OET 2020 Exam Pattern And Syllabus

Planning to take the OET exam? Here are some tips on how to prepare for the Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking tests. Also, see information on the latest OET exam pattern & syllabus.

By Dr Shyam Kumar  • 16 min read

OET 2020 Exam Pattern And Syllabus
English language test for healthcare professionals

Occupational English Test or OET is the English language test for medical and healthcare professionals.

The 12 healthcare professions included in the OET exam pattern are medicine, nursing, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, dentistry, optometry, podiatry, speech pathology, dietetics, pharmacy, radiography, and veterinary science.

The OET exam is accepted for skilled migration, student visas, registration with professional boards and councils as well as admission to leading healthcare courses in leading universities.

Major healthcare regulators in Australia, UK, Dubai, Ireland, New Zealand, Singapore, Namibia and Spain accept OET results as proof of English language proficiency.

OET exam pattern and OET syllabus

Having thorough knowledge about the OET Syllabus/OET Exam Pattern is essential for scoring well in the OET exam. 

OET 2020 Exam Pattern And Syllabus
OET exam pattern

The OET consists of four sub-tests – Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking.

1. OET Listening test

The OET Listening section has 3 parts with a total of 42 questions. The total duration for this section is approximately 45 minutes.

The OET Listening topics are related to general healthcare and the test is common for all healthcare professionals.

Candidates are assessed for listening skills such as identifying the main idea of the topic, the purpose of the topic or finding specific information.

OET 2020 Exam Pattern And Syllabus
A candidate undergoing OET Listening practice
  • Part A contains two recorded health professional-patient consultations, each about 5 minutes in duration. The candidate needs to listen to the recorded information and complete the health professional notes.
  • Part B contains six recorded extracts, each about 1 minute in duration. These extracts are taken from the healthcare workplace setting such as dialogues between a healthcare professional and a patient, team briefings and handovers. The candidate needs to answer one multiple choice question for each of the six extracts.
  • Part C contains two extracts, each about 5 minutes in duration. In this section, the candidate is assessed for the ability to understand a recorded presentation or an interview relating to a range of healthcare topics. The candidate needs to answer six multiple choice questions for each extract.

2. OET Reading test

The OET Reading section has 3 parts with a total of 42 questions. The total duration for this section is approximately 60 minutes.

The OET Reading topics are related to general healthcare and the test is common for all healthcare professionals.

Candidates are assessed for reading skills such as identifying the gist and purpose of the topic, comprehending complex phrases in the text, and locating specific information quickly by scanning and skimming through the content.

  • Part A involves an expeditious reading task where the candidate needs to go through four short extracts from a single healthcare topic. The candidate needs to answer 20 questions related to the texts within the test duration of 15 minutes.
  • In Part B, the candidate will be given six short text extracts (approximately 150 words) for careful reading which are likely sourced from a healthcare setting. These include hospital guidelines, emails, memos, policy documents or manuals. The candidate needs to answer one multiple choice question for each extract.
  • Part C involves a careful reading task where the candidate will be given two large extracts (approximately 800 words) relating to healthcare topics. The candidate must answer two multiple choice questions in this section.

The test duration for Part B and Part C combined is 45 minutes.

3. OET Writing test

The OET Writing section is a profession-specific test. The duration of the test is 45 minutes.

  • The OET writing task typically involves writing a letter. This can be a referral letter, a letter of transfer, a letter of discharge, a response to a complaint or advice for a patient.
  • The candidate will need to write a letter relating to her field of specialty. For instance, a speech therapist will have to write a letter specific to speech pathology.
  • The candidate is assessed for the following writing skills: conveying the purpose of the letter, inclusion of necessary content, clarity of presentation, conciseness, style, layout and language.

4. OET Speaking test

The OET Speaking section is a profession-specific test. The total duration of the test is 20 minutes.

OET 2020 Exam Pattern And Syllabus
Perform role-plays for OET Speaking practice
  • The test involves the candidate performing two role-plays, of 5 minutes duration each. The candidate is given 3 minutes to prepare for each role-play.
  • The OET Speaking topics are designed around the healthcare profession specific to each candidate and relate to real-life interactions in a healthcare setting.
  • The candidate needs to play her own professional role (for example, as a nurse or a doctor) with an interlocutor who acts as a patient, a bystander or a client.
  • The audio recording of the OET Speaking test is assessed for the following: clarity of speech, fluency, appropriateness of language, vocabulary choices and grammatical accuracy.

Grading procedure for OET results

The grading is done on a scale of 0—500 for each of the four sections. An OET score between 450 and 500 is awarded grade A, between 350 and 440 — grade B, between 300 and 340 — grade C+, between 200 and 290 — grade C, between 100 and 190 — grade D and between 0 and 90 — grade E.

OET preparation tips

For healthcare professionals appearing for the Occupational English Test (OET) exam, it is important to have a proper study plan in place.

For candidates with a reasonable proficiency in English, a two to three-month time period is enough for OET preparation. For candidates with below average English skills, preparation for OET exam should begin at least six months to one year in advance.

However, to achieve good grades in the OET test, enrolling in online OET coaching or relying on OET preparation courses is not enough. It is important to be aware of the OET Syllabus/OET Exam Pattern. The candidate must also take multiple OET practice tests to develop good listening skills, to enhance vocabulary and to improve fluency in English.

How to prepare for the OET exam

Here are some OET preparation tips to score a good grade in the OET test.

  • Even before registering for the OET test, candidates should decide if they need to enroll for OET online coaching or online training. This is important because some candidates may require help in building their English language skills and need more time to be ready for the exam.
  • For those who are confident enough to appear for the OET directly, it is best to prepare themselves by solving the numerous OET sample tests that are available online.
  • A wide variety of free OET writing samples, listening samples, reading material and OET speaking questions are available on the Internet. Candidates are advised to identify their weak areas and focus more on strengthening these portions by making use of these OET preparation materials.
  • Timing themselves while doing the OET mock tests to prepare well for the actual exam is very important.

Here are more OET preparation tips specific for each section.

OET Listening tips

  • The candidate should practise listening to a wide variety of speeches by speakers with different accents, specifically British, Australian and American.
  • The candidate needs to strengthen his ability to understand the context of various speeches by listening to television and radio programs or podcasts.
  • In Part A of the Listening test, the candidate can hear the recording only once. Hence, it is important to note down the answers correctly while listening to the recording and re-check them at the end of the test.
  • In Parts B and C of the Listening test, it is important to interpret the main idea of the spoken topic to answer the multiple-choice questions. A quick review of the question booklet during pauses in the audio will be helpful in choosing the right answers.
  • The candidate should ensure that the question booklet is filled in correctly as both these sections are computer marked. A 2B pencil should be used to shade the circle indicating the correct option.

OET Reading tips

OET 2020 Exam Pattern And Syllabus
For OET Reading, practise fast reading skills
  • To develop good reading skills, candidates can practise reading a wide variety of textbooks, especially literature relevant to their professional expertise. OET Reading material for practice can also include science magazines, scientific journals and health magazines.
  • The candidate must practise fast reading strategies such as scanning and skimming through the content to search for particular information and to identify specific keywords. This is helpful in dealing with Part A of the OET Reading section which is an expeditious reading task.
  • For Part A, it should be ensured that all the answers are entered in the answer booklet with the correct spelling.
  • Part B of the OET Reading test involves careful reading. The candidate should try reading the questions first and then read the passage. He should highlight portions of the text which are important in relation to the questions.
  • For Part C, he should practise reading one paragraph at a time. It is important to try to understand the main idea and context of the given content. Generally, the questions will be around identifying the writer’s opinion. The candidate should practise summarising the whole paragraph in one or two lines.
  • During the test, if the candidate encounters difficulty in understanding a word, it is best not to panic. He should look at the other words around it, understand the context and try figuring out the meaning.
  • For Parts B and C, the candidate should ensure that the question booklet is filled in correctly as both these sections are computer marked. A 2B pencil should be used to shade the circle indicating the correct option.

OET Writing tips

OET 2020 Exam Pattern And Syllabus
Practise letter writing
  • The OET Writing test involves a letter writing task, the context of which is based on the candidate’s field of speciality. The candidate can go through a variety of OET writing samples, OET writing questions and related practice materials to score well in this sub-section.
  • The candidate must practise writing as many letters as possible. The goal is to produce an effective letter which is appropriate for the given situation and effectively communicates the necessary information to the reader.
  • The candidate has to plan the letter well after going through the case notes. The letter should have a proper structure. It should contain all the information that needs to be presented in an organised, clear and concise manner.
  • It is advisable to stick to the given word limit to save time. Only as much as required should be written without omitting any important information.
  • Candidates need to ensure that they have enough time to proofread what they have written to avoid any grammar, spelling and punctuation errors.

OET Speaking tips

  • The OET Speaking questions are specific to the healthcare profession of each candidate. The candidate will be asked to perform two role-plays pertaining to her job role.
  • She should go through various online OET Speaking materials to understand what to expect for the actual OET Speaking test.
  • Listening to a variety of English programs such as interviews, podcast episodes and news, and trying to mimic the speech will help. This exercise will help the candidate to improve her vocabulary as well as help with the pronunciation.
  • Some candidates benefit from listening to their own voice recordings, identifying the weaknesses, and improving upon the diction and fluency with repeated practice.
  • Practising role-play using online OET speaking material based on OET format specific to the candidate’s healthcare professional role will also help.
  • The candidate must make use of the preparation time of 3 minutes to plan and organise what to speak during the role-play session.
  • She should be composed and confident during the OET speaking test. Speaking clearly and effectively while listening and responding appropriately to the interlocutor is important. The candidate must enact the role-play as if it were a real-life interaction in a healthcare setting.

It is possible to score well in the OET exam if the candidate has a thorough knowledge about the OET pattern and syllabus, and the smart ways to approach each of the different sections. So, we recommend that the candidate makes use of all the preparation tips given above to ensure success in her attempt at cracking the OET test. All the very best!

About the author:

Written by Dr Shyam Kumar on 24 April 2020

The author holds a degree in Homoeopathy with an MBA in Hospital Management and has worked across multiple disciplines including healthcare and technology. As a nature lover, he attended the world's first underwater CEO's conference to combat marine pollution.

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