The updated Occupational English Test will take effect on 9 September 2018. Find Out More

was successfully added to your cart.

Free sample material

Prepare and practice by downloading free sample materials for your profession.


Visit the OET Shop

Buy the official OET online course, practice books and feedback voucher for your profession.


Watch a free OET Masterclass

Watch an online masterclass for expert advice on all four subtests.

Watch Now

Find an OET course

Do additional preparation through English schools or colleges offering OET preparation.

Find A Course

Subscribe to free healthcare communication bulletins

Get tips and advice from OET – delivered straight to your inbox

Subscribe Now


FREE videos, lessons, sample answers, guides and more –
all designed to help you prepare for success.

Get into reading month
By Inspiration No Comments

May is ‘Get into Reading month’. Are you reading?

Get into reading month

May is ‘get into reading month’

If you have read many of these blog posts you will know me to be someone who loves words and reading. In fact, I rate reading as one of my most important tools to help me relax and unwind. I read on my daily commute to and from work, I read in bed as a way of settling my mind for sleep and I feel anxious when I’m out and about without a book as any periods of  waiting are perfectly filled by reading.

Book groups

I belong to a book group. Each month we select 2 books to read for the coming month. The choice is to read one or both books. I always try to read both as it makes sure I take time to read each month, if only to meet the deadline of the next meeting. Have you ever joined a book group? Are they popular in your country? Joining an English-speaking book group would be a great way of improving your English: getting you to read in English and then discuss the books in English afterwards.

When Breath Becomes Air

Last year, one of the books we read, was When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. It’s a book that has stayed in my mind, not just because of the story it told but because of its relevance to my work here at OET.

You know at the start of the book that Paul will be dead by the end of it. The book is finished posthumously by his wife and was published 10 months after he died. It felt a little ghostly knowing this as I read the early chapters of Paul’s life growing up in Arizona, USA as if I was watching over his shoulder at each moment he recounted.

Dealing with dying

Many of you deal with death regularly and you have learnt your own coping mechanisms. So, the story of a young man dying from cancer probably doesn’t sound that appealing as a way to relax but Paul was one of you. He was a resident neurosurgeon at the end of a long and grueling training. Like many healthcare professionals he didn’t pick up the early symptoms of the cancer putting the back pain he was experiencing down to the long hours he spent on his feet in surgery.

Paul writes matter of factly, as I imagine a health professional might, about his diagnosis, treatment and period of remission before the lung cancer that would kill him returned. It made quite an impact on me but might have less of an impact on you. What I would encourage all of you to read are the couple of passages Paul devotes to giving bad news to a patient.

Paul describes two separate patients receiving bad news.

Patient 1…

… is a 35 year-old who had been out shopping for a present when she’d experienced a seizure. Although Paul knew from an operative point of view that the benign brain tumour a scan had revealed on her right frontal lobe was the best kind of tumour in the best place to remove it, he could see that she was terrified:

She would likely refuse surgery if I launched into a detached spiel detailing all the risks and possible complications. I could do so, document her refusal in the chart, consider my duty discharged and move on to the next task. Instead, with her permission, I gathered her family with her and together we calmly talked through her options. As we talked, I could see the enormousness of the choice she faced dwindle into a difficult but understandable decision. I had met her in a space where she was a person, instead of a problem to be solved. She chose surgery. The operation went smoothly. She went home two days later and never seized again.

Patient 2…

…is in her late 50s. For the past few days she had been experiencing tingling in her right hand and then she’d begun to lose control of it. She’d gone to her local ER fearing she was having a stroke. After an MRI, she was sent to Paul’s hospital which was a hundred miles from her home. When Paul starts the conversation with her, he realises no one has told her the results of the MRI passing the responsibility to avoid breaking the bad news.

“Okay,” I said. “We have a lot to talk about. If you don’t mind, can you tell me what you understand is happening. It’s always helpful for me to hear, to make sure I don’t leave anything unanswered.”

“Well, I thought I was having a stroke, but I guess… I’m not?”

“That’s right. You aren’t having a stroke.” I paused. I could see the vastness of the chasm between the life she’d had last week and the one she was about to enter. She and her husband didn’t seem read to hear brain cancer- is anyone?- so I began a couple of steps back.

Paul goes on to explain how he gently walks the patient through her diagnosis, finding out what how much she wants to know, what to expect over the next couple of days and what would be involved in the surgery from her point of view.

A book with a message

Breaking bad news must be one of the most difficult if not the most difficult aspect of a healthcare professional’s job. Doing it in another language adds extra complexity. Making sure you pick sensitive vocabulary, intonation, speed etc. Although you know the final outcome for Paul is not a good one, there is a lot of good in his book which you might find of benefit.

Capitalisation rules for medication names
By Language Tips No Comments

Do I need to capitalise medication names?

Capitalisation rules for medication names

Should medication names have a capital letter?

This is a frequently asked question about capital letters. If you are studying for the test, the simple answer is to copy the medication as it is written in the case notes.

For an answer which is transferable to everyday life, here are the rules about when to capitalise and when not to.

1. Generic drug names do not need a capital letter

  • aspirin
  • metformin
  • metoprolol
  • diazepam
  • fluconazole

2. Brand names for drugs do need a capital letter

  • Panadol
  • Zyrtec
  • Tylenol
  • Claritin
  • Eurax
A strategy for Reading Part A
By Test Tips & Study skills No Comments

Want to know a simple strategy for Reading Part A?

A strategy for Reading Part A

To be successful in Reading Part A, follow the 6 easy steps of this strategy

When you start Reading Part A practice, read the titles of each text. These provide important information about the contents of each text and clue words which will be used in the summary paragraph.

  1. Read the first sentence containing a gap. Read the whole sentence not just the words next to the gap.
  2. Make a prediction about the type of word or phrase which is missing to complete the gap. You should be able to use your knowledge of English to decide if the gap should be a noun, verb, adjective etc.
  3. Look for clue words within the sentence which direct you to the correct text where you will find the answer. Clue words could be the text type, names of people or places, numbers or words which contain rare letters in English e.g. x, z, j, q.
  4. Go to the text where you think the answer is and scan for the clue words. DO NOT start at the beginning of the text and read quickly until you find a clue word. This is not scanning. Start anywhere in the text and scan your eyes quickly up and down, left and right until you spot a clue word.
  5. Identify the word or phrase you need to complete the gap. Does the word type match your prediction in step 2? If no, you will need to change the word form of the words in the text to fit the gap.
  6. Read the sentence again including the words you have selected. Does it make grammatical sense?


DO NOT miss out step 6. This is a major reason why students lose marks in Reading Part A. They forget to check that the words they think fit the gap make grammatical sense because they are rushing. It’s better to spend a few more seconds ensuring your answer is correct than waste the time you spent finding those works for zero reward.

Seizure. Can you pronounce it?
By Language Tips No Comments

When swapping words is the best idea

Seizure. Can you pronounce it?

Seizure \ ˈsē-zhər \

Seizure is a difficult word for many non-native speakers to pronounce. It can come out sounding like scissors \ ˈsi-zərz \.

If you find a word difficult to pronounce in English, your natural response is to avoid using it or to become anxious when you are about to say it. This can cause you to say the problematic word very fast or slow as compensation.

A better idea is to find an alternative word you can pronounce easily and confidently.

‘Convulsion’ is one alternative as well as ‘spasm’ and possibly ‘fit’, although the other options are more medically accurate.


Present perfect tip
By Language Tips No Comments

Indecisive about when to use the present perfect?

Present perfect tip

Present perfect or past simple?

Many students of English find the decision to use the past simple or the present perfect confusing. If the wrong choice is made, a different meaning to the one intended can be made. At the very least, the reader or listener will notice the mistake.

In the example in the image, the use of ‘to date’ tells us the purpose of the sentence is to discuss the treatment received until now. ‘To date’ also implies that more treatment will follow; it’s like a formal version of ‘so far’.

Time words used with the present perfect

Time references such as ‘to date’, ‘already’ and ‘before’ are commonly used with present perfect sentences to show that the period of time or action under discussion is not finished but ongoing.

To date, Mehnaz has seen the speech therapist three times.

Here are some more examples:

Justin hasn’t seen a physiotherapist before and is anxious about any pain the exercises may give him.

Advice to quit smoking has already been provided on numerous occasions.

Unhappy clients. Bill Gates quote
By Inspiration No Comments

We all have something to learn from unhappy clients

Unhappy clients. Bill Gates quote

Unhappy clients (customers) are definitely not unique to the healthcare profession.

They often have a way of making us feel unhappy too. Life is so much easier when everyone is happy.

Once the feelings of frustration have passed, it can be good to reflect on what went wrong to cause the unhappiness and what we could do differently next time.

What have your unhappy clients taught you?

Parts of the mouth quiz
By Language Tips No Comments

You need to know what’s inside your mouth!

Contents of your mouth quiz

How familiar are you with the contents of your mouth?

See if you can answer these quiz questions:

  1. Permanent teeth, otherwise known as adult teeth, are formed of eight incisors, __________ canines, __________ premolars and __________ molars.
  2. _________ is a single word meaning false teeth.
  3. Many sportspeople wear a ___________ to protect their teeth.
  4. If a tooth has a small hole caused by decay, the treatment for this is a _________.

All of these words are very common, not particularly medical and familiar to patients.

They could come up in the Listening or Reading tests so it’s good to be familiar with vocabulary outside of the specialism you currently work in.

Use prepositions correctly
By Language Tips No Comments

Are you a confident preposition user?

Use prepositions correctly

Problem prepositions

Using the correct preposition can make the difference between the meaning you intended and a meaning which is quite different, and possibly inappropriate.

Problem 1

The same preposition can have a very different meaning when attached to a different word e.g.

Please come in [here ‘in’ means movement from outside the room into the room]

Come back in 2 weeks (here ‘in’ means time. Return after two weeks have past]

Problem 2

Combining a different preposition with the same verb or noun can also create a very different meaning e.g.

You should take up an exercise class [here the combination of ‘take up’ means start]

I realise this is a lot of information to take in [here the combination of ‘take in’ means process or understand].

Problem 3

Sometimes, as in the image example, the preposition is incorrect with the noun, verb or adjective it’s combined with.

Miles was admitted to hospital 3 days ago. 

There are some rules to learn about use of prepositions especially for time and place but many other combinations need to be learnt, remembered and then used.

By Inspiration No Comments

Planning for the UK to be your next career destination?

Moving to the UK?

Focus on the UK

The 23rd of April was St. George’s Day, the National Day of England. This also makes it a good opportunity to find out more about the country and its healthcare system. Although Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have independent national days, they all come under the UK umbrella for registration purposes for nurses, midwives and doctors.

OET recognition in the UK

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) started accepting OET results on November 9th 2017 and the General Medical Council (GMC) on February 8th this year. Since then there has been a lot of interest from candidates keen to start a new health career in the UK.

The UK healthcare system

The healthcare system in the UK is popularly known as the NHS (National Health Service). This year it is 70 years old. The NHS opened in 1948 with the ideals of providing comprehensive, universal and free at the point of delivery care to residents of the UK. This remains true today with all UK residents able to visit a GP for free and receive hospital treatment for free. Many residents pay towards the cost of prescriptions and dental treatment but there are exemptions for those under 18 years old or on low income.

As the population in the UK has grown, providing free healthcare to all residents has become more costly and difficult to provide in a timely fashion. Waiting times for hospital treatment and treatment from allied health professionals have increased. This has led to an increase in the purchase of private health insurance for individuals who want to ensure immediate treatment at the hospital and with the consultant of their choice.

Each country in the UK leads its own public health service: NHS England, NHS Scotland, NHS Wales and Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland. Each service reports to the relevant government of that country while funding comes directly from taxation.

Registering as a healthcare professional

To work as a healthcare professional in the UK, you will need to register with your appropriate healthcare board. Currently only Nurses, Midwives and Doctors can use OET results for registration purposes. It is hoped that this will extend to the other OET professions in the near future.

For Nurses, the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland require the following OET scores:

  • B grades in Speaking and Writing.
  • C+ grades in Reading and Listening.
  • The results must be achieved within the last 2 years and from the same test sitting.

For Doctors, the Medical Council of Ireland require the following OET scores:

  • 4 B grades (Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening)
  • The results must be achieved within the last 2 years and from the same test sitting.

Further information

If you are interested in finding out more about the registration requirements in other countries who accept OET, follow the links for your profession: Who accepts OET?



Capital letters rule #1
By Language Tips No Comments

Don’t make silly mistakes with capital letters

Capital letters rule #1

Everyone understands how to use capital letters, right?

Well, not always in OET.

We all know the rule about starting a new sentence with a capital letter and for the names of patients.

Using capital letters correctly for names of medical conditions is something students seem less clear about.

As a rule, medical conditions which are named after the person who ‘discovered’ it or is associated with its treatment are capitalised (but not the word which comes after it). For example:

  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Chron’s disease
  • Asperger’s syndrome
  • Down syndrome

Other medical conditions are not capitalised:

  • multiple sclerosis
  • arthritis
  • anorexia

If in doubt, copy it from where you can see it written down: the case notes in the test or from an Internet search.

How to use 'history'
By Language Tips No Comments

Are you confused by ‘history’? We can explain.

How to use 'history'

The meaning of history

A patient’s medical history includes both events in the past but also their current and future health. It is a cause of confusion for many students who, understandably, believe history can only have a past meaning.

A better way of thinking about history is that it’s the patient’s life ‘story’. It includes things we know about but has room to include things that will happen in the future too.

When teaching students about tenses, teachers will often show life as a line. The start point, when we are born is fixed. The current date is fixed but when the line will end is not. A patient’s history is the same as this line.

Using history in your writing

This means, if the patient has been diagnosed with a chronic condition such as cluster headaches, we need to refer to this with present tenses:

                             Mrs Rodrigues has a history of cluster headaches.

The use of the present tense in this example, allows us to show this is an ongoing problem for the patient rather than something that has been treated, which is the implication of using the past tense.

Relax for Listening with these top tips
By Test Tips & Study skills No Comments

Relaxing is critical for success in Listening.

Relax for Listening with these top tips

Listening is the first test on test day.

You are likely to feel your most nervous before the Listening test starts. It’s really important you are aware of this and take steps to reduce this. You don’t want your nerves affecting your performance.

These tips will help you relax as much as possible and be ready to listen.

  1. Have everything you need on your table in front of you. Take more than one pen or pencil so you can easily swap what you are writing with, if you need to, during the test. Don’t waste time sharpening pencils, take a bunch of them, ready-sharpened.
  2. When the audio starts, the voice will read out the instructions printed on the front of answer booklet. Read this information as it is said. It is a really effective way to focus your concentration on what you’re about to do. Plus, this information includes the context to the audio which will also help you to focus on what you are about to hear.
  3. During the 1 minute you have to read the questions, skim quickly through all of the sections to get a general overview of the test. Then, return to the front and read section 2 and 3 in detail (Section 1 is completed as an example). You can underline key words if you wish but most importantly, you should read the information you are given carefully so you know what to expect.
  4. When the audio for section 1 starts, read the heading and the answer as you hear them. This will help familiarise you to the speakers’ voices.
  5. Repeat for Part B.
  6. At the end of Part B, during the 2 minutes you have to check your answers, check both Parts A and B. Don’t take this as an opportunity to have a break and a drink of water. Keep checking until told to stop. Look for incomplete answers, messy answers which you can make clearer to the assessor and any blank spaces. A guess is better than nothing, so always try to write something down for each question.

Following these tips should help you perform your best on test day.

Are you ever vague?
By Language Tips No Comments

Are your patients ever vague?

Are you ever vague?

Vague – pronounced /veɪg/

Vagueness is a common condition among the elderly. It can appear as forgetting appointments or not remembering whether lunch has been eaten or not. It can be an early sign of dementia.

Vagueness can also be intentionally used by people of all ages. For example, when someone doesn’t wish to disclose full details of something such as the extent of a bad habit e.g.

How many units of alcohol do you drink per week?

Oh, it’s hard to say, not that many.

Sometimes, the difficulty for the health profession, is deciding whether the vagueness is intentional or not.

To learn vocabulary, use it!
By Test Tips & Study skills No Comments

If you really want to learn new words, use them NOW!

To learn vocabulary, use it!

How to learn vocabulary

When getting ready for the test, you will be spending hours studying. In these hours, you are likely to record lots of new vocabulary.

If you really want to learn this vocabulary you need to follow these 3 important tips:

  1. Organise the way you write down vocabulary. One idea is to buy a small, cheap A-Z address book. You can then add new vocabulary to the relevant page. Soon you will have created your very own dictionary!
  2. Regularly revise vocabulary. Studies suggest you need to see/ use a word between 10-17 times before you can consider that you ‘know’ it. Take your list or book with you and look at it frequently: as you commute, while in a queue, while washing up etc.

And, most importantly

  1. Include new vocabulary in your communication straight away. To really learn a word, nothing beats using it. Start including new vocabulary in your spoken and written communication. You might make mistakes and someone may correct you but this is helpful correction. It will make the process of learning it even quicker as nobody likes making the same mistake twice!
Had is a boring verb
By Language Tips No Comments

Why ‘had’ is a boring verb and how you can switch it

Had is a boring verb

‘Had’ can be a really boring verb.

It’s also a verb that can be used in many different situations e.g. have a party, have a baby, have an idea etc.

It is overused and so becomes less descriptive.

The healthcare profession have access to a range of vocabulary which other professions don’t.

One great example is swapping ‘had’, in the example above, for ‘underwent’. This is a verb that can be used with surgery and operations (but not with events like heart attack or stroke).

Sarah underwent knee surgery two days ago.

You can use it just like the verb ‘go’ e.g. undergo, underwent, undergone.

If it’s not part of your regular vocabulary, start using it today!

Listening Part A questions answered
By Test Tips & Study skills No Comments

Gain confidence in Listening Part A with these tips

Listening Part A questions answered

Listening to you

At the OET Centre, we get a lot of questions from concerned students preparing for the test about their answers to the Listening test. Listening Part A in particular.

To soothe some of the stress from these and other students, this week’s post is going to cover the following FAQs:

  1. What to write
  2. How assessors grade spelling and grammar errors and use of abbreviations
  3. Which answers will be considered correct.

What a Listening Part A answer booklet looks like

Each section includes a Heading (and sometimes sub-headings as you can see in this example) and a bulleted line for each mark available. In the example left, the sub-heading ‘Specialist’s view’ has 2 marks available (seen in the box on the right hand side) and so there are 2 bulleted lines.












Writing your answers

  • To get the marks for the 2 answers in our example, you must have your answer on or around those two lines. If, for some reason, you wrote your answers under the next sub-heading ‘Patient’s view’, they would not be marked.
  • It doesn’t matter if you write both answers on the same line or the individual lines given. As long as the answers are on one or other line, this is acceptable.
  • If you write part of your answer to the left of the bulleted lines or next to the sub-heading, this is also acceptable.

Look at this image for the answers to the subheading ‘Specialist’s view’. All the space highlighted yellow is included as part of your answer by the assessors. All the space highlighted in red is not included as part of your answer to this sub-heading by the assessors.

How assessors grade your answers

  • Spelling and grammar mistakes are accepted by the assessors as long as the meaning of what you have written is clear. E.g. if you wrote ‘pewmonea’ for pneumonia, this would be accepted as correct. Alternatively,  if your wrote ‘visit sister house every week’ (missing off the ‘s’ from ‘visit’ and ‘s from ‘sister’) this would be accepted as correct.
  • As a note-taking task, abbreviations and symbols are recommended as mentioned in a recent test tip post. There isn’t a standard list of abbreviations and symbols which the assessors accept but they are familiar with all common abbreviations.

Which answers will be considered correct

The answers for the 2 marks in the sub-heading ‘Specialist’s view’ are:

(being) pregnant not an issue/no problem

think about whether to breastfeed OR breastfeeding takes calcium from bones/ may cause fractures

  • Your answer must be complete. For example if you missed the word ‘not’ or ‘no’ out of the first answer, you would not get the mark.
  • The second answer is even more critical. If you only write ‘whether to breastfeed’ or ‘think about breastfeed’ this would not get the mark as there are two parts to this answer. 1) thinking about a decision to be made AND 2) breastfeeding.
  • If you write something extra between those two answers for example: ‘follow a healthy diet’, this answer is incorrect and is ignored. It doesn’t stop you from getting 2 marks for the other 2 answers you have written down. The assessors would see both correct answers and, even though there was an incorrect answer between them, give you 2 marks.

One final point

Your handwriting does not have to be beautiful but it must be legible. Remember that someone is trying to find as many marks as possible for you. To do this they must be able to read and understand what you have written. When you’ve completed a pratice test, give your answers to someone unfamiliar with your handwriting and ask if they can read what you’ve written. If they can, then your handwriting will be fine for the OET assessors.

By electing to pursue browsing on this website, you agree to the storing of first and third-party cookies on your web browser to enhance site navigation, analyse site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. For more information on how we use cookies, or to learn how you can disable cookies please see our Cookie Policy.