Strategies for the OET Reading Section

Instructor: Ivy Roberts

Ivy Roberts is an adjunct instructor in English, film/media studies and interdisciplinary studies.

In this lesson, you will practice important skills that will prepare you to take the reading section on the OET (Occupational English Test). You will learn about extensive and intensive reading strategies, and how to comprehend reading passages.

Practice for the Occupational English Test

OET stands for the Occupational English Test, an exam required for healthcare professionals. If English is your second language, successfully completing the OET will prove to potential employers and your peers that you know how to communicate effectively in English. For professionals in dentistry, nursing, and medical practitioners in a variety of fields, the OET can be more than just a required benchmark. Preparing to take the test will help you develop important skills that you will continue to practice throughout the rest of your life in the English-speaking world.

What's On the Reading Section?

The reading section of the OET is arranged in two Parts. Part A is a summary completion task. You will have 15 minutes to read 3-4 passages and fill in the blanks of a summary of the data presented. Part A assesses your ability to skim and scan a reading passage in order to quickly synthesize information in written English. The passages will all be related to a single topic, so you will have to identify that topic, as well as main ideas, keywords, and document types.

Part B tests your ability to read closely and comprehend written English. You will have 45 minutes to read 2 passages and answer 16-20 multiple choice questions about the content. In Part B, you will be asked questions about the explicit (apparent) and implicit (applied) meaning in a reading passage. More in-depth than the first reading section, Part B requires close reading and analysis of the purpose of a text and the relationship between ideas.

Part A: Strategies for Summary Completion

In Part A, you will only have 15 minutes to complete the task. Use your time wisely by using the rapid reading technique. When skimming and scanning a passage, you don't read every word. You don't need to comprehend the underlying meaning or intention of the author. All you need to do is identify the topic, main idea, and keywords. Here's the tricky part: the 3-4 passages are written in the style of different kinds medical tests. These include statistical information, Q&A, informative/descriptive, and case study.

This passage is an example of a case study:

Suicide prevention in schools, a case study
Jenny is a sophomore at Central High. She has been having suicidal thoughts for the past week. She has been afraid of discussing her situation with her peers, teachers, or family. In fifth period, Jenny breaks down crying in class and races to the bathroom. Her English teacher, Miss Tate, asks the class to begin preparing their next assignment while she follows Jenny to the bathroom. Using positive reinforcement and life affirming statements, Miss Tate comforts Jenny, and convinces her that she is in a caring and supportive environment.

To fill in the gaps of the corresponding question, you should locate the main idea of the passage and important keywords. First, you should be able to identify the type of document: a case study. Second, identify the topic: suicide prevention in teens. Both of these facts are listed in the heading.

A corresponding text might be offered in the form of a Q&A. For example:

FAQ: Young Adults and Suicide Prevention
Q: As a high school teacher, what measures can I take to identify and intervene with students at risk of committing suicide?
A: The first step is to recognize signs of suicidal ideation. Pay attention to body language, facial expression, and other indications of depression or mood imbalance. Second, reinforce a safe and supportive school environment. Post signs designating your classroom as a no-judgment zone (or 'safe zone'). Make it clear to your students that you are willing to discuss sensitive issues, and that all information is confidential. Third, when discussing sensitive topics with students, listen without judgment. When approaching a student in emotional distress, maintain a non-confrontational demeanor. In the event that you suspect a student is in danger of harming themselves or others, make resources available such as the number for a crisis hotline, contact information for school counseling, and emergency contacts.

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