patient). However, the majority of time is devoted to you to show off your
speaking skills. The interviewer will be advised to speak minimally unless prompted by you
with questions.
TIP 1
After the interviewer introduces the scenario, ask questions to clarify or establish the
situation/concern more fully. e.g. So how long have you had this pain for? What is exactly is
it about the drug that you are concerned about?
TIP 2
If you need more time to think about your response but you dont want a big gap of silence,
mirror or reflect the concerns or questions the interviewer raises. This is not only good for
you to buy time but also a great way of expressing empathy and demonstrating that you
comprehend fully what they are saying. e.g. So from what I can understand Mr/s ., you are
worried about your sons lack of concentration at school. I can see that it must have been so
serious that you considered the possibility of an underlying medical complication. I am sure
that coming up with a diagnosis would clear a lot of things up for you.
TIP 3
Dont ever assume that the patient knows everything about the medical concern that they
are coming to you with. That is why they are consulting with you. Describe and define every
basic aspect of their health condition. e.g. Hypotension -> define it/ ask the patient if they
fully understand what it is. Particularly if they have concerns with compliance, going into a
bit more detail scientifically may be more persuasive for the patient.

TIP 4
If you need to explain to the patient about a certain procedure or therapy, ~remember!~
although the interviewer can see you, the examiner cant as the role-play is voice recorded.
Therefore, make a concerted effort to describe every little detail in words, however obvious
it may sound. It is not the knowledge that they are grading you on but your speaking
fluency. e.g. using a walking frame: be descriptive right down to which hand/foot goes where
and when.
TIP 5
If you have no idea about the disease condition/treatment, hypothesise. e.g. That sounds
like a respiratory condition which the doctor will be able to clarify to you about. However,
from my understanding of respiratory conditions in general, it is important that you are
supplied with sufficient oxygen and make sure that your airways are cleared of mucus or any
foreign particles etc.
TIP 6
Remember to speak slowly and clearly. This will not only stretch out the time and minimise
the amount of mistakes that you may say but also dilute out any thick accents.

The OET speaking task becoming a good


communicator
Welcome to the OET speaking test. You have 5 minutes to complete your task. Begin.
Nurse: Good morning, I hope you had a good sleep. Could you please take your medication
now?
Patient: Please go away. I am tired. I just need sleep, I do not want to take the medication.
Nurse: But I need you to taPatient: I said leave me alone.
Nurse: (on the verge of tears) ok bye.

A significant factor for success in the OET speaking test is to be prepared for situations such
as this. While your grammatically spoken English may be excellent, you are also being
tested on your ability to communicate, especially with difficult patients.
As health professionals, it is part of our job to approach these circumstances with tact and
professionalism, while at the same time displaying assertiveness and confidence. And in the
OET test, it just might be your job to communicate with a role player who has been
instructed to refuse all your advice and act upset.
This can make you nervous. This can make you forget your lines. This can make your face
flush beetroot red and wish that you were at home in the safety of your blanket, away from
the OET test. But there are many strategies you can use to turn this type of situation to your
advantage, and instead showcase your excellent communication skills.

Remember practice makes perfect!

TIPS on How to resolve concerns in SpeakingPart 1


In the speaking component of the OET exam, you are given a clinical
scenario where a patient approaches you usually with a concern. The
concerns can be classed generally into two classes: Concerns about the
ILLNESS and concerns about the TREATMENT aka non-compliance. Since
there is a lot to cover, I will give tips on only the first class of concerns in this
months blog.
1) THE ILLNESS.
Generally a lot of patients fears/reservations/anger stems from the
unknown. Some of these medical diagnosis can appear foreboding simply by
the fact that it comes from the doctor or the name itself. So most of the time
this can be resolved by simply explaining all the aspects of the illness in a
clear and reasonable way.
Some aspects of the illness that you may have to explain are;
-What the exact nature of the diagnosis is.
-How seriously it will affect their health and daily function.

-What the treatments/therapy will involve- it is important to explain why the


treatment is given.
-What the prognosis will be.
Since this component of the exam will not be assessed on the
content/medical knowledge of the exam candidate, you do not need to know
every illness under the sun to prepare for this. However, you may need to
know some common ones just so you do not get nervous for stuck with what
to say. Common ones could be hypertension, diabetes, stroke/heart attack,
quitting smoking/alcohol, immunizations etc.
e.g. I understand that you are worried about your hypertension.
Hypertension is an elevation of your blood pressure. This means that your
heart has to worker a lot harder than normal to pump blood around your
body.

If it isnt treated there is an increased chance that your heart may fail or that
you may get a heart attack or stroke. Therefore, it is vital that you keep your
blood pressure under control.
Blood pressure is affected by many things.
Firstly, how much water and salt is in your body. If you have too much salt in
your diet, this can make your blood volume greater and therefore increase
your blood pressure.
Secondly, the condition of your blood vessels. If your blood vessels becomes
less elastic due to age, damage from smoking or too much fat deposits from
a fatty diet and not enough exercise, then you will more likely not be able to
regulate your blood pressure.
Thirdly, different levels of hormones can be released by various triggers such
as stress, drinking, obesity, diabetes etc that contribute to or worsen the
hypertension.
It is a lot to take in, but I hope this helps you to see why it is so important for
you to make various changes in your lifestyle. Reducing your salt and fat

intake in your diet, exercising, avoiding smoking and alcohol are crucial for
lowering your blood pressure.
If you can do this you will be able to significantly reduce the risk of the
illnesses I mentioned earlier which may lead to early death. Lifelong intake
of blood pressure lowering medication is preferrably a last resort so I would
advise you to take these lifestyle intervention measures first.

How to Improve Speaking at Home


Most students ask me for tips on how they can improve their speaking when theyre at
home, without a Sydney Language Solutions teacher/tutor to practise with. Below are some
of my suggestions.
1.

The first and most obvious suggestion is to practise with someone who speaks
English at home. Perhaps a family member. Perhaps a friend. Or, even better, a friend
or family member who is ALSO doing the Occupational English Test. Get them to
practise different tasks with you and give you feedback afterwards about your fluency,
the clarity and speed of your speech and about the language you used.

2.

Another way is to practise by yourself. This can involve, for instance, recording
yourself speaking! For this exercise, I particularly encourage you to check your speed
(tell yourself to SLOW DOWN!) and to check whether or not you say words like um,
uh, like or er which can affect your fluency. Count how many ums you say!

3.

One final suggestion is, indeed of speaking, you can PLAN out the conversation and
write down what you would say in the scenario. This can improve both your grammar
and your sentence structure. Think of different phrases you can use to reassure
patients, to advise patients or to ask clear questions.

Tips to Ease the OET Speaking


Nerves
The unpredictable nature of the speaking exam is something which makes all OET students
very nervous. But those who have done it before will tell you its not that bad! Here are
some things to keep in mind and hopefully itll ease those nerves.

1. Become familiar with the structure of the speaking exam.


The first section is a warm up conversation. This is recorded, but not assessed and will not
affect your speaking score. This is a chance for you to have a chat with the roleplayer and
to relax!
This is then followed by your first speaking task. You will be given a few minutes to prepare.
You will then be expected to roleplay and complete the task within approximately 5 minutes.
Finally, you will do a second speaking task. The scenario will be different however you will
still be given preparation time and 5 minutes to do the speaking.
DID YOU KNOW you can listen to sample speaking exams on the OET website? This will
definitely

help

you

to

familiarise

with

the

exam.

Check

out

this

link:

http://www.occupationalenglishtest.org/Display.aspx?tabid=2425
2. The OET is NOT testing your medical knowledge it is testing your level of
English.
This means that if you dont understand a certain medical term on the speaking task, please
ask for help! Also, dont fret and panic about giving the most scientifically accurate
information to the patient just advise them to the best of your ability.
3. The roleplayer on the day will not be assessing you. They are there simply to
act.
You should use them to help you with your task as much as possible. Ask them questions!
4. You get to keep the roleplay card throughout the speaking task.
Dont be afraid to use the roleplay card during your task you are allowed to look at it, if you
like! This also means you should write any helpful notes for yourself during the preparation
time. You can underline words, highlight sections whatever will help you to do well.

More Tips to Improve OET Speaking

1. Explain everything in as much


detail as possible!

Remember your speaking task is marked using the recording of your voice. This means that
the examiners cannot see your hand actions or facial expressions. Therefore, you need to
explain everything in words clearly. Step by step.
Example: Explaining how to inject insulin.
Firstly, you should choose your site for injection (such as, the abdomen). Then, you need to
pinch the skin between your thumb and index finger. Then, hold the needle at 45 degrees to
the surface and inject!

2. As the example above, use


words like firstly and secondly,
etc.
This is recommended as it gives your speaking task a sense of structure. It allows you to
explain medical procedures in a simple, systematic sequence. Some other words you can
use include in addition, furthermore, following on from that and the list goes on. You can
use these in writing, too!

3. Clarify with the patient and


check that they understand you.
As medical procedures can be quite complicated and detailed, it may be difficult for the
patient to follow what you are saying. To overcome any confusion and to clarify with the
patient, use pauses throughout your speaking to give the patient a chance to ask their
questions. In addition, you can ask them questions like Are you following? Does this make
sense? Do you have any questions about this procedure so far?
I hope these tips can help you improve in OET speaking and reduce those nerves! Good luck.

http://sydneylanguagesolutions.com.au/blogs/category/oet/page/2/

5 Simple Steps to Improve OET


Speaking
1 . D o n t b e af r ai d to a s k q u es ti o n s .
Before you begin each speaking task, you will have 2-3 minutes of preparation time. As you
are reading the task, if there are any aspects which you dont understand, it is worthwhile to
ask the roleplayer as they may be able to help you out. You will NOT be marked down for
asking questions.

2 . Fol lo w th e d o t po i n ts i n o rd er.
This is NOT something you MUST do, but it is highly recommended. By following the dot
points in order, you will not get lost or confused during the task and this will ensure that you
are able to engage with the roleplayer (i.e. the patient).

3 . I f y o u g et s tu c k, u s e th e p hr a s es / ter m i n o l o g y
o n t h e c ar d .
You are allowed to do this. This is particularly useful if, perhaps, the topic is unfamiliar to
you.

4 . L i s ten to th e s a m p l es o n th e O E T w eb s i te.
Most students neglect to check the official OET website for samples and materials. In fact,
they have uploaded 2 nursing speaking tasks and 2 medicine speaking tasks. Have a listen
to these as they will familiarise you with the structure of the speaking exam, even if you are
not taking the nursing/medicine exam.

5 . A n d , a s a l w ay s p r a c ti s e, pr a c ti s e,
P R A C T I SE .
With a family member. With a friend. With your dog? Even by recording yourself! Just
practise!!

The As of OET Speaking

Your palms are sweaty, your hearts racing and you stare, dumbfounded, as your mind
goes blank.
To avoid a situation like this happening in your OET speaking exam, you should be prepared
for what to expect and how you should respond. The roleplay that you are given will require
you to use appropriate language and phrases to do one or more of the following things:
1.

Assess the patient, the patients background or the current situation. This is often
what you do in the opening section of the speaking you find out (i.e. assess) what it
is that the patient wants!

2.

Assure the patient about their particular health condition, their family members
illness or an upcoming operation, etc. The patient is anxious and you need to calm
them down what do you say? You should use empathic language, exhibiting your
understanding to the patient.

3.

Advise the patient about lifestyle changes, how to manage their diabetes/health
disease or what are the harms/benefits. Here you need to make appropriate
suggestions for the patients situation.

4.

Arrange a follow-up appointment or referral, if appropriate to the situation. You are


showing the patient that you are taking immediate action to help them.

Now its up to you to carefully consider each of these types of speaking tasks and come up
with some appropriate sentences, questions or phrases that can help you communicate
these things to the patient.

http://sydneylanguagesolutions.com.au/blogs/category/oet/page/4/

The OET speaking task becoming a


good communicator
Welcome to the OET speaking test. You have 5 minutes to complete your task. Begin.
Nurse: Good morning, I hope you had a good sleep. Could you please take your medication
now?
Patient: Please go away. I am tired. I just need sleep, I do not want to take the medication.
Nurse: But I need you to ta-

Patient: I said leave me alone.


Nurse: (on the verge of tears) ok bye.
A significant factor for success in the OET speaking test is to be prepared for situations such
as this. While your grammatically spoken English may be excellent, you are also being
tested on your ability to communicate, especially with difficult patients.
As health professionals, it is part of our job to approach these circumstances with tact and
professionalism, while at the same time displaying assertiveness and confidence. And in the
OET test, it just might be your job to communicate with a role player who has been
instructed to refuse all your advice and act upset.
This can make you nervous. This can make you forget your lines. This can make your face
flush beetroot red and wish that you were at home in the safety of your blanket, away from
the OET test. But there are many strategies you can use to turn this type of situation to your
advantage, and instead showcase your excellent communication skills.
Remember practice makes perfect!

READING
Occupational English Test Preparation:
Reading Section
The reading section of the OET exam is for some the trickiest part of the whole exam. Part A
in particular can be quite intimidating because of its very short time limit. To get through this
part, the key strategy is to always be very conscious of time. The very first thing to do is of
course to skim through the texts and read the titles in order to get an idea of which text is
talking about what. The headlines often contain information on whom/what the text is about,
where the information is from and how it might be relevant to the general topic. Also, it is a
good way to see what type of information each text might contain. Sometimes, the texts are
about a persons personal experience with a disease or issue. Other times, it could be just a
table containing statistics or other types of data. It could also be a health professionals
professional opinion, the description of an illness or disease, or even how to treat or manage
a particular condition.

Once you have identified the subject of each text, you are ready to start answering some of
the questions. Each time that a blank space comes up in the summary and answer sheet,
you already know where the information that you are looking for is most likely going to be.
You can then go straight to that text and skim through it quickly to get the information that
you are looking for. Be careful when looking at data however! There can be some traps laid
out for you. Really pay attention to the way that the questions are worded. Adult men under
70 might be labelled as males 18-69 in a text. You must make sure to understand what is
being asked of you as well as what the text is actually telling you.

As always, you have been keeping a steady eye on your watch during this whole time. You
notice that you have about one minute left and unfortunately, you know that there are still
too many blanks on your paper for you to realistically hope to finish everything in time. Do

not despair! It is now time to realize that the last points that you are going to scrape up are
not going to come from finding the answers directly from the text. Read through the final
questions and try to answer them either using your memory of the texts that you have just
read or just common knowledge. Sometimes, all that the sentence is missing is just a
preposition or an adjective which is an easy way to score an extra point or two. Fill in
everything that you can and place your pencil down when they call the time, and be happy
that you have accomplished all that you could.

Part A Reading: From impossibly hard to


naturally easy

Do you find the Part A OET reading task too hard? You probably dont have a good
system for approaching the test.

This task can seem impossible. You have 15 minutes to read four texts and
then answer more than 20 questions. And you have to get the grammar
correct too!
I once had a student who had below than average spoken English, and she
had a lot of trouble with the writing task too. However, unlike the rest of the
class, she found Part A to be naturally easy. Even though English was her
second language, she could finish any Part A task I threw at her with minutes
to spare. Why was she so good at it?

This was because she had a systematic approach to handling the test
and to do well in the test, you will need to internalize this approach so that it
becomes automatic. How do you do this?
Step 1:
Do not read the entire texts! You need to rapidly scan and skim for certain
details that will help you characterize each of the four texts so that you know
where to find you answer.
These details include things like:

Headings

Author

Year

Location

Now you need to quickly give a unique personality to each of the texts so
that you can remember which one is which. For example: Text 1: Spanish
study from 1999; Text 2: Statistics from 2005; Text 3: Study by ONeill et al.;
Text 4: Australian Guidelines for approaching asthma.
Step 2:
Now keywords in the gap-fill will tell you immediately which text you need to
find your answer from. The first sentence might read: Asthma is a common
condition. In Spain, _____________ of people suffer from asthma.Which text
are you going to get your answer from?

http://sydneylanguagesolutions.com.au/blogs/category/oet/

Tips for Improving OET Reading


Reading B Assigning titles to paragraphs/articles
A common question type in Reading B is one where you asked What is the most appropriate
title for this paragraph? or What would make a suitable title for this article?. It is useful to
consider how best to answer these questions. The general principle that works for questions
like this is to ask yourself Which title covers everything in the paragraph, but is as narrow

as possible?. This principle might seem contradictory at first how can a title cover
everything, but be narrow? However, we will consider an example to illustrate the principle
at work.
Example 1
Alcoholic cirrhosis is the most common cause of hepatic cancer in Australia, accounting for
approximately 60% of diagnoses, closely followed by hepatitis B virus, which is responsible
for an additional one fifth of these patients. Other, less common, aetiologies include other
viral hepatitides, hepatitis of non-infectious causes, aflatoxin exposure, haemochromatosis,
Wilsons disease, Type 2 diabetes and haemophilia.
Which of the following titles is most appropriate for this paragraph?
A) Complications of alcoholic cirrhosis
B) Risk factors for hepatic cancer
C) Alcoholic cirrhosis in the aetiology of hepatitis B
D) Causes of hepatic illness
At first glance, answer A looks like it could fit the text talks about alcoholic cirrhosis leading
to the complication of hepatic cancer. However, this title only really applies to the first
sentence, and the rest of the paragraph has no relevance to alcoholic cirrhosis. Similarly,
answer C is incorrect because it only considers terms in the first sentence, and is also
incorrect as the paragraph considers alcoholic cirrhosis and hepatitis B in the aetiology of
hepatic cancer. Both B and D do fit the whole paragraph, but the most appropriate title of
these two will be the one that is most narrow. The article doesnt talk about hepatic illness in
general, but instead focuses on hepatic cancer D is too broad, where B fits the paragraph
perfectly.
The same principle can be applied to questions asking you to give a title to the whole article
make sure that your title choice can be applied to any given paragraph in the article.
Unlike Reading A, in Reading B you have a bit more time to read and process the text to get
a general feel for the information in the article, and this can help your choice of a title.

Tips for Improving OET Reading at


Home
Many of my students struggle to complete either part A or part B of the reading for a
number of reasons. Part A requires you to be able to quickly skim read and pick out key
words that will guide you to the answer, while Part B is a test of your reading comprehension
and will highlight a need to improve general vocabulary and understanding of the written
language. Below are some of my suggestions on how to improve your reading at home.
1.

Get into the habit of reading every day. Whether it is an English novel, the
newspaper or a magazine it is very important to read something every day, or as
regularly as possible to improve your reading speed and comprehension. For the OET
in particular it would be a good idea to read scientific journal articles online from wites
such as Medline, EBSCO and PubMed, or read information on medical websites such as
the BMJ (British Medical Journal).

2.

Following on from the above suggestion, when you find a word that you do
not understand while you are reading, copy it down into a book with the
dictionary definition for future reference. I find that a lot of my students miss out
on choosing the correct answer in Reading Part A and B because they come across a
word that forms part of the answer but they do not know what it means. Therefore, it is
extremely important to read regularly and write down new words when you come
across them. To really improve your vocabulary put some time aside in your day to
also revisit the new words you have written down so that you learn them for the
future.

3.

Finally be smart about what you read and try to summarise the meaning to
test how well you understand the text. This is an exercise you can do to see how
well you are able to understand what you have read. While you are reading a
book/newspaper/magazine pick a page, or a few paragraphs and read them, then try
to summarise what you have just read either verbally or by writing a small summary.

Hopefully these small tips will help improve your reading skills immensely. Best of luck in the
future with the OET!

Overcoming the Fear of OET


Reading Passages Part 1
Comprehension can be challenging because, apart from assessing your English vocabulary
skills, it is a test of your understanding and interpretation of extensive passages in English.
This sparks cries of fear from OET students.
Although you have 45 minutes to tackle 20 questions from two texts in the OET, you need to
have some good techniques under your belt to help you overcome your fear of the reading
passages.
#1 Start with the questions
You should start with the questions to give you an indication of which paragraph to read.
This is because, if you read the entire passage, you will probably not recall all the finer
details anyway and will waste time reading over it again.
#2 Circle conjunctions that link ideas together
As you read the appropriate paragraph of the passage, circle words like but or however or
in contrast which show two contrasting ideas. Or perhaps phrases like in addition or
furthermore that show similar ideas. Or, if any, try to spot which causes or leading to
which show a cause and effect relationship!
#3 RTFQ = Read The Full Question!
Once you have a good understanding of the relevant paragraphs, return to the question and
read all the options carefully. This is because often there is simply one word that can affect
whether the answer is right or wrong.
By coupling these simple techniques with constant reading of medical passages to build
your vocabulary, you can surely gradually overcome your fear of OET reading.

Overcoming the Fear of OET


Reading Passages Part 2

My previous blog post (Overcoming the Fear of OET Reading Passages Part 1)
outlined some key techniques you can use to tackle Part B of the OET reading component. In
this post, I will further discuss techniques about how to approach the comprehension that I
hope you will find useful in your preparation.

#1 Eliminate answers
It is often very hard to see the answer straightaway as there may be several similar
answers. However, to make things easier, you should start by eliminating the options which
are blatantly incorrect. This narrows down the amount of options to choose from, giving you
a higher chance of choosing the correct option.

#2 Familiarise yourself with statistical conversions


If the questions include statistics, you should be very careful in interpreting and matching it
to the data presented in the text. They may further trick you by changing the statistics a
little for instance, you should know that 1 in 5 is the same as 20%. You should also
take note that if it says 43 per thousand of the population this equates to approximately 4
5% of the population (do the maths!).

#3 Options that are too certain are often incorrect


In medicine, there is a lot of uncertainty and rarely are things absolutely definitive. For this
reason, if a multiple choice option uses words such as strongly associated or directly
related or definitely or any other definitive words it is usually wrong! It is ONLY correct
if the statement is exactly stated in the text.

Comprehension can certainly be very difficult but with the right strategy and ongoing
practice of some key techniques, OET reading can hopefully seem more like a friend than a
foe.

What to initially read in reading part


A.
For reading part A, because you really dont have much time to waste in 15 minutes, I would
advise you to read only a few select things first before attempting to answer the gap fills.
Firstly, read the text stimulus headings, taking note of the key words and what aspect of the
overall topic it is covering. For instance, if the entire topic is on vasectomy, then text A may
be on the associated risks of prostate cancer in those who have undergone vasectomy, text
B may be on the incidence of vasectomy over age and years, text C on the complications of
vasectomy and its reversibility, text D on thereversibility of vasectomy. By noting this, when
in the question it mentions vasectomy reversal, you can be aware to refer to either text C or
D for the answer.
Furthermore, as the question passage is of a reporting form, it will often refer to the sources
from which it is drawing information from before going onto speak about its content.
Therefore, these will be cues for you to know which text to locate your answer. It is
important to take note not only of the headings but also what text type it is. For example, is
it a study, a research abstract, a literature review, a case study, a statistic, a newspaper
journal, a report, a Q&A patient brochure etc? So in the question sheet it might say
according to a case study performed and if you had noted that text B was a case study
then you can refer to that text to scan for the answer.
I think you get the idea so I will list the features to look out for before you begin attempting
to answer the questions from Part A reading.
1.

Heading: and key words/topics in that heading/subheading (n.b. subheadings can be


the questions in a Q&A, the aims of a research abstract)

2.

Text type: study, report, experiment, survey, statistic, case study, literature review

3.

Authors: e.g. Wilson et al.

4.

Year of publication: e.g. the 2008 study.

5.

Place/country/name of publication/study: e.g US study, Canadian report, the Age


newspaper.

After having glanced for this information, which should only take you a few seconds, then
you go on to attempt the questions.

OET Reading How to Practise for


Faster Reading and Understanding
The reading section of the OET is about reading quickly and actively as well as having a
good understanding of the passage. These skills can be practised.
You should practise increasing your reading speed by finding new medical passages
online or in a printed journal and reading them at home. Time yourself and challenge
yourself to increase your speed each time.
You also need to be able to retain the information so try writing down what you remember
after reading

the passage.

You should

then aim to increase

the

amount

you

remember each time you practise.


Eventually, you will have increased the speed at which you read as well as the amount of
information you remember from your reading. As an extra plus, you will have expanded your
medical vocabulary (which can definitely be helpful in the OET and your professional life!)
because of all the new scientific articles/passages you have read!
. so practise, practise, PRACTISE!

The Most Important Thing to


Remember about the OET
Whether it is your first time, or your second/third/fourth time, sitting the Occupational
English Test can be very nerve-racking. Your palms will sweat, youll feel palpitations and
your breaths will be shallower. A common feeling is that youll feel as if you cant remember
a SINGLE thing medically-related because youre so nervous.
Luckily for you, the most important thing to remember about the OET is that: The OET
does NOT test your medical knowledge. It is simply testing your ENGLISH.
So what does this mean?
For the listening, it means that, even if you dont know anything about the topic/s being
discussed, you can still pass if you listen to the conversation carefully.

For the reading, it also means that if the topic is something you have never read about, you
can still pass both parts A and B through careful reading and analysis of the texts. The
answers require no prior medical knowledge.
For the writing, it means that when you come across a completely new scenario in the case
notes, you can just base your letter on the notes given (obviously).
And finally, for the speaking, it means that you can actually and a lot of students dont
realise this make information up! You will not get penalised for incorrect content, as long as
you sound confident in what youre saying.
So there you have it. Dont stress if you come across a new topic!

WRITING

FAQs in OET Writing for Nursing


students
In my experience of being an OET teacher, I have seen many Nursing students take the
Sydney Language Solutions OET courses and then go on to sit the OET examination. In that
time, I have come across some questions that Nursing students frequently ask me. I will
share some of these in this blog and provide the subsequent answers.
What kind of a letter will I be writing?
Most of the time you will be writing a referral letter based on the case notes provided.
However, this has been known to change in some exams, so you should also prepare to
write a letter to advise or inform a patient/carer, or a letter of transfer, following their
discharge from your care.
Will I always be writing to another nurse?
No, there is no guarantee that you will be writing to a nurse. Of course sometimes, you will
be writing to a nurse at another hospital or at a community centre or a nursing home.
However, you may also be expected to write to a physiotherapist, a doctor or, perhaps even,
the carer or family member of the patient.
What date do I put at the top?

Dont stress over this minor detail. This really doesnt matter too much but students
commonly ask me this question. I usually suggest writing the discharge date or the date of
the most recent presentation. Or, if in doubt, just write todays date.
Are the address, date, subject line and salutation (i.e. Dear Nurse,) included in
the word count?
No, these are not included in the word count of 180-200 words. The word count begins at the
introduction that is, when you start writing I am writing to refer and includes up until
your conclusion. But they are still very important elements of your letter because they
contribute to its layout. They make the letter actually LOOK like a letter!

Another tips for OET Writing


The patient
A common mistake that ESL students make in the writing section is when making reference
to the patient. This is done as necessity all throughout the letter.
Letter header
The patients full name and date of birth or age should be mentioned right at the start of the
letter in the letter header Re: (patients first name AND surname, date of birth). This
should always be included in a referral letter as the doctor or health specialist that you are
writing to will most likely have hundreds of patients they see and need a quick way of filing
and identifying patients without mixing them up.
First paragraph
In the introductory paragraph of the letter, you will invariably be mentioning the patient. It is
important to mention at least the patients first name or their surname with appropriate title
of Mr/Ms when referring to them.
Body paragraphs.
Ideally you would mention the patients name at the first sentence of every new paragraph.
You would refer to the patient by their name if there is more than one person involved in the
patients case. For example, the patients name may be mentioned when describing reports
from a collateral account like a parent to not confuse the two.

Otherwise, you can refer to the patient as the patient or she/he etc as appropriate
grammatically. Oftimes I see students just writing patient instead of the patient. It is
always the patient. It may seem like a pedantic pointer but always remember this is a
English test so proper grammar counts!

OET Writing: Treasure Vs. Trash!


The writing task of the OET is a test of your resource of English language skills as well as
your ability to comprehend the situation presented to you.
It is this comprehension of the stimulus material that is vital to helping you determine what
to include (in other words, TREASURE) in your letter and what NOT to include (i.e.
TRASH).
So how should you decide whats treasure? Consider the following:
1.

Your purpose/reason for writing the letter for example, if you are writing a referral
letter for a patient with a SPECIFIC condition (e.g hip replacement) then you should
only include the relevant, important details regarding that complaint (e.g. aspirin
given, dressings applied daily, etc.)

2.

Your audience think about who you are writing to and WHAT they already know. For
instance, if you are writing to the parents of a young patient, then they will already
know her medical background/family background, etc. so you dont have to include it!
However, if you are referring them to a new medical professional, then the
medical/family background should be outlined.

3.

Your

current

situation

always

keep

in

mind

what

is

going

on

with

the

patient/situation at the moment and what role your letter plays in the situation. This
will help you to choose the appropriate language and tone to express your letter.
Sometimes you may get 3 pages of case notes and this can seem quite overwhelming. By
considering the things I have mentioned above, I hope you can confidently break the case
notes down into a well-written letter.

The two most important things examiners


are looking for for A level writing

In my years of teaching OET, I have marked many referral letters and I have found two key features that
distinguishes the truly excellent writers from the not so excellent writers. The two features are 1. CLARITY
and 2. ORDER.
When students write legibly, use correct spelling, punctuation, syntax, letter format, paragraphing,
grammar and expression of their ideas there is CLARITY. I can not emphasis enough, though these
aspects may seem minor and therefore unimportant, they are not. This is what differentiates between a
winning writer and a non-A grade. Furthermore, for a marker with hundreds of papers to grade, anything
to make it easier for the examiner to read is CONSIDERATE. This in turn will ultimately win the favour of
your examiner over the hundreds of candidates who do not take these things into consideration.
Secondly, when students are able to organise the list of patient file information into clear paragraphs, that
contain only the most relevant and grouped information, it is ORDERED. Think of it like cleaning. When
you clean, you sort the socks into one pile, the shirts in another etc. In the same way, even though there
maybe a whole list of medical history or presenting complaints, consider,
if it is a lengthy chronic disease history, to place the most significant turn of events into each paragraph
chronologically,
if it is multiple disease states, to group their progression, treatment and outcomes in each paragraph
per disease.
There are many other ways of ordering the body of the letter, which we teach you at OET because each
patient file is so different. All in all, the most sophisticated writings are the ones where there is a logical
order in which the patients case is depicted.
My last tip for today is that as with anything in life, begin every act with love for the other person in mind.
In the case of OET, mindfulness of the circumstances and desires of the examiner. They want to read
through a letter quickly and smoothly without having to stop here and there because they can not
understand something. So make sure, if you have time at the end, to proof read and check that all the
above mentioned is done. Clear understanding, isnt that the core of communication?

LISTENING

How to Score Maximum Marks in


OET Listening
Students think the OET listening task is difficult for multiple reasons, for example: The
speakers talk too quickly! or I cant write fast enough! or Its so hard to think about
spelling and grammar whilst listening!, etc.
Below are a few simple tips to help you score maximum marks:

1.

SKIM through the questions and get a general idea of the topic at the time given at the

start
2.

UNDERLINE and listen out for the key words of each question so you can listen out for

them during the dialogue


3.

PREDICT some answers if you can e.g. if the question says What risk factors are

mentioned by the speaker for cardiovascular disease?


4.

5.

WRITE concise phrases instead of full sentences


For instance, runny nose instead of he had a runny nose
DO use common abbreviations such as:

HR for heart rate

SOB for shortness of breath

Arrows to indicate INCREASE or DECREASE

Check the OET website for what abbreviations are allowed!

6.

USE your own abbreviations (for example, yrs instead of years) then correct them

when you have time later


7.

WRITE as you listen and work on improving this!

8.

DONT try to rephrase what is being said as this will waste time

9.

FIX up spelling, grammar and tenseduring the pauses between the questions, and

during the time given at the end of the task


10.

MOVE on to the next question if you realise you have missed one, then go back and

GUESS an answer if you can


11.

PRACTISE as much as you can!!!!!

OET: How to say no to test anxiety?


1. Be prepared.
How come you can be confident if you are not prepared, in everything you do, not just for
exam alone? Summary the main point for each chapter can save you lots of time.

2. Study efficiently.
There is no genius, genius is trained. Therefore, dont just begin to study three nights before
the exam. You simply kill your brain with the overwhelming terminology and cant get good
result definitely. Study is a lifelong process, therefore, it is essential that you can organize
your study schedule and stick with it.
3. Love your body
Treat your body well and it will pay back for sure. Sleep well and have a nice meal before
you sit for the exam.
4. Group work
Study in groups for the clinical exams may be useful. You can never predict how much you
can learn from others friends
5. Answer the ones you know first.
Try to answer all the questions you know, leave time for the tricky one. Never invest too
much time one question, otherwise you will certainly run out of time to finish others
questions.
6. Yes! Be focus!
Some students may leave early in the test but it doesnt mean you need to be rush. Steady
wins the race! Therefore, concentrate on what you are doing, ignore what others are doing.
Make the most of your exam period!

Common General Questions about


the OET
In this blog, I will outline some of the common general questions that students in my classes
have asked me regarding the OET. In fact, most of this information can be found on the
Occupational English Test official website but I have discussed them here for easy access.
How do I sign up for the exam? Does Sydney Language Solutions do it for us?
Signing up for the exam is easy you just log onto the official Occupational English Test and
follow the links. Sydney Language Solutions tutors aim to help you to learn strategies to
pass the exam, we will not sign you up for the exam. That is for you to do in your own time.
If you have any issues though, you can always discuss with our teachers.
Ive just paid for the exam but they havent told me the venue or time?
Dont worry! The venue and time of your exam is emailed to you one week prior to the test
date, so wait until then for this information. If, during that week, you still havent received
anything then its important to contact the OET centre and check your registration.
Should I use pen or pencil in the exam?
For MOST of the components, it actually doesnt matter if you use pen or pencil! My best
advice is to use whichever writing utensil you feel most comfortable writing in because you
will be using it a LOT on the exam day. However, for reading part B, you will need a pencil to
fill in the multiple choice answer sheet.
These are all very common concerns for the OET student youre not alone!

Recommended Books for the OET


Student
Cambridge English for Nursing (Intermediate Plus) Students Book with Audio CDs

This book can be bought at slsbooks.com.au


This book provides a range of exercises to develop both your nursing knowledge as well as
your language and communication skills. There are listening activities reflecting everyday
nursing scenarios and sections that focus on communication (such as how to give advice),
which are important for OET speaking roleplays. The section on abbreviations and acronyms
used in healthcare will be useful for OET writing, as well as the online glossary with a
pronunciation guide. You can also review your knowledge of common nursing scenarios to
prepare for the speaking exam such as in respiratory care, nursing wound care, etc.
Cambridge English for Nursing Pre-intermediate Students Book with Audio CD

This book can be bought at slsbooks.com.au


Units such as Caring for patients after an operation and diabetes management will be vital
in preparing for your OET speaking exam as it is a common scenario. This book can also be
used review your language skills with listening activities and a focus in every chapter on
communication

such

as

showing

empathy

during

hospital

interactions.

This

is

recommended for the nursing student seeking to review their basic nursing skills and
techniques, as well as basic medical sciences.
English for Medicine in Higher Education Studies

This book can be bought at slsbooks.com.au


This book is designed for students who plan to take a course in the field of medicine entirely
or partly in English. Complete with audio for lecture and seminar excerpts, these are perfect
for the OET student studying for the listening component of the exam. I particularly
recommend utilising their great tips for note-taking (useful for OET listening) and recognising
digressions, and choosing the vital information from the irrelevant information of a text.

Students can also use the exercises with figures and diagrams to develop your skills in
interpretation of figures, in preparation for the OET reading.
English for Nursing, Academic Skills

This book can be bought at slsbooks.com.au


This book is great for the Nursing student. There are sections on critical thinking in Nursing,
a vital skill to incorporate and develop during medical studies, whether in Nursing or
Medicine. For the students preparing for the OET in particular, specific chapters of the book
focusing on reading and skimming skills may reveal new strategies you can use to tackle
your OET reading. The section on Developing Note-Taking Skills will assist in both your
study and work environments, as well as in the OET, especially in the Listening section. I
also particularly recommend this book to develop your understanding of research
terminology.
English in Medicine: A Course in Communication Skills

This book can be bought at slsbooks.com.au


English in Medicine is an introductory text for overseas health professionals wanting to
review their basic communication skills, perhaps in preparation for the OET exam. It provides
insight into a range of clinically relevant tasks, such as taking a detailed patient history,
communicating with the patient during the physical examination as well as completing
clinical notes. Suitable for health professionals just starting out in an English-speaking
environment, there are sample patient-doctor dialogues that the student can listen to,
accompanied with the appropriate transcript, which can be used to practice for the OET
listening component. In addition, the section on search strategy can be relevant to your
other medical studies.
Oxford English for Careers Nursing 1: Students Book

This book can be bought at slsbooks.com.au


Short exercises and simple language are the benefits of this book for the student who is
beginning their studies in English. The book advances from more general chapters regarding
the hospital team and environment, to more specific topics include mental health nursing
and managing a patients medications. Use the language spot to revise your grammar skills,
including prepositions or the passive form. A basic, easy-to-use revision textbook if youre
looking for one to review and prepare for the OET exam.
Oxford English for Careers Nursing 2: Students Book

This book can be bought at slsbooks.com.au


This book progresses on from Book 1, with a more detailed focus on areas of Medicine,
ranging from Obstetrics to Renal and Psychiatry, suitable for the more advanced student. A
more comprehensive revision of essential writing, speaking, listening and reading
communication skills is provided to help pass your OET as well as to work as a nurse. Signs
and symptoms relevant to each discipline are reviewed and discussed, useful for writing and
speaking in the OET. Again, the language spot will assist in revision of grammar and
vocabulary.
Professional English in Use Medicine

This book can be bought at slsbooks.com.au


Designed to assist those who wish to improve in their interpretation and fluency of medical
journals and textbooks, Professional English in Use Medicine will take you through the
various body systems and the relevant terminology that is commonly used in each specialty.
Students may also find the sections on history-taking, physical examinations as well as

communicating treatment and management to be useful to their studies. For the OET
student, this is a concise textbook to review your basic medical terminology as you begin to
undertake your studies and work in an English-speaking setting.

FAQs in OET Writing for Medicine


In my time as an OET teacher at Sydney Language Solutions, I have seen many Medicine
students take the OET examination. Here are some questions that Medicine students
frequently ask me and I will provide the subsequent answers.
What kind of a letter will I be writing?
You will be writing a referral letter based on the patients notes provided.
Who will I be writing to?
Most of the time, you will be writing to a specialist for further management of the patients
presenting problems. However, perhaps it is also wise to be prepared to write a letter to a
nurse or an allied health professional. It is very important to keep in mind WHO you are
writing to and what their ROLE in the patient care is.
Do I have to include all the information?
No, you do not have to include all the patients information. In fact, you shouldnt because
you may exceed the word limit of 200 words. Choose the most relevant and appropriate
findings. If possible, write only positive findings. Try to SUMMARISE and write as CONCISELY
as you can.
Are the address, date, subject line and salutation (e.g. Dear Doctor) included in
the word count?
No, these sections of the letter do NOT contribute to your word count. The word count
begins at the start of your introductory paragraph. However, it is still important to include
these elements (address, date, subject line, salutation) because they make your letter LOOK
like a letter.