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Ultimate Guide to English Language Tests for GMC (IELTS and OET)

  • October 27, 2022

So you’ve decided that you want to join the GMC with a view to moving to the UK and embarking on a new career in the NHS but not sure where to start!? This guide tells you everything you need to know about the first step on the journey.

Whether you are considering PLAB, MTI or the Postgraduate Qualification route you will always have to prove to the GMC and UK Home Office that your level of English Language meets their standards.

So what are my options for proving my English Language to the GMC?

Well the strict answer is that you have four possible routes however the two most common are IELTS and OET. The below sections outline the core information for each possible option:

A traditional English language test in which you are tested on four elements – Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening.

Scored out of 9 in each element. The GMC require minimum 7 in each element and an average of 7.5 overall

Similarly, a traditional English language test in which you are tested on four elements – Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening.

Scored using grades from A to E in each element. The GMC Require minimum B in each element

If you are a national of a country where English is the first and native language and you were awarded your primary medical degree in English then you can use that degree as evidence

If you have worked in a medical capacity in a country where English is the first and native language for the last two years then you can use employer references as evidence (note – this doesn’t apply for PLAB route).

A list of accepted countries and the template reference can be found here

A route for employers to sponsor your English language skills in Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening. Evidence provided must be ‘robust’ and not subjective and prove the same level of English as a normal IELTS or OET result

Whilst this is an unusual route it is sometimes used in unique circumstances or for posts at a very high level in niche fields.

Full guidance can be found here

And what do I need to know about IELTS and OET?

There’s some disagreement between IMGs about which route to take between IELTS and OET. The reality is that the end result will be the same whichever option you choose however everyone is different so here are some frequently asked questions that might help you decide which is best for you:

Is OET easier than IELTS?

So you’re probably wondering which one is going to be the easiest. The thing to note here is that all routes require the same level of English however they are just assessed in different ways. The below table shows the equivalent levels and you’ll see that a B in OET just means a 7 in IELTS. Neither is easier but read on to find out why people think this is the case…

What is the difference between OET and IELTS?

An IELTS Test could be assessed using any number of contexts relating to the English Language (From Shakespeare to Shopping Lists). The OET tests your English in the context of a medical work scenario. This is why some doctors see the OET as an easier route – the assessments are more relatable to the area of English that they actually use!

How much do IELTS and OET cost?

IELTS is generally the cheaper option at £175-195 (exact prices can be found here)

OET is slightly more expensive at approximately £329 (exact prices can be found here)

Where and when can I sit IELTS or OET tests?

IELTS runs tests more frequently with 1600 centres around the world (check availability here)

OET runs tests less frequently with 160 centres around the world (check availability here)

How long are IELTS and OET test results valid for?

Both IELTS and OET exams are valid for 2 years for GMC Registration so you should be prepared to complete PLAB or be ready to have your application approved with that time.

Do I need OET or IELTS for my visa application?

Traditionally the answer to this was yes however, the new Health and Care visa route allows doctors to use their GMC Registration as evidence that their English language has already been assessed.

Which version of OET or IELTS should I sit?

There are so many different options available so it’s important to choose the right one that is recognised for the GMC

For OET you need to sit the Medicine version

For IELTS you need to sit the Academic version

Can I resit if I fail?

Yes – so please don’t worry if you don’t pass the first time! It is really common to have to take the IELTS or OET more than once and both routes allow you to do this.

How to prepare for IELTS or OET?

If you’ve read this far, hopefully you now know the differences between IELTS and OET and have started to think about which option you’re going to take. The next step is to start your preparations!

There’s no one magic trick to passing and you might find that certain learning styles suit you more than others. These tips come directly from our IMG Community but the best advice we can give is to start now and be patient. Learning a language to a high level takes time and, as we say in the UK, practise makes perfect!

  • Recognised books are a great starting point so read the amazon reviews and find one that suits your learning style
  • YouTube has thousands of hours of video content to help you prepare. Try looking for those taught by native English speakers to get used to dialects and accents.
  • Try watching British TV shows on Netflix – start with subtitles on and then try without!
  • Get a study partner – post in IMG Advisor and find other doctors on the same journey as you.
  • Mock tests will help you learn the style and outline of the exams so you aren’t surprised on the day. Try practising in exam conditions to get the full effect.
  • Find yourself a personal tutor – if all else fails, the help of a tutor will really make a big difference. It is probably the most expensive preparation but could be a worthy investment

In Summary

You have a few options available to you when it comes to proving your English skills to the GMC. The most common are IELTS and OET and both test your English to the same level. That said, there are distinct differences between them and you should pick the one that suits you best. The roads to IELTS or OET will both take you a step closer to your GMC Registration. Both are hard work so start your preparations early and practise, practise, practise!

Check out our other blogs on English Testing here

If you are preparing for your English tests, recently passed them or want to know more then reach out and talk to us – we would love to hear from you








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