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OET - Writing

Writing is one of the hardest skills in every exam, as we have to put our academic skills to the test, and let’s face it, who writes essays very much these days in their jobs. However, with the OET exam, as it’s catered for medical professionals, the writing component is based around the types of writing you might do in your job, such as a referral letter, a letter of transfer or a discharge letter. This is much more relevant to your field, and you may already have some experience of these formats. This means you can then focus on your English language skills rather than worrying about the form the test will take.

Here are some more details about the OET writing exam.

Question amount

• 1 writing task

Times of exam/ sections

• The writing test is the 3rd test on test day.

• Despite the field you’re in the writing format will be the same. It will be to write a formal letter on a medical matter.

• You have 45 minutes for this test:

o 5 minutes task reading – to read the case notes about the patient and their condition.

o 40 minutes writing time for your response.

• Provided case notes act as material to select from to write the letter.

• Assesses ability to write a clear, communicative, and accurate letter.


Your performance is marked against six criteria and receives a band score for each criterion.

Criteria students are assessed on:




Is the purpose of the letter is immediately apparent?



Is all the necessary information included


Conciseness and Clarity

Is any irrelevant information included? Is it an effective summary?


Genre and Style

Is the register and tone appropriate?


Organisation and Layout

Is the letter well organised?



Is your grammar, vocabulary, spelling and punctuation accurate in the letter?


Add the marks together and then multiply by 2.

Tips and tricks

1) Overall:

• Remember, you only have 45 minutes for the writing.

• Spend the first 5 minutes reading through the patient case notes and the next 40 minutes writing your letter.

• Remember the criteria you’re marked on: Purpose, Content, Conciseness and clarity, Genre and Style, Organisation and Layout, and Language.

• You have to write 180 – 200 words.

2) For the purpose criterion:

• Read the case notes carefully and get a sense of why you need to refer or transfer the patient to the reader.

• Indicate the purpose of writing at the beginning of your letter so your reader does not need to waste time searching for this information.

• Use relevant case notes to elaborate on and support the purpose of your letter.

3) For the content criterion:

• Have a good awareness of the reader of the letter. Consider whether your reader is aware of the patient’s case. Personalise the letter for them.

• Provide the information they need to ensure the recovery and care of the patient. Do not leave out important information.

• Be accurate. Convey the information presented in the case notes without changing the meaning.

• Avoid making interpretations or giving diagnosis when it’s not stated in the case notes.

4) For the conciseness criterion:

• Leave out irrelevant info that can distract your reader.

• Convey the information your reader needs to know.

• Summarise the information from the case notes when necessary.

• Avoid explaining key information in a complicated manner.

5) For the genre and style criterion:

• Maintain a polite, formal tone.

• Avoid adding your own judgements and feelings.

• Use medical terms appropriately, always consider how familiar your reader will be with a particular term.

• Avoid misuse and overuse of technical jargon.

• Provide simple explanations if writing to a layperson like a caregiver or a social worker.

6) For the organisation criterion:

• Divide the information logically into paragraphs, in the order of importance.

• Order the information in a way that is most suitable for your reader.

• Draw attention to information that you think is important.

• Present your letter in an appropriate layout.

7) For the language criterion:

• Use appropriate vocabulary suited to the context of the task.

• Ensure the language you use serves the purpose of communicating your message.

• Avoid common spelling errors.

• Maintain one spelling convention (British or American).

• Punctuate sentences clearly.

• Use the last five minutes to check your work and correct any errors you notice.

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