The Occupational English Test (also known as OET) is an international English language test for the healthcare sector. It assesses the language communication skills of healthcare professionals who wish to register and practice in an English-speaking environment.
OET is available for the following 12 professions: dentistry, dietetics, medicine, nursing, occupational therapy, optometry, pharmacy, physiotherapy, podiatry, radiography, speech pathology, and veterinary science.
OET is recognized by regulatory healthcare bodies and councils in Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore. Many organizations, including hospitals, universities, and colleges, are using OET as proof of a candidate’s ability to communicate effectively in a demanding healthcare environment. In addition, OET is recognized by the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection for several visa categories, including work and student visas. Each recognizing organisation determines which grade results mean that candidates meet the language competency standards to function in their profession.
OET provides a valid and reliable assessment of all four language skills—listening, reading, writing, and speaking—with an emphasis on communication in medical and health professional settings. OET consists of four sub-tests:
The listening test consists of two parts. In Part A, candidates listen to a simulated consultation (dialogue) between a professional and a patient and are required to take notes under headings. In Part B, candidates listen to a health professional give a short talk on a health-related topic and are required to complete a range of open-ended and fixed-choice questions.
The reading test consists of two parts. In Part A, lasting 15 minutes, candidates are asked to skim read 3 or 4 short texts and complete a summary paragraph by filling in the missing words. It is designed to test the reader’s ability to scan texts within a time limit, source information from multiple texts, and synthesize information. In Part B, lasting 45 minutes, candidates are asked to read two passages on a general healthcare topic and answer 8–10 multiple-choice questions for each text. It is designed to test the reader’s ability to read and comprehend longer texts.
The writing paper asks candidates to write a letter, usually a letter of referral. For some professions, a different type of letter is required, e.g., a letter of transfer or discharge or a letter to advise a patient, carer, or group. Candidates are given case notes, which must be included in their letters.
The speaking test is in the form of one-on-one conversations with an interlocutor. It starts with a short warm-up interview about the candidate’s professional background. This is followed by two role plays. Candidates have 2–3 minutes to prepare for each role-play. Role plays last about five minutes and is based on typical interactions between health professionals and patients. The candidate adopts their usual professional role (e.g., as a nurse), and the interviewer plays a patient or sometimes a relative or carer. In veterinary science, the interviewer is the owner or caretaker of the animal.
Each of the four sub-tests that make up OET is graded from A to E, where A is the highest grade and E is the lowest. There is no overall grade.
Description Of Ability
OET is available up to 12 times a year and can be taken at test venues around the world. Results are published online approximately 16 business days after the test. Official statements of results are sent out in the mail following the release of online results. There is no overall grade; candidates receive separate grades for each sub-test. Most recognizing organizations require candidates to have at least a B grade in each of the four sub-tests and recognize results as valid for up to two years. Most recognized organizations also require that candidates achieve the requisite grades for each sub-test in one sitting. However, candidates should check with the organization that regulates their profession to confirm current requirements.