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Reading sub-test


About the Reading sub-test

The Reading sub-test consists of two parts (Part A and Part B). The topics are of generic medical interest and are therefore accessible to candidates across all professions. The Reading sub-test consists of two parts:

Part A – summary task

Part A (15 minutes) assesses candidates’ ability to source information from multiple texts, to synthesise information in a meaningful way and to ‘skim’ and ‘scan’ material to retrieve information quickly. Candidates are required to read 3-4 short texts (a total of approximately 650 words) related to a single topic, and complete a summary paragraph by filling in the missing words (25-35 gaps in total).

Part B – multiple-choice questions.

Part B (45 minutes) assesses candidates’ ability to read and understand comprehensive texts on health-related topics similar to those in academic or professional journals. Candidates are required to read two passages (600-800 words each) and answer a set of multiple-choice questions (16-20 in total).


How is reading ability assessed in OET test?

Reading Part A (the summary task) tests your ability to skim and scan quickly across different texts on a given topic in order to identify and synthesise selected information. For that purpose, Part A is strictly timed and you must complete all the items within 15 minutes. To complete the task successfully, you will also need the ability to understand the conventions of different medical text types, differentiate main ideas from supporting information, and understand the presentation of numerical and textual data.

Reading Part B tests your ability to understand longer passages of text at the level of word/phrase, explicit meaning, and implied meaning. To complete the task successfully, you will also need the ability to identify the purpose of a text, to understand the relationships between ideas, and to understand at the level of the paragraph as well as the sentence.

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. Candidates with scores that are near the borderline automatically have their papers double-marked to ensure fairness and consistency.

You can find further information about the content and assessment of the Reading sub-test in the OET Preparation Support Pack.


How is each section in the Reading sub-test weighted in terms of overall score?

Your scores for Reading Part A and Part B are weighted to reflect the different skills tested in each part. Part A (the summary) tests a relatively narrow range of skills, and your Part A score counts for 33.33% of your total Reading score. Part B (multiple choice) samples from a wider range of skills, and your Part B score counts for 66.66% of your total Reading score.

This weighted score conversion allows credit to be given for a range of Reading skills and is fairer for candidates. It means that you do not need to achieve the exact score that equates to Part B in both parts. If you score lower in one part you can still achieve a high score for the sub-test overall.


Where do I write my answers for the Reading sub-test?

In Part A (the summary), you should write your answers in the numbered boxes to the right of the summary text. In Part B (multiple choice), you must write your answers on the special answer sheet using pencil. This is because the answer sheets will be computer-scanned for maximum accuracy. You will not receive extra time at the end of the sub-test to transfer your answers. It is a good idea to use the sample tests to familiarise yourself with the different task formats you might find in the test.

Does it matter what order I write my answers in the Reading sub-test?

Yes, you are responsible for making sure that your answers are in the correct spaces on the test paper. It is a good idea to use the free sample tests to become familiar with the different task formats you are likely to meet in the test. For reasons of test security and fairness to all candidates, we cannot amend your answers or offer you a resit if you write your answers in the wrong space. Your Reading sub-test papers will be marked under our normal procedures.

Do I have time to check my answers for the Reading sub-test?

You will not be given extra time at the end of the sub-test to check your answers, and it is up to you to manage your time. The test is designed so that the time available is enough for you to read, choose your answers, and check your work.

Please remember that there is a strict time limit for Part A (the summary), and Part A materials will be collected from you after 15 minutes. You will therefore not have any time to check your Part A answers later in the test.

Can I use abbreviations in the Reading sub-test?

Abbreviations are not accepted in the Reading sub-test unless they appear in the texts.

Do I lose marks in the Reading sub-test for spelling mistakes?

Yes, you must use correct spelling in the Reading sub-test to get the marks. Responses that are not spelled correctly will not receive any marks. American and British English spelling variations are accepted, e.g., color and colour are both acceptable. Please note that the Reading sub-test is different from the Listening sub-test in the way misspellings are treated.

Improving my language proficiency

How can I improve my performance on the Reading sub-test?

Our test developers and Assessors for the Reading sub-test have identified a number of areas for improvement which apply to many candidates at each test session. We hope you will find these useful:

1.     Develop your skills outside test contexts

Reading skills at the level required for OET Grade B are developed by reading regularly and widely. It’s a good idea to become familiar with a range of language and text types, not just those used in test preparation materials. You can broaden your reading while following up on your own areas of professional interest. As well as the specialist texts you read at work and when you study, consider texts which are aimed at the intelligent general-interest reader. Current affairs websites and science and health magazines are good sources of these. These will give you good practice in identifying and following a writer’s line of argument and attitude, which is a different skill from picking out factual content.

Focusing on paragraphs or short sections is a useful way to develop your reading skills. Pause at the end of each paragraph you read and ask yourself two questions: What main point is the writer making in this paragraph (i.e. can you summarise it in a sentence)? What does the writer want to achieve in this paragraph (e.g. persuade, criticise, draw a conclusion)? Remember that you can understand a paragraph clearly even if you don’t get every single word and even if you haven’t read the whole text first.

2.     Use the right skills for each part of the sub-test

The Reading sub-test is designed so that you need to use the right reading skills at the right times. Part A is about collecting information from different texts, so you should be prepared to “jump” from one text to another. The quicker you can locate the section of the text you need, the more time you have to make sure you understand it correctly. Many people find it useful to look at the gapped summary first to find out what information they need to collect and in what order; this can save a lot of time. Another technique for working out which text you need for each section of the summary is to look for names of people, names of treatments/conditions, names of countries/regions, dates, or numbers. These are easy to pick out and so can help you work efficiently. You don’t need test practice materials to practice this skill. If you have textbooks or manuals which include summary points at the end of each chapter, you can set yourself a time limit to find the parts of the chapter the summary refers to. (You can even use an index for this exercise.) As you work, notice the types of words and phrases which help you.

3.     Check your work

Although it’s important to find the information quickly, it’s also important to take a few minutes to read through the summary after you complete it. The summary should have two features: it should make sense, and it should reflect the information that the texts convey. If your summary does not have both those features, you need to change your answers. The gapped texts you find in many English language textbooks and exercise books are useful practice for this, even if they don’t focus specifically on medical English. Try to find exercises which are paragraph-length or longer, rather than individual sentences.