OET is an international English language test that assesses the language proficiency of healthcare professionals who seek to register and practise in an English-speaking environment. It provides a valid and reliable assessment of all four language skills – listening, reading, writing and speaking – with an emphasis on communication in healthcare professional settings.
How is the test scored?
You will receive a Statement of Results which shows your score for each of the four sub-tests, on a scale from 0 to 500. Each of the four sub-tests is assessed in a specific way.
Listening and Reading
Your answer booklets for Listening Part A and for Reading Part A are marked by trained OET Assessors. These answer booklets are assigned to OET Assessors at random to avoid any conflict of interest. Your answer booklets for Reading and Listening Parts B and C are 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 your Part A answers are marked by at least two different assessors.
Writing and Speaking
Your performances on the Writing and Speaking sub-tests are each rated by at least two trained Assessors. Audio files and scripts are assigned to Assessors at random to avoid any conflict of interest. Your test-day Interlocutor is not involved in the assessment process.
Writing and Speaking Assessors are monitored for accuracy and consistency, and the scores they award are adjusted to take into account any leniency or severity. If two Assessors award different scores to your performance, your script and/or audio file will be referred to at least one other senior Assessor not previously involved in your assessment.
For the Writing sub-test, each Assessor scores your performance according to five criteria: Overall Task Fulfilment, Appropriateness of Language, Comprehension of Stimulus, Linguistic Features (Grammar and Cohesion), and Presentation Features (Spelling, Punctuation, and Layout). The five criteria are assessed on a scale from 0 to 6 and are equally weighted. A score of 350 (previously grade B) for Writing requires a high level of performance on all five criteria.
For the Speaking sub-test, each Assessor scores your performance according to nine criteria. The four linguistically-oriented criteria are Intelligibility, Fluency, Appropriateness of Language, and Resources of Grammar and Expression. They are assessed on a scale from 0 to 6. Clinical communication criteria include Indicators of Relationship Building, Indicators of Understanding & Incorporating the Patient’s Perspective, Indicators of Providing Structure, Indicators for Information Gathering and Indicators for Information Giving. They are assessed on a scale from 0 to 3. A high level of performance on all nine criteria is required in order to achieve a score of 350 (previously grade B) on the speaking test.
You can see an overview of your latest test scores via your online profile on the OET website, approximately 16 business days after each test day. Official copies of Statements of Results can be downloaded from your online profile. You can choose which test administration you wish to download a Statement of Results for and this will list the scores you obtained in that particular test administration.
The four sub-tests that make up the OET are reported on a scale from 0 to 500 in ten-point increments (e.g. 350, 360, 370 etc). The numerical score will be mapped to a separate letter grade for each sub-test ranging from A (highest) to E (lowest). There is no overall grade for OET.
Boards and councils can access OET results via the OET website. Registration authorities are advised to register for secure access to the site to check individual results – access to the online verification system is controlled by CBLA. To gain access, managers working for health profession Assessing/Registration Authorities apply for individual staff members to have secure access.
You will receive a Statement of Results which shows your score on a scale from 0 to 500 of each of the four sub-tests:
OET Results table - effective from 9 September 2018 test date
OET score from September 2018
OET band descriptors
|Can communicate very fluently and effectively with patients and health professionals using appropriate register, tone and lexis. Shows complete understanding of any kind of written or spoken language.|
|Can communicate effectively with patients and health professionals using appropriate register, tone and lexis, with only occasional inaccuracies and hesitations. Shows good understanding in a range of clinical contexts.|
|Can maintain the interaction in a relevant healthcare environment despite occasional errors and lapses, and follow standard spoken language normally encountered in his/her field of specialisation.|
|Can maintain some interaction and understand straightforward factual information in his/her field of specialisation, but may ask for clarification. Frequent errors, inaccuracies and mis-or overuse of technical language can cause strain in communication.|
|Can manage simple interaction on familiar topics and understand the main point in short, simple messages, provided he/she can ask for clarification. High density of errors and mis- or overuse of technical language can cause significant strain and breakdowns in communication.|
There are many aspects to being able to use a language effectively, and it is not unusual for candidates to have profiles which are uneven across the different component skills of Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking. Even within a single skill, a candidate may be relatively strong in certain areas (for example, fluency) and relatively weak in another (such as accuracy).
The OET assessment process is designed to provide a true and current reflection of your language ability as evidenced by your performance on the specific tasks on test day. There are many different aspects to language ability, and it is not unusual for candidates to perform differently due to specific test day factors, especially if their ability is close to the borderline between two score bands.
We understand that it can be frustrating to be awarded different scores and that if you re-sit the test you want to be able to target your preparation. Although it is not possible for us to give individual feedback to candidates on their test day paper, there are patterns in performance that are relevant to many candidates. You can receive personalised feedback on your general writing capabilities by purchasing a feedback voucher.
OET Assessors and CBLA staff follow strict assessment guidelines to ensure that results are accurate, including double marking, training and monitoring of Assessors, clerical checks, and statistical analysis. If your score remains the same after re-marking, this is because we have checked and verified that the scoring data has been handled accurately, and that the assessment criteria have been applied correctly. You can appeal the outcome of the re-marking if you believe the re-marking decision was not arrived at properly and fairly.
The best way to perform well on OET is to ensure that your English language communication skills are at the required level. For more information on improving your performance in the test, please visit the Preparation Portal.
One of the strengths of human assessors marking OET candidate papers is that they are able to make judgements about the nuances of expression used by candidates and do not rely on formulaic responses being provided. However, the slightly different scores which may be awarded by different assessors could occasionally impact borderline candidate scores and as a result these scores may change following a re-marking exercise.
Most recognising boards and councils require candidates to score at least 350 in each of the four sub-tests. But to make sure you’re up-to-date with requirements, always check with the relevant boards and councils that regulate your profession.
The length of time the results are recognised as valid is decided by the authorities that recognise OET (e.g. boards and councils, government departments). Always check your authority’s website for details to make sure you know their requirements. The Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) also publicises their requirements on their website.
You should always check the English Language Proficiency Requirements of your regulatory authority. This is not a matter of OET policy.
We take very seriously our responsibility to candidates and to recognising authorities for identifying, investigating and acting on cases of suspected malpractice. Irrespective of whether suspected test day cheating is reported, all OET test responses are routinely subject to statistical and qualitative analysis for the detection of unusual response patterns and irregular score profiles. Cambridge Boxhill Language Assessment (CBLA, the owner of OET) reserves the right to withhold results while malpractice investigations are in progress. CBLA may share the details of any investigation, including candidate information, with relevant regulatory authorities and law enforcement agencies. You can find our policy on malpractice in the OET Test Regulations and Notice to Candidates.
If you are not a health professional working towards registration in an English-speaking context, OET may not be the most suitable test of English language for your purposes.
OET is an English language test that assesses the language and communication skills of healthcare professionals who seek to register and practise in an English-speaking environment. It is designed to focus on the communication needs of health professionals in the workplace and to provide a valid and reliable assessment of language skills in that setting. Regulatory authorities who recognise OET as proof of English language proficiency do so on that basis.
We recommend that you consult the relevant regulatory authorities before you decide to register for a test. See who recognises OET.
No, OET does not provide a generic test. OET tasks are contextualised and work-related, and they target the following 12 professions: Dentistry, Dietetics, Medicine, Nursing, Occupational Therapy, Optometry, Pharmacy, Physiotherapy, Podiatry, Radiography, Speech Pathology, and Veterinary Science.
If your profession is not one of the 12 listed above, you may choose to sit the OET test for the profession which is closest to your own. For example, we understand that sonography registrants have taken the OET Radiography test, and that orthotics registrants have taken the OET Physiotherapy test. You may want to consider the sample tests available to get some idea of the test content for each profession. Select your profession to see sample tests.
However, before you register for OET , we strongly recommend that you consult the appropriate regulatory authorities to confirm whether they will accept your OET results as proof of English language ability and to check which OET profession-specific test would be most suitable.
The OET is a test of English language ability, not of medical knowledge, and our test developers take care to minimise areas where candidates may use prior knowledge rather than language skills to respond. The OET Listening and Reading sub-tests are therefore not profession specific. They are common to all candidates and focus on a variety of issues of general medical and health interest. While some topics may include content that is familiar to one particular health practitioner’s area of experience and expertise, the language tasks and questions associated with the texts are designed to test language knowledge and ability, over and above the candidate’s knowledge of that field.
The OET Writing and Speaking sub-tests are profession specific in the sense that a candidate’s profession determines which test materials they are given. The reason for this is that the communicative skills of writing and speaking provide opportunities for candidates to draw on their professional role in order to demonstrate their level of ability to communicate in common workplace situations. For example, all medical professionals conduct consultations with patients/clients, but they are likely to need to engage with those patients/clients about different issues in different contexts. Research (Vidakovic & Khalifa, 2013) indicates that preparing for OET helps make candidates ready for the workplace and increases their confidence in communicating with patients and colleagues.
How appropriate is OET for health practitioners who want to work in English-speaking healthcare environments?
Research indicates that the test is appropriate in content and difficulty for the healthcare workplace.
A 2013 study by Cambridge English Language Assessment (Vidakovic & Khalifa, 2013) found that success at OET is a good indicator of workplace readiness in terms of language proficiency. 93% of health professionals agreed or strongly agreed that their employees and colleagues who have taken OET use English effectively in the health-related workplace. OET test takers found that the relevance to their professional contexts of test topics and content helped them engage more with the test preparation process, and made them feel confident about their ability to communicate effectively with patients, carers, and colleagues.
In a 2013 study by the Language Testing Research Centre (LTRC) at the University of Melbourne (Macqueen, Pill, Elder, Knoch, 2013), OET test takers reported that the test tasks were highly relevant to workplace communication, and therefore taking OET had a beneficial impact in terms of acculturation as well as language proficiency. The research was conducted in Australia and noted that preparing for the test helped set their expectations of professional life and the workplace in the Australian context, and aspects of test content and tasks helped them participate more effectively when working in Australia.
CBLA, in partnership with the LTRC and Cambridge Assessment English, is engaged in an ongoing programme of research and validation to ensure that OET continues to reflect the demands of communication in the workplace and that the test experience continues to have a positive impact on candidates and other stakeholders.