Structure of the OET Writing Section

Instructor: Bill Sands
The Writing section of the Occupational English Test consists of a single task in which test-takers must compose a letter. Read on for an explanation of this section's structure and scoring system.

OET Writing Section

The Writing portion, much like certain other portions of the Occupational English Test (OET), is specifically tailored to suit those working in specific healthcare professions, including veterinary science, nursing, dentistry, and more. Despite the unique content, this part of the exam is always structured in the same manner. Candidates will have 45 minutes to compose a professional letter.


Unlike other sections of the OET, the writing stage only has one task. The goal of the Writing section is to mimic a real-world situation and gauge a candidate's ability to respond to typical workplace scenarios.

In most cases, candidates are tasked with composing a referral letter for a patient. The form of the letter changes on occasion and can also be a letter of transfer or a letter providing advice to a patient or caregiver. Candidates will also be supplied with stimulus material such as case notes or any other relevant documentation. This information is meant to act as a guide and should be incorporated into a candidate's response.

Responses should be between 180-200 words. There is no penalty for exceeding or failing to meet this limit, but answers shorter than 180 words likely do not contain enough information and answers longer than 200 words often contain superfluous information.

Before beginning the letter, candidates will have five minutes to read the instructions and case notes and organize their thoughts. This planning stage is included in the testing period, meaning candidates have 40 minutes to write their response.


The writing portion of the OET awards grades from A (best) to E (worst). As this part of the exam deals with more subjective subject matter, exams are graded by a pair of examiners to ensure consistency and accuracy. Examiners grade using a detailed guide that monitors the following criteria:

  • Overall Task Fulfillment
  • Appropriateness of Language
  • Comprehension of Stimulus
  • Linguistic Features (grammar and cohesion)
  • Presentation Features (spelling, punctuation, layout)

In the event that the two assessors award different scores, a more senior examiner will review the test in question and provide a final grade.

Passing Standards

OET test administrators have not given the exam a formal passing standard. Instead, a candidate's fate rests in the hands of the respective councils and boards for each profession. The OET does mention that a grade of B or better is usually required to pass the exam, but you should consult your own board or council to confirm what will be expected of you. Earning a B on the Writing section requires a candidate to score high marks on each of the five criteria mentioned above.

Preparing for the OET has several valuable study resources to help you get ready to take the OET. These self-paced courses contain informative videos and self-checking quizzes that you can use to monitor your progress and confirm your preparedness.

First and foremost, this OET Study Guide & Practice course contains an extensive overview of the entire test, with chapters devoted to the Writing section and the three other major portions of the exam.

You'll need excellent grammar skills to pass the OET, and this English Grammar Rules course is an excellent way to solidify your grasp of essential concepts.

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