In order to accurately gauge a candidate’s skills and knowledge, the OET is broken down into four subsections focusing on different language skills. These four areas (and the amount of time a candidate will have to complete them) are as follows:
- Listening (about 50 minutes)
- Reading (60 minutes)
- Writing (45 minutes)
- Speaking (about 20 minutes)
The listening section is divided into two parts. In Part A(20-25 minutes), candidates will listen to a mock conversation between a professional and a patient and then take notes on the interaction. For Part B(20-25minutes), candidates will hear a single person delivering a monologue or lecture. Candidates will then be asked questions (in the form of multiple-choice and short answer) about the content of the lecture.
The reading test is also comprised of two parts. Part A last only 15 minutes for summary task and requires candidates to quickly browse a series of short texts (usually three or four passages). Then, candidates will be shown a paragraph summarizing the text, which will have words omitted. Using their knowledge of the texts, candidates must fill in these blanks.
Part B (45 minutes) for multiple choice questions is significantly lengthier and lasts 45 minutes. Candidates will be required to read a pair of excerpts concerning any one of a number of general healthcare topics, and then respond to several multiple-choice questions about each of the texts.
- The writing section is essentially a simulation of a professional encounter specific to a particular profession. Candidates will have 45 minutes to compose a piece of professional correspondence. This usually takes the form of a letter of referral, but other tasks may include a letter of discharge or professional advice. 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 task is to write a letter, usually a referral letter. Sometimes a different type of letter is required: e.g. a letter of transfer or discharge, or a letter to advise or inform a patient, carer, or group.
- 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.
The speaking test is conducted with the help of an interviewer. Candidates begin by providing a brief summary of their professional background before moving on to the role-play section. The role-play scenarios for this section are based on standard conversations and interactions that occur in each profession. For example, an interviewer in the veterinary science profession will assume the role of an animal owner, and candidates will need to demonstrate a mix of interpersonal skills and professional knowledge in dealing with these situations.
- The Speaking sub-test is delivered individually and takes around 20 minutes.
You take this part of OET using materials specifically for your profession. In each role-play, you take your professional role (e.g. as a nurse) while the interlocutor plays a patient/client or sometimes a patient’s relative or career.