Taking the Writing Test

45 minutes

About the Writing sub-test

The Writing sub-test takes 45 minutes and is profession-specific. There is one task set for each profession based on a typical workplace situation and the demands of the profession – a nurse does the task for nursing, a dentist does the task for dentistry, and so on.

The Writing sub-test structure

  • The task is to write a letter, usually a referral letter. Some alternative letter types are a letter of transfer and a letter of discharge. A letter to advise or inform a patient, carer or group is sometimes used in Pharmacy, Veterinary Science and occasionally for Speech Pathology and Occupational Therapy. Another task variation, with a different focus, is a written response to a complaint (for Radiography).
  • Along with the task instructions, you will receive stimulus material (case notes and/or other related documentation) which includes information to use in your response.

How is writing ability assessed in OET?

Your performance on the Writing sub-test is marked independently by a minimum of two trained Assessors. Neither Assessor knows what scores the other has given you, or what scores you have achieved in any of the other sub-tests.

Your performance is scored against six criteria and receives a band score for each criterion:

  • Purpose (Whether the purpose of the letter is immediately apparent to the reader and sufficiently expanded in the course of the letter)
  • Content (Whether all the necessary information is included and accurate for the reader)
  • Conciseness & Clarity (Whether unnecessary information is omitted so that the letter is an effective summary for the reader)
  • Genre & Style (Whether the register, tone and use of abbreviations are appropriate for the reader)
  • Organisation & Layout (Whether the letter is organised and well laid out for the reader)
  • Language (Whether the accuracy of the grammar, vocabulary, spelling and punctuation communicates the necessary information to the reader)
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Tips on how to approach the writing task.

How you approach the writing task throughout your preparation will help you perform at your best during the test and in the workplace.

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Writing FAQs

Is it important to read the case notes and plan my response?

In order to perform to the best of your ability on the Writing task, it is important to understand the task and the case notes and to plan your response so you can select the information only relevant to the reader. The five minutes of reading time at the start of the Writing sub-test is an opportunity for you to do this.

Tasks for the Writing sub-test are designed so that the remaining 40 minutes is enough time for you to write a response of the required length and to check over what you have written. You can consult the task and the case notes at any point during the 40 minutes allocated for writing, not just during the reading time.

Why is the Writing sub-test in this format?

Although work is now mainly done on a computer, most medical professionals still have to prepare letters as part of their regular practice. The writing task, taken directly from the workplace context, requires you to select and organise relevant information and present it in a clear, accurate form that is appropriate for the intended reader. Preparing such a letter with only limited time is a reality for practising professionals.

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

Spelling, along with punctuation and grammar, is one of the aspects included under Langauage. Language is one of the six assessment criteria for the Writing sub-test. Any spelling mistakes you make will be taken account of in your score for Language.

What happens if I write too many/too few words in the Writing sub-test?

There is no automatic penalty for writing over or under the word range for the task (180 – 200 words). However, each task is designed to be achievable within that word range. If you have written significantly more, it is likely that you have included irrelevant material or your letter is not well organised. If you have written significantly less, you may have misunderstood the task and/or the case notes, or missed out important information. In either case, your scores for the six assessment criteria for Writing will reflect any weaknesses in those areas.

How should I address the intended reader of the letter?

You should use the title and address details specified in the task instructions.

What layout do I use? Where do I write the date and address?

A number of different formats are accepted by health professionals in different local contexts. There is, therefore, no single particular format that you have to use in your response in the OET Writing sub-test. It is important that your letter is clearly laid out and appropriate for the particular task but there is no set OET layout or template that you have to use.

Can I use capitals in the Writing sub-test?

Yes, you may use capital letters in the Writing sub-test where appropriate, for example in abbreviations or headings if you use them.

What scores on the level descriptors do I need to reach on the writing test?

You should aim to achieve the highest level in the descriptors for each criterion. Test-takers securing grade B will have achieved predominantly scores of 2 out of 3 for Purpose and 5 out of 7 for the remaining criteria.

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