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Which English test should a nurse take?

OET nurse working overseas with visa

If you’re asking which English test should a nurse take? It is easy to decide, a nurse should take OET. It is designed for nurses and uses language and tasks taken from nursing to assess their English skills.


Taking an English test is an essential step for nurses looking to work in an English-speaking environment, like the UK’s National Health Service (NHS).

If you’re a nurse, taking OET can make a big difference on test day. Why? Because it’s the only global English test specifically developed for nurses

There are general English tests available. But only a healthcare-specific English test uses nursing and healthcare language, tasks and activities to assess your English skills.

Let us look at what an English test is, whether you need to take one and why OET is the English test best suited for nurses.

What is an English test?

An English test is a series of questions and tasks that assess your English language ability. Typically, they look at four skills (Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking). You then get a score that is benchmarked to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).

OET, for example uses, both a letter (A-E) and a numerical (0-500) to score your performance in each of the four skills.

Some general English tests use bands while others use points. Each is connected to the CEFR, which helps healthcare regulators understand a test-takers level of English.

Why do I need to take an English test?

Overseas-trained nurses need to take an English test to prove they have the required level of English to work safely in an English-speaking environment.

Nursing regulators around the world set the English level required to register and work in that country. In the UK for example, the Nursing and Midwifery Council set specific grades for each of the English tests. In Australia, the standards are set by the Nursing and Midwifery Board.

OET Nurse In the UK

Which English test should a nurse take?

OET, on the other hand, is specifically designed for nurses. It allows nurses to prove their English skills and work and live in an English-speaking environment. OET uses language taken from healthcare workplaces, like hospitals and clinics, to test each of the four English skills.

Most general or academic tests are not suited for nurses. However, they can be useful for non-nursing students looking to study abroad.

Let’s look at three examples of where a healthcare-specific test is better for nurses than a general or academic test.

1. OET uses nursing language

As OET is designed for nurses, the language used throughout the test is drawn from the field of nursing and medicine more generally.

During the Listening sub-test, for example, you listen to and follow health-related material, which can include consultations between patients and nurses.

In a general or academic speaking test, you will be required to listen to audio segments that have nothing to do with nursing or healthcare.

You might have to listen to a lecture on political science or a random conversation between friends.

2. Role-play as a nurse in OET

Another example of where OET is a better choice for nurses is the Speaking sub-test.

A nurse sitting the test will role-play as a nurse and is assessed on their ability to accurately communicate with an interlocutor playing a patient. The test reflects real-life consultations and meetings nurses participate in every week.

If we look at other English tests, their speaking tests force nurses to speak for 15 minutes about random topics. Some topics include the type of accommodation you live in, why you think bicycles are better than cars or how values in society have changed.

OET does not force nurses to talk about non-healthcare topics and instead uses real nursing scenarios to test your English.

3. Write a letter for nurses in OET

Nurses who take the OET Writing sub-test are assessed on their ability to write a referral letter or a discharge letter.

When a nurse takes OET, they receive a set of case notes that cover a patient’s medical history, background and reasons for admission. Nurses are then asked to complete a writing task based on the case notes.

Writing tasks are based on real situations nurses encounter every day. For example, writing a letter to a senior nurse at a nursing home, who will be responsible for the patient’s continued care at the nursing home.

General and academic tests are great for students and other professionals like engineers and teachers. However, when it comes to nurses, OET is the only English test that assesses your English using everyday nursing tasks.

Find out more by downloading the full guide to working overseas as a nurse. In it, you will find everything you need to know about working overseas as a nurse and how OET can get you there.