About the Reading sub-test

The Reading sub-test consists of two parts and takes 60 minutes to complete. The topics are of generic healthcare interest and are therefore accessible to candidates across all professions.

The Reading sub-test structure

Part A – summary task (15 minutes)

Part A assesses your ability to source information from multiple texts, to synthesise information in a meaningful way and to ‘skim’ and ‘scan’ material to retrieve information quickly. You are required to read 3-4 short texts (a total of approximately 650 words) related to a single topic, and complete a summary paragraph by filling in the missing words (25-35 gaps in total).

Part B – multiple-choice questions (45 minutes)

Part B assesses your ability to read and understand comprehensive texts on health-related topics similar to those in academic or professional journals. You are required to read two passages (600-800 words each) and answer a set of multiple-choice questions (16-20 in total).

How is reading ability assessed in OET?

Reading Part A (the summary task) tests your ability to skim and scan quickly across different texts on a given topic in order to identify and synthesise selected information. For that purpose, Part A is strictly timed and you must complete all the items within 15 minutes. To complete the task successfully, you will also need the ability to understand the conventions of different medical text types, differentiate main ideas from supporting information, and understand the presentation of numerical and textual data.

Reading Part B tests your ability to understand longer passages of text at the level of word/phrase, explicit meaning, and implied meaning. To complete the task successfully, you will also need the ability to identify the purpose of a text, to understand the relationships between ideas, and to understand at the level of the paragraph as well as the sentence.

Assessors who mark the Reading 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.

Reading sub-test FAQs

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

Your scores for Reading Part A and Part B are weighted to reflect the different skills tested in each part. Part A (the summary) tests a relatively narrow range of skills, and your Part A score counts for 33.33% of your total Reading score. Part B (multiple choice) samples from a wider range of skills, and your Part B score counts for 66.66% of your total Reading score.

This weighted score conversion allows credit to be given for a range of Reading skills and is fairer for candidates. It means that you do not need to achieve the exact score that equates to Part B in both parts. If you score lower in one part you can still achieve a high score for the sub-test overall.

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

In Part A (the summary), you should write your answers in the numbered boxes to the right of the summary text. In Part B (multiple choice), you must write your answers on the special answer sheet using pencil. This is because the answer sheets will be computer-scanned for maximum accuracy. You will not receive extra time at the end of the sub-test to transfer your answers. It is a good idea to use the sample tests to familiarise yourself with the different task formats you might find in the test.

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

Yes, you are responsible for making sure that your answers are in the correct spaces on the test paper. It is a good idea to use the free sample tests to become familiar with the different task formats you are likely to meet in the test. For reasons of test security and fairness to all candidates, we cannot amend your answers or offer you a resit if you write your answers in the wrong space. Your Reading sub-test papers will be marked under our normal procedures.

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

You will not be given extra time at the end of the sub-test to check your answers, and it is up to you to manage your time. The test is designed so that the time available is enough for you to read, choose your answers, and check your work.

Please remember that there is a strict time limit for Part A (the summary), and Part A materials will be collected from you after 15 minutes. You will therefore not have any time to check your Part A answers later in the test.

Can I use abbreviations in the Reading sub-test?

Abbreviations are not accepted in the Reading sub-test unless they appear in the texts.

Do I lose marks for spelling mistakes?

Yes, you must use correct spelling in the Reading sub-test to get the marks. Responses that are not spelled correctly will not receive any marks. American and British English spelling variations are accepted, e.g., color and colour are both acceptable. Please note that the Reading sub-test is different from the Listening sub-test in the way misspellings are treated.

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