What is the best way to prepare for the Occupational English Test (OET)?
As a health care professional, OET is your best chance to work and enjoy your life in countries like the UK or Australia. OET is an expensive test and taking it without enough preparation is may be risking your money. So, it is a good idea to build an effective study plan and stick to it to avoid wasting money and a lot of frustration.
Do a lot of preparation before taking the test
OET is a high stake English test and like any other test, it has its own characteristics. You need to be familiar with them.
You may be a good English user or you may have even got a good score in any other similar English test too. But it is advised to take a few practice tests get to know the test and check your skill level before going for a real test.
Start with a mock test. Try to use only authentic test materials for mock tests (You can find two of them on the official website of OET for free).
You can also buy official practice materials from Amazon*
(*This is an affiliate link, Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. )
Practice as much as you can and sit for the test only when you are confident enough to do it.
Understand the OET writing and speaking assessment criteria.
The public version of the writing and speaking assessment criteria are available on the official website. Read and understand each criterion. This will tell you what the examiners are looking for in your writing and speaking sub-tests. This may also clear a lot of confusion about the test.
Read the assessment criteria and remember them. Make a checklist out of it.
Check whether you are fulfilling all the criteria on your speaking and writing practices.
Listen a lot to improve your speaking skills.
In a language, speaking and listening skills are very much related. Your speaking skill depends on how much you listen.
What to listen to?
To improve your listening score in OET, listen to a lot of conversations.
Only doing practice tests alone may not increase your listening score. Listening to podcasts and interviews on health-related topics and watching programs in health care settings is a great way to improve your listening skills.
In the OET speaking test, you need to perform two role plays on patient consultations. Give special attention to the OET Part A of the listening sub-test (Consultation extracts). Listen carefully for the vocabulary, tone, and register of the speaker and the expressions they use.
Watching videos of patient consultations also is a good way to improve your clinical communication skills.
(On YouTube, search a health condition + patient consultation, for example, search: Patient consultation with asthma and you will get a lot of videos on consultations)
Reading sub-test needs practice. Read a lot of health-related writings. Like articles, case studies, etc. ABC Health is a great resource for this purpose. Learn to read fast. But also ensure that you understand the main points they are discussing.
In the beginning, this may seem tiring but with enough practice, your reading score and vocabulary will improve.
Write letters and get it corrected by an expert OET trainer
Writing test is the most difficult sub-test in the OET. For most candidates, it is a struggle to get a band B in the writing. The test statistics from OET’s official website also show, globally, the average performance in the writing sub-test is far lower than the other sub-tests.
The best way to overcome this is to practice writing a lot of letters. Writing at least one letter per day is a good practice. There are plenty of good practice materials available for writing. Both official and materials created by trainers.
But before you start writing, understand the assessment criteria for writing. Read some good quality (If possible, authentic) sample letters.
Follow an effective writing process to improve your quality of writing. (Check out the writing process by S.OET )
Then write and re-write letters to hone your writing skills.
One difficulty with the writing sub-test is that you cannot grade your writing yourself. You can (and you should) proofread your letter every time but even that is limited to your knowledge of grammar and spelling.
To solve this problem, after writing a letter, it is important to show it to an experienced OET trainer to get corrections and insights from them. After the correction, write the letter again as suggested by the trainer.
Practice in this way as many times as possible.