was successfully added to your cart.

Do you know the 3 OET Letter types in the OET Writing sub-test?

Three OET Letter Types in the OET Writing sub-test
Did you know there are three OET Letter types in the OET Writing sub-test? While each is slightly different, all have the same goal. Find out how this affects your introduction in this quick guide. 


The OET Writing sub-test requires you to plan and write a letter to another healthcare professional. The task requires you to use a range of skills to ensure the recipient fully understands what they need to do continue care.

For most OET professions, there are three types of letter you will encounter:

  • Referral
  • Transfer
  • Discharge.

Each letter type is based on a real-world scenario that would require a healthcare professional to communicate patient information to another healthcare colleague.

Three letter types, one goal

Although the purpose of the letter is different, your approach is the same.

You will need to select the case note information the reader needs to be able to continue care for the patient as per the Writing task.

Whether the letter is to refer, discharge or transfer, the selection of information and structure of the letter can be thought about in the same way.

Your letter’s introduction

While all the letters in the OET Writing sub-test are similar, their differences become obvious when writing the opening paragraph. Here you need to explain the reason for writing the letter.

Remember, there isn’t one perfect phrase you can use to start every letter you write. Instead, you need to consider the task, the patient and their situation and use English to explain this clearly to the reader. Here are some examples, but there are others:

  • Thank you for seeing/reviewing/providing…
  • I am writing to (urgently) refer/transfer/discharge/update/request…
  • Mr X, your (my) patient,/ Your (My) patient, Mr X…

The Writing task or the final section of case notes will contain indicators to the kind of language you need to use in your introduction.

These two sections provide a summary of the situation and the action points for the reader. Both also explain any existing relationship between the reader and the patient, which can impact how you should start the letter.

Don’t make this mistake with ‘refer’

One common mistake test-takers make is with ‘refer’. In the context of OET Writing, refer means:

  • To introduce a patient to another healthcare professional for the first time.

When writing a reply to the professional who made the referral, candidates think the expression ‘refer back’ is correct, but it isn’t. It doesn’t make sense in English.

You cannot introduce someone for a second time. You cannot ‘refer back’. In this situation, updating the reader might be the reason for writing or discharging the patient back into their care.

Special Note: Fourth Letter

A fourth type of letter is possible for some OET professions, namely Pharmacy and Veterinary Science but occasionally Speech Pathology and Occupational Therapy.

This is an information or advice letter to a patient, carer or group. Radiographers might also have to write a response to a complaint letter.

For all letter types, the advice remains the same. Use the Writing Task to determine the purpose of the letter, select the information the reader needs and structure the information in order of importance to the reader.

For more information about writing, please check out the OET Writing Guide. It has in-depth chapters on each of the categories used to assess your letter.

OET Writing Guide