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Guide to the OET Writing sub-test: Content

Guide to OET writing sub-test contentContent is the second criterion used to score your performance in the Writing sub-test. It covers what you put into your letter and how you refer to the case notes.

In this guide, we will look at:

  • The two different parts of Content
  • How to identify what information is relevant
  • How to represent the case notes accurately
  • Examples of each part.

If you need more information about the first criterion of the Writing sub-test’s assessment criteria, Purpose, you can find it on our website. For a more general overview of the Writing sub-test, take a look at our Writing sub-test information page.

What do we mean by Content?

In the Writing sub-test, you will be asked to write a type of letter. Whether this is a referral, discharge or other type of letter, you need to be sure that its content provides the reader with all the information they need to continue care of the patient.

All the content you need can be found in the case notes. However, not all the case notes will be relevant to the letter.

You will need to decide which information the reader needs, while accurately representing the case notes you pull the content from.

How to choose which content to use

The letter you write should provide the reader with all the information they need to continue caring for the patient and complete any requests you make of them. How you select this information depends on a couple of questions:

  • Is there any existing professional relationship between the patient and the reader?
  • What aspect of the patient’s care will the reader be involved with?

When reading through the case notes, you should keep these questions in mind when you decide whether each note is something you need to include. Keep an eye out for information that you think is new to the reader and directly supports their appropriate care of the patient.

For example:

  • A hospital Occupational Therapist writes a letter discharging patient Jack Spencer to the Occupational Therapist at the Care Centre where he will receive rehabilitation.

In this situation, the reader and the patient do not have an existing professional relationship so the letter will need to include information about the patient’s current abilities and inabilities for the reader to get a clear understanding. Although the case notes provide details of the patient’s children, grandchildren, job (before he retired) and financial status, these details will not be needed for the reader because they will not impact the care they provide.

On the other hand, if the scenario was slightly different:

  • The hospital Occupational Therapist was writing a letter to the patient’s regular GP to update them on their progress.

In this example, the information provided would change. While the patient’s social history is still not necessary, the details provided about the patient’s current abilities and inabilities would also be altered. The letter would need to provide an update about how these have changed since the GP last saw the patient rather than presented as new information.

In both instances, a reader should have by the end of the letter:

  • Have a clear understanding of the situation
  • No more questions about further care.

If they do have any questions, then you have not included enough information and they will not have a clear understanding of the situation.

How to accurately represent the case notes

The second key part of Content is accurately representing the case notes. By doing this, you ensure that the reader has a clear understanding of the situation.

During the Writing sub-test, you will summarise or paraphrase parts of the case notes you think are relevant and important to the reader. However, it’s important to represent the case notes accurately by not changing the meaning of the information.

During the process of paraphrasing, you can affect accuracy by:

  • Not matching the exact meaning of words in the case notes with another word
  • Altering the time-frame of the situation by changing the tense used.

Let’s look at some examples to better understand what we mean by this.

Example one

  • Case notes: Pt moving to Centreville to live with daughter & her husband.
  • Letter: Mr Dunbar is relocating to Centreville to be nearer his daughter and son-in-law.

While the second sentence is grammatically accurate, it is an inaccurate representation of the patient’s living arrangements.

Specifically, the phrases ‘living near his daughter’ and ‘with his daughter’ are very different and would impact the reader’s understanding of the situation.

Example two

  • Case notes: Atorvastatin (Lipitor) 20mg 1 mane added Glipizide 5mg 2 mane
  • Letter: Glipizade5mg taken every morning, will be added to the Atorvastatin, 20mg also taken in the morning.

The second sentence is grammatically accurate but the use of ‘will be’ suggests the addition will take place in the future. The sentence then provides the reader with incorrect information about the patient’s medications.

Example three

  • Case notes: Under surgeon’s recommendation: Pt not to mobilise L arm until last wk when plaster removed.
  • Letter: Mr Spencer has been resuming use of his left arm since last week following the surgeon’s recommendations.

As with the other examples, the second sentence is grammatically accurate but fails to say that the cast has been removed. Not only will this impact the continued care of the patient, it doesn’t give the reader an accurate description of the situation.

Rebecca’s Tip: Keep the Reader in mind!

Getting full marks in Content is about keeping the reader in mind when choosing the information to add to your letter.

A good tip is to finish your letter with a few minutes to spare. This should give you enough time to read through your letter as the reader and ask the following questions:

  • How would the reader feel at the end?
  • Will the reader know what they need to do to continue care?
  • Do they have the right information to action this?
  • Are the facts correct?
  • Have you represented the information using accurate grammar and vocabulary?

If you can answer yes to all these, your well on your way to scoring high on Content. For more information about the other five criteria, make sure you head over to the OET Preparation Portal.