Structure of the OET Speaking Section

Instructor: Bill Sands
The Speaking section of the Occupational English Test consists of a series of conversations with a test examiner. Read on to learn more about these interactions and how they are graded.

OET Speaking Test Structure

The Speaking portion of the Occupational English Test consists of two tasks. In each task, candidates engage in a role-playing scenario designed to mimic patient interactions that healthcare professionals routinely encounter. This section usually lasts 20 minutes.

Task Descriptions

The Speaking section begins with the interviewer asking the candidate to describe his or her professional background. The interviewer then introduces one of the role-playing situations.

Candidates will receive a note card with information relevant to the situation and an explanation of what will be expected of them. They will have 2-3 minutes to prepare for each of the situations, and each role-play lasts five minutes.

Though the exact scenarios vary between candidates, the structure of the script will be similar and the candidate will always take on the part of the professional. The interviewer will play the part of the patient or, in some instances, a relation or caretaker of the patient.

Scoring

Unlike the Reading and Listening sections that include multiple-choice and sentence completion problems with right and wrong answers, the Speaking section contains more subjective content. In order to ensure a fair and consistent grading policy, the OET has a number of policies in place.

Candidates' responses for each scenario are recorded and evaluated by at least two trained examiners. These raters follow a detailed scoring system that judges a candidate's performance according to five criteria, including their overall ability to respond to the task in addition to the fluency and intelligibility of their speech, the appropriateness of their responses and their command of English grammar.

Should these two examiners award different scores, an additional examiner will be called in to grade the test and issue a final score.

Keep in mind that candidates receive scores based on their communication skills, not their professional knowledge. Errors or mistakes relating to a candidate's knowledge of the healthcare sector will not hurt the overall score.

Minimum Passing Standards

For the Speaking section of the OET, candidates receive a grade ranging from A (best) to E (worst). In order to get a B, they'll need to perform well on each of the five criteria.

OET test administrators do not assign a passing grade to the test. Whether or not a candidate passes is determined by the standards set by each profession's councils and boards. In general, candidates who earn a B or better in each of the four sections will pass the exam, although this may not always be the case.

Preparing for the OET

If you're getting ready to take the OET, you might want to consider consulting the many resources available on Study.com.

This OET Study Guide & Practice course provides a comprehensive review of not just the Speaking section, but the entire test via short video lessons and quizzes you can use to track your progress.

You can also use this English Grammar Rules course to brush up on your grammar skills and ensure that you have a solid foundation in such areas as proper sentence structure and word usage rules when it's time to take the test.

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