About the Listening sub-test

The Listening sub-test consists of two parts, with approximately 20-28 question items. The topics are of generic healthcare interest, accessible to candidates across all professions. Each part consists of about 15 minutes of recorded speech, containing pauses to allow you time to write your answers. You will hear each recording once and are expected to write your answers while listening.

The Listening sub-test structure

Part A – consultation (20-25 minutes)

Part A assesses your ability to follow facts during a consultation. You will listen to a recorded health professional-patient consultation and complete a note taking task, guided by relevant headings.

Part B – presentation (20-25 minutes)

Part B  assesses your ability to understand a short talk on a health-related topic that might realistically occur in the workplace. You’ll listen to a recorded talk or lecture (monologue) by a healthcare professional and complete a range of open-ended and fixed choice tasks.

How is listening ability assessed in OET?

A wide range of task types are included so that a good sample of each candidate’s listening ability is tested. This includes tasks assessing comprehension, such as:

  • ‘multiple- choice’ questions
  • ‘short-answer response’ questions
  • tasks that assess your ability to listen for specific information – for example, completing tables or lecture notes, ‘sentence-completion’ tasks or ticking/circling boxes or lists, etc.

Assessors who mark the Listening sub-test are qualified and highly trained. Candidate responses are assessed against an established marking guide. During the marking session, problematic or unforeseen answers are referred to a sub-group of senior Assessors for guidance. Candidates with scores that are near the borderline automatically have their papers double-marked to ensure fairness and consistency.

How is the listening test scored?

Your answer booklets for the Listening sub-test and for Reading Part A are marked by trained Assessors at the OET Centre.

Answer booklets are assigned at random to avoid any conflict of interest. Your answer sheet for Reading Part B is computer scanned and automatically scored.

Listening and Reading Assessors use a detailed marking guide which sets out which answers receive marks and how the marks are counted.

Assessors use this guide to decide for each question whether you have provided enough correct information to be given the mark or marks available. Assessors are monitored for accuracy and consistency, and the data entry of scores is also double-checked for accuracy.

Listening FAQs

How is each section in the OET Listening sub-test weighted in terms of overall score?

Part A and Part B of the Listening sub-test both sample from a range of Listening skills and are therefore weighted equally. Even if there are more marks available in one Part than in the other, your score on each Part will count for exactly 50% of your total score for Listening.

Why are 'real-world' voices used in the audio recordings for OET Listening?

OET uses authentic materials for the Listening sub-test. This includes the use of real health professionals and patients for both the consultation and lecture audio recordings. An important component of listening ability is being able to understand natural speech. Care is taken to ensure that the rate of speech and clarity is sufficiently clear to be considered fair to all candidates without compromising the authenticity of the test by having passages that sound rehearsed and unnatural.

Where do I write my answers for the Listening sub-test?

You must write your answers for Part A in the test booklet under the appropriate heading for each question. Assessors will not consider any responses you write in other locations, e.g. under a different heading elsewhere in the booklet.

You must write your answer for Part B in the correct location/space/gap etc. in the test booklet. Assessors will not consider any responses you write in other locations.

It is a good idea to use the sample tests to familiarise yourself with the different task formats you might find in the test.

Do I have time to check my answers for the Listening sub-test?

Yes, you will have 2 minutes at the end of the sub-test to check your answers for Part A and Part B. There are also shorter periods of time after each question during the test, and you may find these periods useful for checking the question you have just done. There is only one chance to listen to each part of the test, so be sure to write your answers in the answer booklet as you listen.

Does it matter what order I write my answers in the Listening sub-test?

In Listening Part A (the patient consultation), you should take care to write your answers under the appropriate question heading. However, within each heading, it does not matter which order you give the information in. OET Assessors are trained to mark responses which have been given in a different order from the recording.

In Listening Part B (the talk on a general health topic), you should write each answer in the individual space provided. The order will depend on the task type. For example, it may be possible to complete a list of bullet points in a different order, but a flow-chart will need to be completed according to the order given on the page.

It is a good idea to use the sample tests to familiarise yourself with the different task formats you might find in the test.

Do I need to write down exactly what I hear?

In Listening Part A (the patient consultation), you may paraphrase what you have heard provided you do not change the information. The marking guide gives Assessors comprehensive guidance on the range of acceptable answers, and senior Assessors will adjudicate on any unforeseen alternatives. You can find examples of marking guides in the sample tests.

In Listening Part B (the talk on a general health topic), the format of the answer booklet will guide you as to the form your answer should take. You may need to change slightly what you hear so that it fits into the context given, for example if you are completing gaps in a summary.

Can I use abbreviations in the Listening sub-test?

Yes, you can use abbreviations that are commonly accepted in your profession and which are clear to other professionals, for example “BP” for blood pressure. Avoid abbreviations that are specific to a particular workplace or specialism, because these might not be commonly understood. OET Assessors are trained to accept a reasonable range of abbreviations, but OET does not refer to any specific dictionaries or lists.

Do I lose marks if I give incorrect or extra information in the Listening sub-test?

There is no automatic penalty for including information that is not in the marking guide. However, you will lose marks if you contradict yourself or make your meaning unclear.

Do I lose marks for spelling mistakes in the Listening sub-test?

In the Listening sub-test, you will not be penalised for misspelling, provided the meaning is clear. Any reasonable attempt at spelling the correct answer has a good chance of being accepted.

Names for conditions and medications are often difficult to spell, and we try to ensure that candidates are not disadvantaged by this. Where possible, reference is made in the audio recording to both the generic and brand names for medications, and to both medical and ‘lay’ terms discussed during the consultations. The marking guide gives Assessors extensive guidance on the range of misspellings which are to be accepted.

Please note that the Listening sub-test is different from the Reading and Writing sub-tests in the way misspellings are treated.

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