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Listening sub-test


About the Listening sub-test

The Listening sub-test consists of two parts, with approximately 20-28 question items. The topics are of generic medical interest, accessible to candidates across all professions. Each part consists of about 15 minutes of recorded speech, containing pauses to allow you time to write your answers. You will hear each recording once and are expected to write your answers while listening.

Part A – consultation

Part A (approximately 20–25 minutes) assesses candidates’ ability to follow facts during a consultation between a health professional and a patient. Candidates listen to a recorded health professional–patient consultation and complete a note-taking task, guided by relevant headings.

Part B – presentation

Part B (approximately 20–25 minutes) assesses candidates’ ability to understand a short talk on a health-related topic that might realistically occur in the workplace. Candidates listen to a recorded talk or lecture (monologue) by a health professional and complete a range of open-ended and fixed-choice tasks.


How is listening ability assessed in OET?

A wide range of task types are included so that a good sample of each candidate’s listening ability is tested. This includes tasks assessing comprehension, such as ‘multiple- choice’ questions and ‘short-answer response’ questions, as well as tasks that assess someone’s ability to listen for specific information - for example, completing tables or lecture notes, ‘sentence-completion’ tasks or ticking/circling boxes or lists, etc.

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. 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 Listening sub-test in the OET Preparation Support Pack.


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

Part A and Part B of the Listening sub-test both sample from a range of Listening skills and are therefore weighted equally. Even if there are more marks available in one Part than in the other, your score on each Part will count for exactly 50% of your total score for Listening.

Why are ‘real-world’ voices used in the audio recordings for OET Listening?

OET uses authentic materials for the Listening sub-test. This includes the use of real health professionals and patients for both the consultation and lecture audio recordings. An important component of listening ability is being able to understand natural speech. Care is taken to ensure that the rate of speech and clarity is sufficiently clear to be considered fair to all candidates without compromising the authenticity of the test by having passages that sound rehearsed and unnatural.


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

You must write your answers for Part A in the test booklet under the appropriate heading for each question. Assessors will not consider any responses you write in other locations, e.g. under a different heading elsewhere in the booklet.

You must write your answer for Part B in the correct location/space/gap etc. in the test booklet. Assessors will not consider any responses you write in other locations.

It is a good idea to use the sample tests to familiarise yourself with the different task formats you might find in the test.

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

Yes, you will have 2 minutes at the end of the sub-test to check your answers for Part A and Part B. There are also shorter periods of time after each question during the test, and you may find these periods useful for checking the question you have just done. There is only one chance to listen to each part of the test, so be sure to write your answers in the answer booklet as you listen.

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

In Listening Part A (the patient consultation), you should take care to write your answers under the appropriate question heading. However, within each heading, it does not matter which order you give the information in. OET Assessors are trained to mark responses which have been given in a different order from the recording.

In Listening Part B (the talk on a general health topic), you should write each answer in the individual space provided. The order will depend on the task type. For example, it may be possible to complete a list of bullet points in a different order, but a flow-chart will need to be completed according to the order given on the page.

It is a good idea to use the sample tests to familiarise yourself with the different task formats you might find in the test.

Do I need to write down exactly what I hear?

In Listening Part A (the patient consultation), you may paraphrase what you have heard provided you do not change the information. The marking guide gives Assessors comprehensive guidance on the range of acceptable answers, and senior Assessors will adjudicate on any unforeseen alternatives. You can find examples of marking guides in the sample tests.

In Listening Part B (the talk on a general health topic), the format of the answer booklet will guide you as to the form your answer should take. You may need to change slightly what you hear so that it fits into the context given, for example if you are completing gaps in a summary.

Can I use abbreviations in the Listening sub-test?

Yes, you can use abbreviations that are commonly accepted in your profession and which are clear to other professionals, for example “BP” for blood pressure. Avoid abbreviations that are specific to a particular workplace or specialism, because these might not be commonly understood. OET Assessors are trained to accept a reasonable range of abbreviations, but OET does not refer to any specific dictionaries or lists.

Do I lose marks if I give incorrect or extra information in the Listening sub-test?

There is no automatic penalty for including information that is not in the marking guide. However, you will lose marks if you contradict yourself or make your meaning unclear.

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

In the Listening sub-test, you will not be penalised for misspelling, provided the meaning is clear. Any reasonable attempt at spelling the correct answer has a good chance of being accepted.

Names for conditions and medications are often difficult to spell, and we try to ensure that candidates are not disadvantaged by this. Where possible, reference is made in the audio recording to both the generic and brand names for medications, and to both medical and 'lay' terms discussed during the consultations. The marking guide gives Assessors extensive guidance on the range of misspellings which are to be accepted.

Please note that the Listening sub-test is different from the Reading and Writing sub-tests in the way misspellings are treated.

Improving my language proficiency

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

Our OET Preparation Support Pack provides detailed information about how the Listening sub-test is assessed, together with suggestions for improving performance in Listening generally.

Our test developers and Assessors for the Listening 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

Listening skills at the level required for OET Grade B are developed by listening regularly to a wide range of speech, at natural speeds, from different speakers in different contexts. Don’t limit your listening practice to test preparation materials: broaden your ability to deal with new content and unfamiliar voices by listening to programmes on the radio and online lectures. Try to listen to sources where a speaker is giving their own point of view. This 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.

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

Listening Part A (the patient consultation) is about gathering information, and the answer format is relatively open. Provided you give the correct information, you can choose how to express it in your answer. For most candidates, this means staying fairly close to the words you hear on the recording. You don’t have to spend time converting those words into the kind of language you might use in real-life medical notes, unless you find it quick and natural to do so. OET Assessors are trained to recognise and accept a range of answers, provided the information is correct.

A good way to practise writing the correct amount of information is to listen to a radio programme or online lecture. Make notes about the main points of each section and keep your notes to one side. A few days later, read your notes and try to reconstruct the main content of what you heard. (If you can ask somebody else to try to reconstruct the content from your notes, the exercise is even more effective.)  If you can do this easily, then your notes have the right sort of content and the right level of detail. If you have problems, ask yourself why. Are your notes too short, like a puzzle?  Of do they not make enough grammatical sense to convey the point?   Practise this exercise until you have the habit of making the right sort of notes.

3.     Manage your time in the sub-test

In the test you hear the recording only once, so it’s important to write your answers as you listen. But remember to check your answers afterwards. There are short breaks between each question where you can do this, and also a 2-minute period at the end of the sub-test. Use this time to check that what you have written makes sense in the context, especially in Part B. Sometimes candidates understand what they hear but miss out on marks because their answer does not fit into the context given on the question paper.