OET Structure & Scoring

Instructor: Bill Sands
The Occupational English Test is divided into four subtests, each of which focuses on a specific area. Read on to learn more about these sections and find out how the exam is scored.

OET Structure

Though the OET features 12 unique specializations devoted to different healthcare professions, the exam is scored and structured in the exact same manner across all variations.

The test is broken down into four sections: Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking.


The Listening section lasts 50 minutes and consists of two separate parts. Part A requires candidates to listen to a conversation between a patient and a healthcare professional, and then use the provided headings to take appropriate notes.

Part B features a monologue or lecture delivered by a single person. Candidates will listen to this audio and then answer questions about the information contained in the speech. Question types range from multiple-choice and short-answer to sentence- and table-completion.


The 60-minute Reading test is also split into two sections. Part A features a collection of three or four short passages that candidates must read quickly. (This subsection only lasts 15 minutes). Candidates will also encounter a summation of the text with key words removed. They will need to fill in these gaps using the information they gleaned from the passages.

Part B consists of two complete texts that pertain to typical healthcare topics. Candidates will be expected to read these passages and answer a series of multiple-choice questions about them.


The Writing section assesses a candidate's ability to draft materials that satisfy the stylistic requirements of professional communication. Candidates will be asked to write a letter. This is typically a referral letter, but can also be a letter of transfer or discharge. Candidates are given 45 minutes to complete this task.


During the 20-minute Speaking section, an interlocutor will conduct an interview and act in a role-playing scenario with the candidate. The session begins with the interviewer asking the candidate to describe his or her professional background. The focus of the task then shifts to a mock situation, wherein candidates must demonstrate their interpersonal skills. Though the exact scenarios frequently change, the roles of the candidate and interlocutor do not. The candidate will always assume the role of the professional, while the interviewer will always be the patient or someone related to the patient.

OET Scoring

All four sections of the OET are weighted evenly when it comes to grading in that no one section is worth more than another. You will receive a score ranging from A to E for each one.

Listening and Reading

For the Listening and Reading sections, the question formats allow answers to be scored as correct or incorrect. This makes for relatively easy scoring, as raters can simply measure the percentage or raw number of correct answers when determining a candidate's score.

Writing and Speaking

The Writing and Speaking sections, however, deal with more subjective content and do not necessarily have a single correct answer. Candidates' responses will be evaluated by two or more trained assessors, and in the event that these raters do not issue the same score, an additional (and more senior) member will be brought in to examine the results.

For the Writing section, candidates are scored based on their ability to write a letter that fulfills the given assignment, is grammatically correct and uses the proper punctuation, spelling, formatting and word choice.

For the Speaking section, assessors evaluate the effectiveness and appropriateness of candidates' responses as well as their fluency, intelligibility and grammar use.

Passing Scores

Passing scores for the OET are not established by those who proctor the test. Passing standards are instead generated by councils and boards of each respective field. The OET organization does mention that a 'B' on each subtest is usually the minimum passing standard, but this is not official and is subject to change based on a candidate's specialization.

Preparing for the OET

If you intend to sit for the OET, Study.com publishes this OET Study Guide & Practice course that is an invaluable resource for test candidates. This self-paced, comprehensive guide includes over 50 lessons and contains several quizzes to help you get ready for the exam.

This English Grammar Rules course could also prove useful if you'd like to brush up on your grammar skills and improve your scores in this area.

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