OET is an international English language test that assesses the language proficiency of healthcare professionals who seek to register and practise in an English-speaking environment. It provides a valid and reliable assessment of all four language skills – listening, reading, writing and speaking – with an emphasis on communication in healthcare professional settings.
OET tests health practitioners from the following 12 professions:
How the test is scored
You will receive a Statement of Results which shows your grade for each of the four sub-tests, from A (highest) to E (lowest). Each of the four sub-tests is assessed in a specific way.
Listening and Reading:
Your answer booklets for the Listening sub-test and for Reading Part A are marked by trained Assessors at the OET Centre. Answer booklets are assigned at random to avoid any conflict of interest. Your answer sheet for Reading Part B is computer scanned and automatically scored.
Listening and Reading Assessors use a detailed marking guide which sets out which answers receive marks and how the marks are counted. Assessors use this guide to decide for each question whether you have provided enough correct information to be given the mark or marks available. Assessors are monitored for accuracy and consistency, and the data entry of scores is also double-checked for accuracy.
Writing and Speaking:
Your performances on the Writing and Speaking sub-tests are each rated by at least two trained Assessors at the OET Centre. Audio files and scripts are assigned to Assessors at random to avoid any conflict of interest. Your test-day Interlocutor is not involved in the assessment process.
Writing and Speaking Assessors are monitored for accuracy and consistency, and the scores they award are adjusted to take into account any leniency or severity. If two Assessors award different scores to your performance, your script and/or audio file will be referred to at least one other senior Assessor not previously involved in your assessment.
For the Writing sub-test, each Assessor scores your performance according to five criteria: Overall Task Fulfilment, Appropriateness of Language, Comprehension of Stimulus, Linguistic Features (Grammar and Cohesion), and Presentation Features (Spelling, Punctuation, and Layout). The five criteria are equally weighted. Grade B for Writing requires a high level of performance on all five criteria.
For the Speaking sub-test, each Assessor scores your performance according to five criteria: Overall Communicative Effectiveness, Intelligibility, Fluency, Appropriateness, and Resources of Grammar and Expression. The five criteria are equally weighted. Grade B for Speaking requires a high level of performance on all five criteria.
How are OET results issued?
You can see an overview of your latest test grades via your online profile on the OET website, approximately 16 business days after each test day. Official, hard copy Statements of Results are mailed within five business days of the publication of results in online profiles.
The Statement of Results shows the scores obtained at the most recent sitting, as well as scores for all sittings within the last two years. Results for the four sub-tests that make up the OET are reported as one of five grades – A (highest) to E (lowest).
Boards and councils can access results via the OET website. Registration authorities are advised to register for secure access to the site to check individual results – access to the online verification system is controlled by OET Centre management. To gain access, managers working for health profession Assessing/Registration Authorities apply for individual staff members to have secure access.
How are OET results reported?
You will receive a Statement of Results which shows your grade (A highest to E lowest) for each of the four sub-tests:
Why did I get different grades for different OET sub-tests?
There are many aspects to being able to use a language effectively, and it is not unusual for candidates to have profiles which are uneven across the different component skills of Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking. Even within a single skill, a candidate may be relatively strong in certain areas (for example, fluency) and relatively weak in another (such as accuracy).
Why did I get different grades on different test dates?
The OET assessment process is designed to provide a true and current reflection of your language ability as evidenced by your performance on the specific tasks on test day. There are many different aspects to language ability, and it is not unusual for candidates to perform differently due to specific test day factors, especially if their ability is close to the borderline between two grades.
We understand that it can be frustrating to be awarded different grades and that if you re-sit the test you want to be able to target your preparation. Although it is not possible for us to give individual feedback to candidates, there are patterns in performance that are relevant to many candidates. You can read more about these in the FAQs for each sub-test and in the OET Preparation Support Pack.
Why hasn’t my grade changed after re-marking?
OET Assessors and OET Centre staff follow strict assessment guidelines to ensure that results are accurate, including double marking, training and monitoring of Assessors, clerical checks, and statistical analysis. If your grade remains the same after re-marking, this is because we have checked and verified that the scoring data has been handled accurately, and that the assessment criteria have been applied correctly. You can appeal the outcome of the re-marking if you believe the re-marking decision was not arrived at properly and fairly.
The best way to perform well on OET is to ensure that your English language communication skills are at the required level. For advice on improving your performance in the test, please refer to the sub-test information on this page and also to the OET Preparation Support Pack.
Why has my grade changed after re-marking?
One of the strengths of human assessors marking OET candidate papers is that they are able to make judgements about the nuances of expression used by candidates and do not rely on formulaic responses being provided. However the slightly different scores which may be awarded by different assessors could occasionally impact borderline candidate scores and as a result these scores may change following a re-marking exercise.
What grade do you need to pass OET?
Most recognising boards and councils require candidates to have at least a B grade in each of the four sub-tests. But to make sure you’re up-to-date with requirements, always check with the relevant boards and councils that regulates your profession. (Sorry – OET cannot take any responsibility for providing or checking this information for candidates.)
How long are OET results valid for?
The length of time the results are recognised as valid is decided by the authorities that recognise OET (e.g. boards and councils, government departments). Always check your authority’s website for details to make sure you know their requirements. The Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) also publicizes their requirements on their website.
Is it possible to combine grades from different sittings?
You should always check the English Language Proficiency Requirements of your regulatory authority. This is not a matter of OET policy.
What does OET do about cheating?
We take very seriously our responsibility to candidates and to recognising authorities for identifying, investigating and acting on cases of suspected malpractice. Irrespective of whether suspected test day cheating is reported, all OET test responses are routinely subject to statistical and qualitative analysis for the detection of unusual response patterns and irregular score profiles. Cambridge Boxhill Language Assessment (CBLA, the owner of OET) reserves the right to withhold results while malpractice investigations are in progress. CBLA may share the details of any investigation, including candidate information, with relevant regulatory authorities and law enforcement agencies. You can find our policy on malpractice in the OET Test Regulations and Notice to Candidates.
Can I take OET if I’m not a health professional?
OET is an English language test that assesses the language and communication skills of healthcare professionals who seek to register and practise in an English-speaking environment. It is designed to focus on the communication needs of health professionals in the workplace and to provide a valid and reliable assessment of language skills in that setting. Regulatory authorities who recognise OET as proof of English language proficiency do so on that basis.
If you are not a health professional working towards registration in an English-speaking context, OET may not be the most suitable test of English language for your purposes. We recommend that you consult the relevant regulatory authorities before you decide to enter for a test. You can find more information about who recognises OET here: OET Recognition
Is there a generic test for health professions which are not listed in OET?
No, OET does not provide a generic test. OET tasks are contextualised and work-related, and they target the following 12 professions: Dentistry, Dietetics, Medicine, Nursing, Occupational Therapy, Optometry, Pharmacy, Physiotherapy, Podiatry, Radiography, Speech Pathology, and Veterinary Science.
If your profession is not one of the 12 listed above, you may choose to sit the OET test for the profession which is closest to your own. For example, we understand that sonography registrants have taken the OET Radiography test, and that orthotics registrants have taken the OET Physiotherapy test. You may want to consider the sample tests available here OET Sample tests to get some idea of the test content for each profession.
However, before you enter for any OET test, we strongly recommend that you consult the appropriate regulatory authorities to confirm whether they will accept your OET results as proof of English language ability and to check which OET profession-specific test would be most suitable.
Why are some of the OET sub-tests “profession specific”?
The OET is a test of English language ability, not of medical knowledge, and our test developers take care to minimise areas where candidates may use prior knowledge rather than language skills to respond. The OET Listening and Reading sub-tests are therefore not profession specific. They are common to all candidates and focus on a variety of issues of general medical and health interest. While some topics may include content that is familiar to one particular health practitioner’s area of experience and expertise, the language tasks and questions associated with the texts are designed to test language knowledge and ability, over and above the candidate’s knowledge of that field.
The OET Writing and Speaking sub-tests are profession specific in the sense that a candidate’s profession determines which test materials they are given. The reason for this is that the communicative skills of writing and speaking provide opportunities for candidates to draw on their professional role in order to demonstrate their level of ability to communicate in common workplace situations. For example, all medical professionals conduct consultations with patients/clients, but they are likely to need to engage with those patients/clients about different issues in different contexts. Recent research (Vidakovic & Khalifa, 2013) indicates that preparing for OET helps make candidates ready for the workplace and increases their confidence in communicating with patients and colleagues.
How appropriate is OET for health practitioners who want to work in Australia?
Recent research indicates that the test is appropriate in content and difficulty for the healthcare workplace in Australia.
A 2013 study by Cambridge English Language Assessment (Vidakovic & Khalifa, 2013) found that success at OET is a good indicator of workplace readiness in terms of language proficiency. 93% of health professionals agreed or strongly agreed that their employees and colleagues who have taken OET use English effectively in the health-related workplace. OET test takers found that the relevance to their professional contexts of test topics and content helped them engage more with the test preparation process, and made them feel confident about their ability to communicate effectively with patients, carers, and colleagues.
In a 2013 study by the Language Testing Research Centre at the University of Melbourne (Macqueen, Pill, Elder, Knoch, 2013), OET test takers reported that the test tasks were highly relevant to workplace communication, and therefore taking OET had a beneficial impact in terms of acculturation as well as language proficiency. They noted that preparing for the test helped set their expectations of professional life and the workplace in the Australian context, and aspects of test content and tasks helped them participate more effectively when working in Australia.
The OET Centre, in partnership with LTRC and Cambridge English, is engaged in an ongoing programme of research and validation to ensure that OET continues to reflect the demands of communication in the workplace and that the test experience continues to have a positive impact on candidates and other stakeholders.
Where can I find OET preparation materials?
We understand the need for wide selection of up-to-date preparation materials and are working to increase the range of free and paid-for support we offer to candidates, teachers, and course providers.
Up-to-date OET sample materials are available free of charge on the OET website. These provide you with authentic test practice and are ideal to use as mock exams. As well as sample question papers, you can also download marking guides, sample responses, and audio files.
How can I improve my language proficiency and prepare for OET?
1. Our OET Preparation Support Pack is available free of charge on the OET website. The Pack is suitable for candidates preparing to take the test, as well as for teachers. The Pack includes comprehensive information about the test format and content. It includes advice for candidates and teachers on how to prepare for the test, together with scored sample performances for Writing and Speaking with commentaries from OET Assessors.
2. Maintain your skills - Sometimes candidates work so hard on one of the OET sub-tests that they lose some of the skills they have gained for the other three. While you focus on developing your reading skills, for example, be sure to make regular time to consolidate your listening, writing and speaking skills at the level you’ve already achieved.
3. Make use of some of the many free online resources which can help you develop the general skills involved in a medical context. Please note: The OET Centre is not responsible for the content of external websites.
- ABC Australian Health
All in the Mind
- BBC World Service Health
Science in Action
- BBC Health
Englishmed English learning resources with a medical focus
- E newsletters- you can subscribe free to these regular newsletters:
ABC health newsletter
- New England Journal of Medicine
- Science Magazine for the American Association for the Advancement of Science
- British Medical Journal
- Journal of the American Medical Association
- Medical Journal of Australia
- Free Medical Journals Site