What the experts are saying about acceptance of OET in the UK for doctors
Academic Ceri Butler explains why OET is a better measure of a doctor’s ability than an academic English test
In a recent British Medical Journal interview about the acceptance of OET by the General Medical Council, Ceri Butler said: “My gut instinct is that having a test like OET, which is based on a clinical setting, is a better measure of a doctor’s ability than an academic English test”.
OET interviewed Butler to find out more.
A Senior Teaching Fellow in Medical Education at University College London until 2017, Butler has researched and worked with international healthcare professionals since undertaking an MSc in Public Policy Research in 2001.
She said: “I completed my thesis on the role played by international nurses in the NHS and one of my tutors introduced me to a community group helping refugee and asylum-seeking healthcare professionals”.
Currently a doctoral student focusing on research into the integration of refugee healthcare professionals into host countries, Butler has been involved with the British Medical Association’s Refugee Doctor Steering Group, and also worked with NHS Employers to establish the Building Bridges project, which still delivers support to refugee healthcare professionals in London.
Butler explained: “Working for 11 years at the UCL Medical School allowed me to cement my experiences and research with refugee international medical graduates, and also consider the broader implications in terms of health services and medical education”.
Asked about the barriers refugee doctors face when applying for registration in the UK, Butler stressed that the longer individuals are away from their profession, the more challenging it can be for them to return to working as a doctor, and for many the English test is a significant and time-consuming hurdle.
Until OET was accepted in the UK, the only option available to international medical graduates was an academic English test. Butler says that many doctors find general English writing tests difficult to pass because they can be on any subject and involve essay writing skills, which many doctors find difficult, even those trained in the UK.
Butler continued: “The approach taken by OET to embed each of the tests within a relatable clinical context, using clinical terminology and abbreviations, can only be a good thing. Writing a patient referral letter in the OET Writing test is far more achievable and relevant than writing a short essay on a topic they have limited or no knowledge of.”
“My hope is that OET will allow prospective healthcare professionals the opportunity to learn English in a much more holistic, relevant and relatable setting,” she concluded.
Senior UK doctors give tick of approval to OET
In 2017, senior UK doctors carried out a detailed review of OET test materials, to assess suitability of the test to medical practice in the UK. The doctors assessed OET’s online preparation course and practice books for medicine, examining all four subtests. Their comprehensive reports suggested some improvements, such as use of medication names that are common to all countries, for example. However, their overall conclusion was very positive.
Professor Martyn Partridge MD FRCP, Professor of Respiratory Medicine and Patient-Centred Care, National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College London said:
“The test materials have been produced to an extremely high standard, are authentic and valid, and highly relevant to day-to-day practice in the United Kingdom. The clinical materials covered everything from temporal arteritis to uterine prolapse, the use of soya to stuttering, osteopathy to measles, and cognitive behavioural therapy to smoking cessation. The consultations were in the main excellent, relevant and wide ranging”.
Alistair Flowerdew MBBS, FRCSEd, MS, former Medical Director and Responsible Officer of three NHS Trusts said:
“The OET test is a comprehensive and testing exam… I would feel confident as an employer of overseas doctors with a satisfactory OET English language result.”