What is OET and why do you need it?

What is OET and why do you need it?

After successfully overcoming the most challenging phase of our lives, the pandemic, most of us are now trying to switch to the normal flow of daily life. It is not only true for individuals but also for countries and organizations all over the world that have been affected substantially by the lockdown. As a result, to regain the growth of its economy and overall development, countries like Canada have begun their immigration process in full flow. In short, this is the best time for you to make yourself of the whole process. 

One of the crucial parts of the immigration process is to prove your language proficiency. There are various language evaluation exams like IELTS, TOEFL, PTE, etc. But if you are in the healthcare sector, it is best to familiarize yourself with OET.

So, in this article, we are going to discuss what OET is and the reasons why you need it. 

Different Aspects of the OET


In earlier times, people migrating to English-speaking countries would face various challenges, the major issue being communication which caused a disruption in daily life as well as professional space. Eventually, even after language skill tests came into being, this was partially solved as specific professions like healthcare had a different lingo that was not focused on. This caused miscommunication among foreign doctors or nurses and their colleagues and patients. 

To overcome this issue, in 1980, the Australian National Office for Overseas Skills Recognition (NOOSR) began to administer an exam that was specially designed for medical professionals. It became an instant hit among the targeted and it gave them a customized setup to evaluate their language skills. This test was none other than the Occupational Eligibility Test, or OET. Later, in 2013, the ownership of this exam was put under the joint ownership of Cambridge Assessment English and Boxhill Institute, called Cambridge Boxhill Language Assessment. 


At present, the OET exam has become popular among healthcare professionals and gauges professionals from 12 medical fields, namely,  Dentistry, Dietetics, Medicine, Nursing, Occupational Therapy, Optometry, Pharmacy, Physiotherapy, Podiatry, Radiography, Speech Pathology, and Veterinary Science. It is recognized by medical councils and universities in countries like Australia, Canada, Ireland, Maldives, Malta, Namibia, New Zealand, Philippines, Qatar, Singapore, Spain, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, and the United States of America, as an indicator of one’s ability to conduct clinical conversations.

The main purpose of this exam is to find out if the candidate can proficiently use the English language in healthcare settings. It also assures that communication will not be a hindrance in providing medical services in an English-speaking environment and prevents misunderstanding or mishandling of information given to the healthcare worker by the patients.


Keeping in mind the convenience of the test-takers, the conductors of the OET exam have put forward various alternatives to allow them to attempt this highly sought-after examination per their comfort and ease without having to go through any unnecessary difficulties. 

There are three formats in which the test is conducted. The first mode is a paper-based format taken at a test venue. It is the oldest test format ever since the OET exam became the primary evaluator of language skills among medical professionals. The second alternative is to attempt the test on a computer at a test venue. So, it will be a computer-based test, but you have to be present at the examination center for it. Finally, the last mode is to take the test in the comfort of one’s home on a personal computer. Like the second one, it is also a computer-based exam, but the only difference is that you can avoid the hassles of traveling. It depends on the candidate which one he/she will and can sit for the exam as per one’s chosen format. 


It is very crucial to know about the format of any exam before beginning the preparation or taking the test. Like most language evaluation exams, the OET judges the communication skill of a person based on the four basic language skills – Listening, Reading, Speaking and Writing. It should be noted that although it is specific to healthcare professionals, it is not an evaluation of your medical knowledge. 

Since successful communication is not limited to one skill at a time, the OET exam pattern is designed in a way where all the tasks are equally tested and interconnected. For example, while taking the listening test, you also need to exercise your writing skills. Similarly, during the speaking test, you have to listen to the role-player and reply accordingly. 

ExamNo. of questionsDuration(in minutes)Type of TaskProfessionspecific?
Listening42approx. 50Listening to audio and answering questionsNo
Reading4260Reading texts and answering questionsNo
Writing145Letter- writingYes
Speaking2approx. 20Role playYes

Why choose OET?

Now let us check out some reasons for which the OET is popular among medical professionals and one should choose it.

It is only intended for healthcare workers.

The only test that evaluates the proficiency of healthcare experts and workers in communicating in English across 12 different professions is the OET. It helps them provide the required solution or advice to the patients and also avoid miscommunication. Therefore, OET judges every candidate based on their listening, reading, speaking and writing skills to prove they will be capable of handling the day-to-day interactions with colleagues and patients alike. 

The format of OET enables interaction in real-life medical scenarios.

All subtests of this exam – Listening, Speaking, Reading, and Writing – reflect the real-life situations that healthcare experts face in their daily professional life. For example, in the Writing section, one has to write down a letter in English that is written by doctors or nurses in their respective fields. Moreover, in the Speaking section, the roleplays are not mere tasks but very similar to interaction with an interlocutor, who plays the role of a patient or a relative. This helps one to get an idea about what they will be dealing with in real life and improve their language and practical skills. 

It improves your confidence.

One of the most important tasks of OET is to build confidence. So, as one prepares for the test, he/she is introduced to real-life scenarios and gets acquainted with the ways of dealing with patients, which accentuates language as well as professional skills and aids in gaining a lot more confidence to face your work-life challenges. 

There are more reasons why OET is suitable for medical professionals compared to other tests like IELTS, PTE, or TOEFL. But that is for another discussion. Now that you know the fundamentals of the OET, seek more information and start your preparation if you want to take advantage of ongoing immigration opportunities.