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

Our test developers and Assessors for the Speaking 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?

For reasons of test security and fairness to candidates, we cannot give qualitative feedback to individual candidates. However, there are patterns in candidate performance which you might find it useful to consider if you are preparing for the test.

Our Speaking Assessment Criteria and Level Descriptors and Speaking Assessment Criteria Glossary provide detailed information about how the Speaking sub-test is assessed.

Many candidates find it useful to record themselves speaking, perhaps asking a friend or colleague to take part in sample role plays from the OET website.

You can replay the recording to check your performance:

  • Did you communicate effectively at a reasonable speed?
  • Were your explanations and plans clear to the patient?
  • Did language errors make your message difficult to understand?
  • Did you listen to what the patient told you and respond appropriately.

This process helps identify and prioritise areas to work on.

Develop a range of expressions for communicating effectively in common situations, such as explaining, persuading, and reassuring. You can draw on your professional background to choose which expressions to prioritise. Many people find it useful to learn common phrases and expressions as chunks of vocabulary, using repetition to memorise them thoroughly. This reduces the need to think about grammar while speaking, making it easier to use the phrases correctly and naturally.

The Speaking sub-test contains three minutes of preparation time before each role play. Candidates who use the full preparation time tend to benefit because it allows them to plan what to say and how to organise it effectively. When you read the candidate card, look carefully at the task instructions and think of language that will help you to carry them out as effectively as possible.

The role plays and the assessment criteria are designed to allow you to interact with the patient as you would in your professional context. You can ask questions, listen to the patient’s answers, and ask follow-up questions as appropriate. You can include stages where you check that the patient has understood you, and you can invite him/her to ask questions or give an opinion. There is no penalty for pausing briefly to choose your words the same way you might in a real life consultation.

Find detailed information about OET Speaking sub-test.

Speaking test example video:

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