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Guide to the OET Writing sub-test: Conciseness and Clarity

Guide to OET Writing sub-test

In part three of the OET Writing Guide, you will find everything you need to write a clear and concise letter. The OET Writing Guide covers all six assessment criterion used to score your writing. Take a look at the other six parts of the OET Writing Guide here.


Conciseness and Clarity is the third criterion used to score the performance of your letter in the OET Writing sub-test. It looks at three key areas:

  • Whether you have not included unnecessary information
  • How clearly you have summarised the case notes
  • How clearly this summary is communicated to the reader.

At OET, we tend to pair Content and Conciseness & Clarity together. We do this because many of the skills, strategies and questions you apply are similar.

We like to think of Content as the criterion that assesses the information you have included in your letter. While on the other hand, Conciseness and Clarity assesses the information you have omitted from your letter.

Confused?!

Are you thinking: ‘How can I be assessed on something that isn’t there?’

If certain information from the case notes isn’t omitted, then the important information can become hidden and the reader may end up misunderstanding what is required.

Let’s take a closer look at these areas through some examples of mistakes candidates make when writing their letter.

Leaving out irrelevant information

When it comes to deciding what is and what isn’t relevant, test-takers tend to make three mistakes:

1. Including information the reader already knows or is outside the scope of the patient’s care.
2. Providing too much background or historical detail to the current situation
3. Not grouping similar information together.

Let’s look at three examples that illuminate these issues.

Example one: Information not needed for care

Mrs Sharma’s case notes cover 6 visits to her GP over a two-month period. The first visit mentions this detail:

29/12/18
Discussion: Concerned that her glucose levels are not well enough controlled – checks levels often (worried?) Attends health centre – feels not taking her concerns seriously

The Writing task is to write a letter referring the patient to the endocrinologist. We can break this case note into what is and what is not relevant to the endocrinologist.

  • Relevant: Mrs Sharma is concerned that her glucose levels were not well controlled causing her to present on the 29 December
  • Not relevant: Mrs Sharma felt the health centre was not taking her concerns seriously.

Mrs Sharma’s feelings on the health centre are outside of the endocrinologist’s role. It does not have any impact on the assessment or treatment they will provide her.

A good summary of this case note would be:

  • She initially presented on 29/12/18 concerned that her blood sugar levels were no longer well controlled.

Example two: Too much historical detail

Avoiding unnecessary or repeated information is also an important part of this criterion. In many sets of case notes, multiple visits to or by the patient will be reported.

Some of the information in the earlier visits will have been superseded by how the patient’s condition progressed. Summarising the information to only include the details which remain relevant is therefore important.

Mr Spencer’s case notes cover his medical presentation:

Admitted to hospital with L fractured humerus & olecranon process following fall at home. Surgery completed on olecranon process, screw inserted 4 wks ago.

This task is to discharge the patient into the care of an Occupational Therapist (OT). Once again we can break the information into what is and what is not relevant:

  • Relevant: Mr Spencer’s injuries were a left fractured humerus & olecranon process
  • Not relevant: The type of surgery.

The OT needs to know what injuries the patient sustained because it will help them correctly care for Mr Spencer. However, details of the surgery are not relevant as they will not impact the type of care provided post-discharge.

An example of a clear summary is:

  • Mr Spencer had a fall at his home and sustained a fracture to the left humerus and olecranon process. Surgery was completed four weeks ago

Example three: Grouping similar information in your letter

The final element of this criterion is to group similar information together for the reader.

Grouping information will help your summary be quick and easy to read, ensuring your reader doesn’t have to re-read the letter to understand it.

For example, patient Mr Dunbar’s case notes record he is non-compliant with his diet and medication and that this is discussed with him on 3 separate visits including:

March 2018
non-compliant with diet. Non-compliant with medication. Blames poor memory
October 2018
Resumed medications but still only taking intermittently. Again provided education re importance of adherence to drug regimen

The task is to transfer the patient into the care of the Community Nurse in the area where he will be moving to. The Community Nurse is requested to provide ongoing monitoring.

  • Relevant: Mr Dunbar’s medication and diet compliance need monitoring
  • Not relevant: The frequency or specific dates when the patient has been recorded as non-compliant

A good summary of these case notes would be:

  • He has not been compliant with his diet or medication regimen, reporting poor memory as the primary cause of his neglect.

To score high in the OET Writing sub-test, you need to choose only the relevant information from the case notes, while also leaving out irrelevant information. As we have shown, the best way to do this is to avoid information that:

  • Is outside the scope of the reader’s role
  • Focuses too heavily on their history or background
  • Not grouping similar information.

If you avoid these mistakes and follow the guide for Content, you are well on your way to scoring high in the Writing sub-test. For more information about the other Writing categories used to score your performance, head on over to the OET Preparation Portal.