Blogs > IELTS/OET - English Language Requirements

How do I pass my OET first time? | BDI Resourcing's top tips!

  • November 22, 2021

We have always advised that the Occupational English Test is the best way for international Doctors to exhibit their English language skills for their GMC registration. This is because the OET is specifically designed to test healthcare professionals’ abilities to communicate in a medical setting as appose to the IELTS.

Healthcare professionals choose OET because it helps them prove they have the right level of English for work or study, while also learning the kind of language they will need every day at work. Continuous research ensures test content and structure reflects current healthcare workplace scenarios and the changing needs of the sector.

The exam tests four language skills – reading, writing, listening and speaking. The GMC require a grade B or above in all sub-tests in order to accept your registration, so it is important that you are prepared!

Know the Exam Structure

Reading – The 60-minute reading exam is made up of 3 sections:

  • Part A Expeditious Reading (quickly extracting information from text).
  • Part B Careful Reading Task 1 (understanding text).
  • Part C Careful Reading task 2 (understanding detailed meaning within a text).

Writing – The 45-minute writing part of the exam. Usually, you are asked to write a referral letter for a patient using case notes.

Listening – The 50-minute listening component of the exam consists of:

  • Part A Consultation Extracts (listen to recordings of consultations and make notes).
  • Part B Short Workplace Extracts (listen to recordings and extract details and answer multiple-choice questions).
  • Part C Presentation (listen to a presentation or interview and answer multiple-choice question).

Speaking – The speaking component takes around 20 minutes and is a patient/client role-play style examination.

To read in more details about each section of the exam please read our Overview of the OET blog.

Find out your current level of English

It is important that you firstly know when you will be taking the OET exam. It is crucial that you understand how much time you have to prepare. Once you know this you must then establish where your abilities currently stand. You may have sat the test before in which case you will have a rough idea of what your capabilities are and what score you are working at. If this is your first time taking the test, then we advise that you take a mock test. This will allow you to find out your current level, it will also highlight your weaknesses, so you know what needs the most practice in the coming weeks leading up to your exam. It is also a good idea to take a mock test because it will ease your nerves as when your OET exam date arrives you will know exactly what to expect.

Start by revising your identified weak areas

At this stage you should be able to identify which of the four sub-tests (reading, writing, listening and speaking) you need to work on. You should also investigate further and see what element of the sub-test you found the most difficult. For example, during the reading element of the exam you may have found the Careful Reading section ok but struggled with the Expeditious Reading. In this case, in order to improve your overall score, you would need to practise quickly extracting information from texts.

Tips for the reading:

  • Practise scan reading medical articles. Learn how to quickly skim over texts and pick out key bits of information. Pay attention to headings and subheadings.
  • Start reading articles and emails in detail, take your time and know the difference between skim reading and in-depth reading.
  • Grow your vocabulary – Not just medical jargon, doing a lot of reading can help you do this, write down words that you are unsure of and try to use them in your everyday vocabulary.
  • Read ‘science daily articles’ to familiarise yourself with texts as these will be similar to the ones in Part C Careful Reading task. Practise summarising each paragraph.

Tips for the writing:

  • Learn how you’re scored – look at assessment criteria so you can make sure you include exactly what the examiners will be looking for in your writing.
  • Practise writing a referral letter and give it to someone for feedback.
  • Read high quality examples of referral letters and use them to structure your own.
  • Improve your grammar by getting feedback on your current writing. 

Tips for the listening:

  • Listen to patient lead communication and concentrate on the patient as the answers will come from them.
  • Listen to medical lectures and interview podcasts to prepare for the presentation element of the listening test; you can put podcasts on whilst you are driving to help familiarise yourself with the communication.
  • Be aware of online listening test clips. Try to practise with organic communication and practise extracting information.
  • In part C of the Listening you can improve your performance by practising to pay attention to transitions in conversation; this will indicate the next item of information, for example “following on”, “In addition to this” and “although.”

Tips for the speaking:

  • Improve your clinical communication skills by getting simulation experience. By this we mean practise role playing with medical professionals.


Quality over quantity; it is not about how many practise questions you do or how many recordings you listen to but how well you are able to critique yourself. Listen/read deeply, stop often to analysis what’s going on and always go back over your mistakes and learn what you did wrong.

How Can We Help?

If you’re an international doctor looking to relocate to the UK, please email your CV to [email protected] and we can support you in securing an NHS post and on your journey to relocate to the UK.

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

Subscribe to our YouTube channel! We have over 60 videos on everything you need to know about relocating to the UK and joining the NHS!

Listen to BDI Resourcing on the go to IMG Advisor the Podcast. You can find us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher and Buzzsprout. We have a number of episodes with tips and advice on relocating to the UK and the routes you can take to achieve this.


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