A large majority of the requirements you need completed for the Residency match are tests and documents that you are probably already familiar with. However, the OET may not be something you know very well due to how recently this exam became part of the requirements for IMGs (International Medical Graduates). As of June 2020, the USMLE discontinued the STEP 2 CS (Clinical Skills) exam due to COVID delays and pre-existing issues with the exam. As a result of this, ECFMG has now replaced this exam with the OET exam in order for IMGs to receive ECFMG certification for The Match. Here we will discuss what you need to know about the OET and how best to prepare for it!
What Is The OET?
The Occupational English Test is an International English proficiency test that assesses a healthcare worker’s ability to communicate effectively in English. OET is recognized by hospitals, universities and other healthcare facilities in a large number of countries including Australia, the UK, the US, Singapore, New Zealand, Dubai and Ireland. This exam covers the 4 main language skills: listening, reading, writing, and speaking.
- Reading and comprehending information directly from a patient chart/case-study
- Writing a referral letter or demonstrating ability to complete patient discharge in the appropriate amount of time
- Speaking to a patient about a recent diagnosis and explaining it thoroughly
- Listening to a patient history and being able to adequately retain the information and disseminate it into a patient note
Who Takes the OET?
In general, there are many other English proficiency exams available. However, OET places an emphasis on testing communication skills specifically needed for the healthcare setting. The OET is different from a standard English exam in that the communication context is based around understanding and relaying medical information in a clinical setting. Some of the healthcare professions that commonly take this exam include Doctors, Nurses, Dentists, Pharmacists and more. For you, as future doctors, you will be required to take this exam if you are an International Medical Graduate (IMG) applying for residency in the US.
The OET exam includes 4 separate sections to test healthcare communication skills, and each section is broken down as follows:
- 60 minutes in total
- Part A is 15 minutes in length and assesses your ability to read and understand a short text then answer 20 MCQs about the content. These questions can include completing a sentence, matching words to the text, and short-answer style responses.
- Part B and C are 45 minutes together and they both assess careful reading. Part B includes 3 multiple choice questions (MCQs), and Part C includes 8 MCQs
- 45 minutes in total
- In Part A you will listen to 2 recorded consultations and complete a patient note from the information you heard
- In Part B you will listen to 6 short workplace recordings and answer 1 MCQ for each
- For Part C you will listen to 2 recorded healthcare interviews and answer 6 MCQs for each
- 45 minutes in total
- This section is specific to your profession and is based on a typical workplace interaction
- In this section you will be asked to write a letter of some type. Typically these include letters of referral, discharge, or patient transfer. You will also receive related case notes that must be included in the letter.
- Approximately 20 minutes
- This section is also specific to your profession and utilizes a common workplace scenario
- First you will engage in a short warm up conversation where you introduce yourself and give a brief description of your professional background
- Next you will be introduced to role-play scenarios related to your role as a physician. You will be given 3 minutes to prepare for these scenarios and then you will act them out responding to your tester’s scripted statements.
What Preparation Techniques/Resources Can I Use?
Depending on how comfortable and proficient you are at communicating in English, there are a few different ways to prepare for this exam. If you are already a native english speaker it may seem easier for you to prepare for this exam. However, these communication skills require an advanced knowledge of your specific profession, so it is still important to prepare adequately for your test day. Here’s a few great tips for practicing for the OET exam:
- Familiarize yourself with the layout of the test (Thankfully you’ve already started this!)
- Read the free sample questions and scenarios available on the OET website
- Time yourself for each section and each skill
- Practice your typing skills to ensure you don’t run out of time
If you feel that you require additional preparation, the OET website also offers many additional resources for free, and some for purchase. You can visit the Preparation Portal to access the following great resources:
- Master Classes
- Live Q&A
- Start for Success Packages
- Online Hour Prep with OET
- OET’s Youtube Channel
- OET All Stars
- Writing Guides
I hope you found this explanation of the OET exam helpful, and feel confident preparing your English communication skills! You can also check out our MATCH program and book and one-on-one free consultation with one of our amazing tutors to practice your OET skills. Feel free to comment and tell us about your OET experience! Good luck friends!