Taking the Speaking Test
The Speaking sub-test is delivered individually and takes around 20 minutes. This part of OET uses materials specifically designed for your profession. In each role-play, you take your professional role (for example, as a nurse or as a pharmacist) while the interlocutor plays a patient, a client, or a patient’s relative or carer. For veterinary science, the interlocutor is the owner or carer of the animal.
In each Speaking test, your identity and profession are checked by the interlocutor and there is a short warm-up conversation about your professional background. Then the role-plays are introduced one by one and you have three minutes to prepare for each. The role-plays take about five minutes each.
You receive information for each role-play on a card that you keep while you do the role-play. The card explains the situation and what you are required to do. You may write notes on the card if you want. If you have any questions about the content of the role-play or how a role-play works, you can ask them during the preparation time.
The role-plays are based on typical workplace situations and reflect the demands made on a health professional in those situations. The interlocutor follows a script so that the Speaking test structure is similar for each candidate. The interlocutor also has detailed information to use in each role-play. Different role-plays are used for different candidates at the same test administration.
The whole Speaking test is recorded and it is this audio recording that is assessed.
Your performance on each of the two role-plays is scored against nine criteria and receives a band score for each criterion:
Yes, you can make notes on the role-play cards if you want, and you can refer to the card at any time during the role-play. You must return the card to the Interlocutor at the end of the role-play.
Each role-play is designed to elicit an assessable sample of speech which reflects your speaking ability in a health profession context. It is usual for a role-play to come to a natural end at around the 5-minute mark. If this does not happen, the Interlocutor will signal clearly that it is time to conclude the role-play.
There is no penalty for not completing all the elements on the role card. However, the more elements of the role-play you cover, the more evidence you are likely to give of your ability to communicate in spoken English. Use the preparation time to think about which elements of the role-play might require you to explain something in more detail or to ask the patient for more clarification.
An important part of a health professional’s role is the ability to communicate effectively in speech with patients or clients. The role-plays allow the candidate to take a professional role and demonstrate the ability to deal with common workplace situations.
These situations may include elements of tension which are a normal part of the real-life context: for example, anxious or angry patients, patients who misunderstand their situation, limited time in which to explain instructions.
Having two role-plays provides two separate opportunities to demonstrate spoken proficiency: the two scenarios provide a chance to use different kinds of language, so giving a broader view of the candidate’s spoken skills.
You should aim to achieve the highest level in the descriptors for each criteria. Test-takers securing grade B will have achieved predominantly scores of 5 out of 6 on each linguistic criteria and 2 out of 3 for the clinical communication criteria.