If patient safety is your prime concern then you need to have a mutual language to fully understand them. And if you are thinking of a prospective job in an English speaking country, then the language you need to master is English. Not the commonplace one, but healthcare-specific English. And no English language test can do it better than the Occupational English Test (OET). Planning to get your preparation started?
Since the OET tests English proficiency in four areas: Listening, Reading, Speaking and Writing, it’s important to give special attention to each.
Here you go! I’ve picked some tips and tricks for each of the four sessions of the OET exams.
1. OET Listening
How to prepare?
Listening to podcasts on BBC, long-form interviews, extended monologues will give a thorough idea of different accents and cue words used. After listening, you can also practice writing down what you recall from the recordings. You can also access Tips to follow during the listening subtest: OET Training to get a wealth of resources to practice with.
You might know that the OET Listening subtest is divided into three parts, A, B and C.
In part A you will be asked to identify specific information from two extracts, which are usually consultations. The question type is gap filling. So, how do you make a maximum score in PART A?
- Before the recording starts you are given 30 seconds to read through the notes, make wise use of this time
- Underline the important words in the notes given. Focus on the recording to locate where these words appear to find answers easily.
- Pay attention to the headings of each note carefully.
- Save time by filling the gaps with the same words as in the recording
PART B consists of 6 short recordings which can be monologues or dialogues. There is a time gap of 15 seconds between each recording. During this short period, try to grasp the speaker’s profession and who the speaker is addressing to.
- Since you are asked to pick from the three answer options, you can do this easily by striking out the option that has never been mentioned in the recording (elimination method)
PART C of listening is seen as the trickiest of the lot as it includes presentations or an interview between two people.
- If it is an interview, focus on the questions asked by the interviewer as it is likely to have a strong match with the questions you will have to answer
- If it is a presentation, you can navigate the answers by listening closely for cue words like-first, second, now, next etc.
2. OET Reading
How to prepare?
Practice reading healthcare-oriented texts like the British Medical Journal or health-related topics from E-newsletters. You can also benefit from reading out of context materials like current affairs or academic articles.
Tips to follow during the Reading Sub-test
For PART A, you only have a time limit of 15 minutes to quickly read through 4 extracts. Want to stick to the time? Read the steps below:
- Read the questions before reading the extracts.
- If there is an index page, go through it to locate the chapter in which you may find the answer.
- Try finding first the answers to questions that ask you about dates, numbers, names of countries or people.
In PART B, you will be asked to figure out the key idea of a paragraph or from the multiple-choice question
- Remember that the question and answers follow the same order. The first answer is likely to be hidden in the beginning and likewise.
- Sometimes you may have to look for the synonym of words in the question to find the right answers from the passage.
- If a text incorporates two or more ideas, try to find the one that’s repeatedly discussed.
Scoring in PART C is all about understanding the writer’s stand on the topic. To do this easily, you can try making out the meaning of the text in your own language.
3. OET Writing
How to prepare?
OET writing test is primarily a test on letter writing- referral letter, letter of transfer or letter of discharge. To pick up speed in writing letters you can practice by writing on any topic of your choice. Try jotting down all your thoughts on anything in a paper with a set timing. Gradually move to write in a letter format.
Tips to follow during the Writing Sub-test
Every letter has a case note. Your job is to study them and transform them into meaningful sentences. The problem with case notes is that they aren’t in full sentences, so it might be challenging in the first glance.
- Case notes contain abbreviations like PHx (patient history), BMI (Body Mass Index), pt (patient). Therefore, you must understand and expand them in your letter.
- Take care to include only the relevant information in your letter. Stick to the word limit of 300 words.
- Structure your letter perfectly with a beginning, middle and end.
4. OET Speaking
How to prepare?
In the OET Speaking test, you are to role-play your specific profession while the interlocutor acts as the patient or bystander. Practice by talking in front of the mirror imagining you are in an OET exam. Focus on your expressions and gestures as well as improve your fluency while speaking.
Tips to follow during the Speaking Sub-test
- Always begin the conversation instead of waiting for the interlocutor. Remember you are the healthcare professional in charge of the situation.
- Continue the conversation by attending to the patient’s tasks one by one.
- You must also make it a point to listen and give time to the patient to speak.
- Modulate your tone depending on the type of patient- depressed old man or a stubborn teenager.
Now that I’ve covered all the strategies to keep in mind while giving your OET exams, it’s time to ask yourself a few questions.
How good am I at English? Which of these areas need improvement? Answering these questions will help you better understand your weakness and implement the above steps for success.