The Occupational English Test (also known as OET) is a well-respected international English language test for healthcare professionals. Since 2013, OET has been owned by Cambridge Boxhill Language Assessment, a venture between Cambridge Assessment English and Box Hill Institute.
By Jake Delatolas-Saveris
OET tests all 4 English language skills for healthcare, based on workplace scenarios and is available for the following 12 professions: dentistry, dietetics, medicine, nursing, occupational therapy, optometry, pharmacy, physiotherapy, podiatry, radiography, speech pathology, and veterinary science.
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. Each recognizing organization determines which grade results mean that candidates meet the language competency standards to function in their profession.
Currently, OET is available in three different delivery modes. OET on Paper at a Test Venue, OET on Computer at a Test Venue, and OET at Home. The test tasks, format, and level of difficulty are the same for all the OET tests irrespective of the mode of exam delivery.
OET Exam Pattern
OET comprises four sub-tests that provide a valid and reliable assessment of all four language skills with an emphasis on communication in medical and health professional settings.
The Reading sub-test consists of three parts and a total of 42 question items. All three parts take a total of 60 minutes to complete. The topics are of generic healthcare interest and are therefore accessible to candidates across all professions.
The Writing sub-test takes 45 minutes and is profession-specific. 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 Listening sub-test consists of three parts, and a total of 42 question items. The topics are of generic healthcare interest and accessible to candidates across all professions. The total length of the Listening audio is about 40 minutes, including recorded speech and pauses to allow candidates time to write their answers. Each recording is heard once and candidates are expected to write their answers while listening.
The Speaking sub-test is delivered individually, takes around 20 minutes, and starts with a short warm-up conversation about the candidate’s professional background. Then two role-plays are introduced one by one, and the candidate has three minutes to prepare for each. The role-plays take about five minutes each, are based on typical workplace situations and reflect the demands made on a health professional in those situations. Different role-plays are used for different candidates at the same test administration. The whole Speaking sub-test is recorded and it is this audio recording that is assessed.