How can I improve my performance on the Reading sub-test?

Our test developers and Assessors for the Reading sub-test have identified a number of areas for improvement which apply to many candidates at each test session. We hope you will find these useful.

How can I improve my language proficiency? 

1. Develop your skills outside test contexts
Reading skills at the level required for OET Grade B are developed by reading regularly and widely. It’s a good idea to become familiar with a range of language and text types, not just those used in test preparation materials. You can broaden your reading while following up on your own areas of professional interest. As well as the specialist texts you read at work and when you study, consider texts which are aimed at the intelligent general-interest reader. Current affairs websites and science and health magazines are good sources of these. These will give you good practice in identifying and following a writer’s line of argument and attitude, which is a different skill from picking out factual content.

Focusing on paragraphs or short sections is a useful way to develop your reading skills. Pause at the end of each paragraph you read and ask yourself two questions: What main point is the writer making in this paragraph (i.e. can you summarise it in a sentence)? What does the writer want to achieve in this paragraph (e.g. persuade, criticise, draw a conclusion)? Remember that you can understand a paragraph clearly even if you don’t get every single word and even if you haven’t read the whole text first.

2. Use the right skills for each part of the sub-test
The Reading sub-test is designed so that you need to use the right reading skills at the right times.

Part A is about collecting information from different texts, so you should be prepared to “jump” from one text to another. The quicker you can locate the section of the text you need, the more time you have to make sure you understand it correctly. Many candidates find it useful to look at the questions first to find out what information they need to collect and in what order; this can save a lot of time. Another technique for working out which text you need for each section of the summary is to look for names of people, names of treatments/conditions, names of countries/regions, dates, or numbers. These are easy to pick out and so can help you work efficiently. You don’t need test practice materials to practice this skill. If you have textbooks or manuals which include summary points at the end of each chapter, you can set yourself a time limit to find the parts of the chapter the summary refers to. (You can even use an index for this exercise.) As you work, notice the types of words and phrases which help you.

Part B is about understanding the gist (main idea) of a short workplace text. You need to choose the best option from 3 which represents the content of the text. All the answer options may be mentioned so it’s important to check which one is covered completely. Each question has a context statement which can include the type of text you have to read. This is useful information to help you recollect previous experiences of reading similar text types, the way they are organised and information is presented.

Part C is about understanding how meaning is developed into a line of argument or information in longer texts. You need to use inference skills to understand the attitude or opinion of the writer at various points in the text. You will also demonstrate your understanding of reference (e.g. its, that, their) and lexical features in texts and how they contribute meaning. It is likely that you will not know or understand every word in the text and should develop strategies to deduce meaning or tolerance of such ambiguity. Reading a variety of text types as part of your regular practice will help with this provided you ensure there is some content which is above your current reading level. In Part C you have 4 options to choose from and like Part B you must choose the best representation of the text contents as your answer.

3. Check your work
Although it’s important to answer each question quickly, it’s also important to take a few minutes to check your answers. In Part A, make sure you have copied the spelling of the answer word(s) from the text exactly. This forms part of the assessment and you don’t want to lose marks unnecessarily for poor spelling. In Parts B and C you should be able to locate evidence in the texts which proves your answer is correct but also why the other options are incorrect. Reasons why an answer may be incorrect include only part of the answer is covered in the text, the text states something different or opposite to the answer etc.

4. Complete the question booklet correctly
In Part A, write your answers directly onto the line provided for each question. The length of line should be sufficient to write the correct answer. Parts B and C are computer marked so it’s essential that you follow the instructions provided on the front page of the question booklet when entering your answers. You must fill in the circle containing your chosen answer A, B or C using a 2B pencil. Working as quickly as you can, shade in the whole of the circle including the letter with your pencil so it can be clearly read by the computer. If you want to change your answer, erase it and fill in the circle of the answer you now want to choose.

Find detailed information about OET Reading sub-test.

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