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OET Speaking

The OET speaking exam is specifically tailored to your individual healthcare field so the two role plays you receive could cover any aspect of your daily interaction with patients and their families. Effective communication is a vital skill and can make a difference of life or death in high pressured situations. The speaking test will assess your linguistic abilities in terms of grammar, language, intelligibility and fluency as well as your clinical communication skills such as relationship building, understanding a patient’s perspective and how you gather, structure and present information to your patients in a calm and effective manner.

Here are some more details about the OET speaking exam.


Question amount

• 2 Role plays

• Interacting with an interlocutor through a set of role plays, where the candidate takes on the medical professional role and the interlocutor will act as a patient, guardian or other family member

Times of exam/ sections

• The shortest of the OET sub-tests

• You have 20 minutes for this test:

o Short warm – up conversation (like in IELTS)

o 2 different role plays, introduced one at a time with a situation and task written on individual cards

o 3-minute preparation time for each role-play

o Candidates may make notes on the card and ask questions related to the card’s content

o Assesses ability to communicate clearly with patients


The Speaking sub-test is recorded, and the audio is assessed by two official OET assessors using the official OET Linguistic and Clinical Communication Criteria.

Linguistic Criteria


Fluency means the smoothness of speech and includes:

- Not pausing for too long

- Using the right words to get your message across

- Avoiding using excessive fillers such as ‘ah’ and ‘er’


Intelligibility means if the examiner can understand you and focuses on:

- How clear your voice is

- How clearly and correctly you pronounce your words

- Maintaining a natural speaking rhythm – not too fast or too slow

- Word stress and intonation


​Appropriateness of Language means using suitable language for your listener and focuses on:

- Not overusing medical jargon when speaking to a patient or others not familiar with medical


- Adapting your tone of voice when delivering different messages, sensitive information or bad



Resources of Grammar and Expression means your range of grammar and focuses on: - Ability to paraphrase when necessary - Ability to ‘repeat back’ to patients to check you have understood them - Understanding and being able to use idiomatic expressions


Clinical Communication Criteria


Relationship building

- Show you are interested in building a relationship

- Use of greetings and introducing yourself

- Explaining the purpose of your communication

- Adopting a respectful and non-judgemental tone

- Empathise with the patient

- Be attentive and show an interest in what a patient says


Understanding patient’s perspective

- Obtaining facts as well as patient’s concerns and expectations

- Relate your expectations back to patient based on previous information from the patient

- Good ‘repeat’ back to ensure you have understood what the patient has said

- Ability to pick up on patient’s verbal and nonverbal cues


Structuring information

- Directing conversation meaningfully

- Use signposting to provide structure and allow patient to know where the conversation will be


- Use repetition or paraphrasing to highlight important points


​Gathering information about a patient shows that you are skilled in obtaining information and includes:

- Utilising listening techniques and minimising interrupting patients whilst speaking

- Begin by using open questions to elicit more from a patient

- Ability to clarify vague statements and summarise what a patient has told you


Giving information to a patient means the ability to convey your message appropriately and includes:

- Showing you can gather information from a patient and provide information to the patient

- Establishing what the patient knows and encouraging them to contribute their feelings and


- Checking the patient has understood you

- Checking if the patient needs further information


Tips and tricks

1) Being able to provide empathy plays a big part of in the role-play tasks – make sure you provide enough reassuring phrases and interjections

2) Bear in mind the four main criteria you are assessed on – intelligibility, fluency, appropriateness and resources of grammar and expression

3) Try to have a clear pronunciation

4) Try using some linking words, fillers as well as discourse markers

5) Demonstrate attentive listening and try not to interrupt the speaker unless you have to.

6) At the end of the consultation try to summarise the main points you’ve made

7) Always make sure your patient has understood each point you’ve made and if they haven’t, try to rephrase it

8) Use language that puts the patient at ease, especially if you’re delivering bad news

9) Use indirect questions such as “Can I just ask if..”, “Did I understand correctly that…”

10) Aim for grammatical accuracy as grammar mistakes can impede the clarity of your communication.

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