Blogs > IELTS/OET - English Language Requirements

IELTS or OET: Which test should I do?

  • October 30, 2019

When relocating to the UK to work for the NHS, you will need to evidence your English language skills at two points of the process. The first is for your GMC Registration and the second is for your Tier 2 visa. There are two tests acceptable: IELTS and OET.

Both exams test your four basic English language skills: reading, writing, speaking and listening.

In this blog post, we compare the two exams and decide on which exam is best for an international doctor who wants to relocate to the UK.

IELTS – International English Language Testing System

IELTS is considered the ‘gold standard’ of English language tests as it tests your broader English language and not just workplace specific language. Some doctors prefer to sit IELTS because it will help them speak English confidently in the UK outside of work.

However, it is argued that IELTS is not always the best exam for doctors because it focuses on subjects and language that would be irrelevant to a healthcare professional.

It is important to note, that if you do decide to sit IELTS, you need to sit the IELTS Academic version.

OET – Occupational English Test

In our experience, OET may be a better option for a doctor who wants to relocate to the UK. The OET exam is a professional-specific test that will examine your English language skills that relate to your profession. For example, in the OET speaking element, you would play the role of a doctor and communicate with a patient, carer or family member. These role-plays are based on workplace situations you would encounter every single day.

How is IELTS scored?

To pass the IELTS exam, an overall score of 7.5 must be achieved, with a minimum of 7.0 in each of the test areas.

How is OET scored?

You will need to achieve a minimum grade B or a point score of 350 across all test areas to pass the OET exam.

A Comparison

Cost and Location

When it comes to cost, the OET exam is the more expensive of the two tests. OET costs £349, whereas the IELTS comes in considerably cheaper at around £185, depending on your test location.

Resultant of IELTS non-specific nature, it is the more popular test of the two. Over 940,000 people in 120 countries take the test each year as it is recognised by over 6,000 institutions around the world. In comparison, OET can only be sat in over 35 countries worldwide.

Duration and Availability

With regards to duration, both tests are relatively similar. OET takes just over 3 hours to complete and IELTS takes 2 hours and 45 minutes.

To consider the availability of each test, the OET exam can be sat just once a month in every location it is available Whereas, IELTS is held more frequently, on average around once a week.

Which test is easier?

Each test varies in difficulty. The OET exam is easier in some ways because it is more specific to health care. So, as a doctor, you will be able to make use of your healthcare knowledge, vocabulary and experiences. This means that it is likely that you will find the writing and speaking portions of the test a little easier, as you would already have experience speaking English in those circumstances.

To exemplify, for the writing element of the OET exam, you will be asked to write a referral letter for a patient. Whereas for IELTS, you will need to write an essay, a formal letter or analyse written data.

To summarise, as a doctor who would have experience in speaking in English within a medical capacity rather than generally, you may want to opt for the OET exam.

Evidencing your English language skills for your Tier 2 visa

From the 1st October 2019, doctors can use their English language certificate used for their GMC Registration for their Tier 2 visa application.

This is a fantastic change to the Tier 2 visa process as previously, doctors would need to sit IELTS UKVI or obtain a UKNARIC certificate.

Relocation to the UK

If you are an international doctor who has decided that the UK is for you, email your CV to [email protected] and we can support you in securing an NHS post and on your journey to the UK today.

Are you a member of our Facebook Group? When you join IMG Advisor, you will join a community of doctors all looking to relocate to the UK and join the NHS. We post a series of blogs and vlogs into the group every single day. We will also always be on hand to answer all your relocation queries.

Subscribe to our YouTube channel! We have over 40 videos on everything you need to know about relocating to the UK and joining the NHS!


Bluerock Healthcare Ltd. (2019). Nursing Agency Leeds | Healthcare Recruitment Leeds | Bluerock Healthcare. [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 Oct. 2019].


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