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Numbers help with Reading Part A
By Test Tips & Study skills No Comments

Do you struggle with Reading Part A?

Numbers help with Reading Part A

Students often ask how they can improve their Reading Part A score. Today’s tip is very simple but effective and was shared with the OET experts by a student who had used it with success.

Numbers are easy to spot

Simply, the student scanned through the summary paragraph until they found a number e.g 2017, 15%, 3 in 10 etc. The reason for this is because numbers are really easy to find in texts. They stand out from words when you are scanning. Once they had found a number they read the sentence containing it and then quickly scanned the texts to find the number and usually found the words that would form the answer nearby.

Sometimes a number would be near the start of the summary paragraph e.g. gap 4, sometimes it would be nearer the middle or even the end. To this student it didn’t matter because they were confident they would find the answer and when you feel confident and quickly find an answer, it often follows that you feel more confident about finding the next few answers. The strategy also works well with acronyms (OET, NMC, WHO etc.)

You might feel uncomfortable starting anywhere other than gap 1 but if you’ve ever found it hard to find the first 1 or even 2 answers, then it might be worth giving this strategy a go.

Doctor's surgery
By Language Tips No Comments

Do you know what Brits mean by a Doctor’s surgery?


Did you know that surgery has 2 healthcare meanings?

Everyone knows it has the meaning of a medical procedure similar to an operation. Not everyone outside of the UK is so familiar with it also having the meaning of the place where a GP works. In Australia and New Zealand, the place where a GP works is more often called a ‘Medical Centre’ or ‘Clinic’ or even just ‘Doctors’.

Not knowing this meaning of surgery could therefore easily be a cause for confusion if you hear it said or even read it. You would imagine something very different happening inside to the reality!

Make the most of your reading time
By Test Tips & Study skills No Comments

Use your reading time to the best effect in the writing test

Make the most of your reading time

The reading time is the most important 5 minutes of the test

These 5 minutes are critical. Use them well and you will find writing your letter is much easier. The 5 minutes are strictly for reading only. This means you can’t circle, underline or write anything during this time. In fact, if you even have a pen or pencil in your hand, you are likely to be told to put it down by an invigilator, so don’t do it!

Writing test format

The writing test is 45 minutes long. 40 minutes to write your letter and 5 minutes at the start to read the case notes which act as the stimulus for your writing.

How to use your time wisely

Here is a step by step process you can follow to make the most of the 5 minutes:

  1.  Read the task (found at the end of the case notes). The first thing you need to know is who you are writing to and what action you are requiring them to take.
  2. Skim through the case notes quickly to understand the key facts of the patient and their medical condition.
  3. Read through the case notes slowly and carefully pausing at the end of each note to think: does the reader of my letter need to know this information or not.
  4. For any case note which you think the reader needs to know, think how important is this information: very, quite or just for interest.
  5. Identify any case notes which you will omit completely from your letter because they are not relevant to the reader or the current situation.
  6. Identify any case notes which mention something which is mentioned again later in a different case note. If this is something the reader needs to know, pause and think, does the reader need to know both pieces of information or can they be summarised into 1 sentence e.g.

In March Mr Rodrigues weighed 96 kg.

In June Mr Rodrigues weighed 90kg.

In this example, the 2 notes could be clearly summarised into 1 statement:

Mr Rodrigues lost 6kg between March and June and now weighs 90kg.

Spend some of the writing time planning your letter

This will probably take the whole of your 5 minutes reading time. Make sure you think clearly and carefully through steps 3-6. You have time. The invigilator will then tell you that the writing time is starting and you have 40 minutes to complete your answer. Spend the first 2-3 minutes of this time planning with the decisions you have just made. The task is going to tell you how to start your letter by making a request from your reader and introducing the patient. The next few paragraphs will be organised in order of importance. Anything you thought was very important will go in a paragraph before anything you thought was quite important and so on.

Fit your structure to your reader

It’s really important to remember that each letter will be different. There is no perfect structure you can use each time you write. There is also no perfect number of paragraphs to use. Each patient and each medical situation will be unique. It’s important to follow the steps above in your reading time to make sure you choose the best structure for the reader who is receiving your letter.

On this point, don’t think of your reader as an assessor but the person named in the writing task. Of course, you are writing this letter to pass a test but you are going to give yourself a much better chance of this if you focus on making your letter as clear as possible for the reader in the task.

Use these steps for greater confidence on test day

These 6 steps will help you make the right decisions about the case notes in your reading time. When you start writing, you will have a clear plan in your mind and feel more confident that you can complete the letter in the time and word limits.

For more tips about the Writing test, or any of the other sub-tests, sign up to one of the free Masterclasses taking place on Tuesday.

By Language Tips No Comments

Make the best final impression in your letter

Yours sincerely

The start and end of your letter are the places to make the best first and last impression on your reader.

Many second language learners make mistakes with this common way to finish a formal letter:

  • There is no apostrophe in Yours
  • There is an ‘s’ on the end of Yours
  • The ‘s’ in sincerely is in small case as it is part of a phrase.

Yours sincerely


Closing phrases such as Kind Regards or Best wishes are not suitable for this kind of formal letter.