What Is the OET?

Instructor: Bill Sands
The Occupational English Test gauges the English language skills of aspiring healthcare professionals who wish to work in an English-speaking environment. Keep reading for an overview of this test's format and scoring system.

What is the OET?

OET stands for the Occupational English Test. It is an internationally-recognized English language test for aspiring healthcare professionals who are looking to practice in a region where English is the primary language.

The OET features 12 specializations, each of which corresponds to a specific profession: podiatry, dentistry, speech pathology, optometry, dietetics, nursing, medicine, occupational therapy, pharmacy, physiotherapy, radiography, and veterinary science.

Test Format

In order to accurately gauge a candidate's skills and knowledge, the OET is broken down into four subsections focusing on different language skills. These four areas (and the amount of time a candidate will have to complete them) are as follows:

  • Listening (about 50 minutes)
  • Reading (60 minutes)
  • Writing (45 minutes)
  • Speaking (about 20 minutes)


The listening section is divided into two parts. In Part A, candidates will listen to a mock conversation between a professional and a patient and then take notes on the interaction. For Part B, candidates will hear a single person delivering a monologue or lecture. Candidates will then be asked questions (in the form of multiple-choice and short answer) about the content of the lecture.


The reading test is also comprised of two parts. Part A last only 15 minutes and requires candidates to quickly browse a series of short texts (usually three or four passages). Then, candidates will be shown a paragraph summarizing the text, which will have words omitted. Using their knowledge of the texts, candidates must fill in these blanks.

Part B is significantly lengthier and lasts 45 minutes. Candidates will be required to read a pair of excerpts concerning any one of a number of general healthcare topics, and then respond to several multiple-choice questions about each of the texts.


The writing section is essentially a simulation of a professional encounter specific to a particular profession. Candidates will have 45 minutes to compose a piece of professional correspondence. This usually takes the form of a letter of referral, but other tasks may include a letter of discharge or professional advice.


The speaking test is conducted with the help of an interviewer. Candidates begin by providing a brief summary of their professional background before moving on to the role-play section. The role-play scenarios for this section are based on standard conversations and interactions that occur in each profession. For example, an interviewer in the veterinary science profession will assume the role of an animal owner, and candidates will need to demonstrate a mix of interpersonal skills and professional knowledge in dealing with these situations.


Different parts of the OET are scored based on different criteria. The Listening and Reading sections involve questions with right and wrong answers, and candidates are scored simply on the number of correct answers provided. For the more subjective subtests (writing and speaking), tests are graded by at least two trained assessors to ensure accuracy.

For all four sections, you will receive a score ranging from A (highest) to E (lowest). The OET does not have a standard passing score determined by test administrators. Instead, passing grades are determined by individual boards and councils. In most cases, you'll need to get at least a B on each subtest in order to pass, but be advised that this standard is not official.

Preparing for the OET

If you plan on taking the OET, you may be wondering where you can find materials to help you get ready.

Study.com publishes this OET Study Guide & Practice that provides a comprehensive review of essential topics that are sure to be on the test.

Though not specific to the OET, there's also this English Grammar Rules course that reviews fundamental grammar concepts and should prove to be useful in preparing you for each of the four subtests. The course's video lessons and assessment tools cover many importance concepts, such as writing mechanics, parts of speech, and punctuation rules.

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