OET course

A systematic approach to the Speaking test for Nursing

One of the questions that students often ask is: “How do I prepare for the Speaking test?” The OET Centre doesn’t provide a definitive list of vocabulary for candidates to learn, but the following systematic approach to your preparation will help you to successfully complete any role-play you are given:

  1. Research different medical conditions, using the list below as a starting point:
  • Asthma
  • Chicken Pox
  • High Cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Eczema
  • Epilepsy
  • Head Lice
  • Infection
  • Myocardial Infarction
  • Poor nutrition
  1. Write out dialogues of a medical interview between a nurse and patient using each of these medical conditions. In the dialogues, make sure you:
  • Explain the condition simply and clearly, using layman’s language
  • Reassure the patient, who is anxious about the condition
  • Persuade the patient to follow the specific treatment for that condition

In any role-play, you will be tested on at least two (and often all three) of these speaking skills.

  1. Practice acting out these role-plays with your teacher or a friend, and record your voice. You can use either the recording app on your mobile phone, or free recording software such as Audacity (http://www.audacityteam.org).
  2. Once you are confident that you are able to speak clearly and without hesitation, act out the role-plays without written dialogue support.
  3. Continue to do this with different medical conditions, but without writing out a dialogue.

With dedication and regular use, this approach will help you to improve your score no matter what role-play you are tested on.

Good luck!

– Anna Brzeska, OET Teacher

Part 1: How to Succeed in Reading Part A of the OET Exam

Part A of the reading section of the OET exam can seem impossible to finish and many students dread this part of the test. Time seems to be everybody’s worst enemy as you only have 15 minutes to complete the section but fear not! I have compiled a number of tips that have significantly helped my students improve their score for Reading Part A:

  1. When you are given the paper do not waste time by trying to read each of the texts. You only have 15 minutes, do not waste time.
  2. Instead read and underline the headings of each text, but more specifically the key words. For example below are four titles of texts on vasectomy and I have underlined the key words:“Vasectomy: a patient’s story

    “A retrospective cohort study of vasectomy and the risk of prostate cancer

    “Vasectomy: procedure, cost and effectiveness

    Fact sheet for patients undergoing a vasectomy

    Now that these key words are underlined, it will be easy for you to identify which text you need to skim through to find the answer for each blank space.

  3. Now the key is to try and MATCH each paragraph (with missing words) to one of the four texts. Go to the first paragraph and skim read only as much as you need to be able to identify which text you need to look at to find the answers. Generally each paragraph can be matched to a specific text and most of the answers to the blanks can be found in this text.
  4. However, sometimes one or two of the words you need for a particular paragraph will be in a different text to the one you have used to find most of the answers. Watch out for this and try and identify this as soon as possible so you do not waste time reading the same paragraph.

This concludes Part 1 of How to Succeed in Reading Part A. More tips can be found in Part 2 of How to Succeed in Reading Part A.

Hope you find this helpful and good luck!

Nadishi Athulathmudali, OET Tutor.

 

Tenses in OET Writing – Part 2: Present Tense

Incorrect use of tenses is a common grammatical error that I encounter when I mark the letters that students write in my OET classes. This series of blog posts will provide a simple outline for using the correct tense in your writing. If you haven’t already, make sure you check out Part 1, which discussed the simple past tense. This blog will discuss the present tense.

You should use the simple present tense for the following situations in your letter:

  • To describe the patient’s current social background
    • Mr Smith smokes 20 cigarettes and drinks 2 bottles of wine daily.
    • Ms Rollinson is overweight and has a BMI of 27.8.
    • Mr O’Connor lives in Lake Park with his 70-year-old wife, Mary.
  • TO describe anything that occurred during hospitalization that is STILL continuing
    • Mr O’Connor (still) needs assistance with dressing, toileting and transferring.
      • *NOTE: There is no need to include the word ‘still’ in this sentence. However it still makes sense if you do or don’t include it.
    • Ms Simms consumes a low calorie diet in order to maintain her weight.

A particular form of the present tense called the present perfect tense (has/have + past participle) can be used for the following situation:

  • To describe ongoing, CHRONIC CONDITIONS in the patient’s medical background
    • Mr White has had hypertension for 20 years and diabetes since 2000.

I hope this clears up some confusion for students. Use internet resources to revise grammar if there are parts you still don’t understand!

 

Tenses in OET Writing – Part 1: Past Tense

When I mark the letters that students write in my OET classes, there are several major grammatical errors that I see repeatedly. One of them is the incorrect use of tenses. So this series of blog posts will provide a simple outline for using the correct tense in your writing.

You should use the simple past tense for the following situations in your letter:

  • To describe anything YOU previously did whilst the patient was under your care
    • We performed daily dressings on Mr Smith’s surgical wound.
    • Panadol was prescribed for the patient.
      • *NOTE: In this example, we have used the passive voice. If you don’t recall the difference between passive and active, be sure to revise this grammar point as well!
    • Jamie presented with tonsillitis, for which I instituted penicillin.
    • During her visit, I discussed healthy dietary regimes and gave her brochures.
  • For anything else that occurred during the patient’s stay in hospital
    • A family meeting was held to discuss possible nursing placement for the meeting. However, the family refused.
    • Therefore, a home assessment was conducted and modifications were installed.
  • For any past SURGICAL history in the patient’s medical history
    • Mr O’Connor had two bypass grafts in 2004.

I hope this clears up confusion for students. Look out for further blog posts about other tenses. As always, keep practicing!

 

Part 1: How to Succeed in Reading Part A of the OET Exam

Part A of the reading section of the OET exam can seem impossible to finish and many students dread this part of the test. Time seems to be everybody’s worst enemy as you only have 15 minutes to complete the section but fear not! I have compiled a number of tips that have significantly helped my students improve their score for Reading Part A:

  1. When you are given the paper do not waste time by trying to read each of the texts. You only have 15 minutes, do not waste time.
  2. Instead read and underline the headings of each text, but more specifically the key words. For example below are four titles of texts on vasectomy and I have underlined the key words:“Vasectomy: a patient’s story

    “A retrospective cohort study of vasectomy and the risk of prostate cancer

    “Vasectomy: procedure, cost and effectiveness

    Fact sheet for patients undergoing a vasectomy

    Now that these key words are underlined, it will be easy for you to identify which text you need to skim through to find the answer for each blank space.

  3. Now the key is to try and MATCH each paragraph (with missing words) to one of the four texts. Go to the first paragraph and skim read only as much as you need to be able to identify which text you need to look at to find the answers. Generally each paragraph can be matched to a specific text and most of the answers to the blanks can be found in this text.
  4. However, sometimes one or two of the words you need for a particular paragraph will be in a different text to the one you have used to find most of the answers. Watch out for this and try and identify this as soon as possible so you do not waste time reading the same paragraph.

This concludes Part 1 of How to Succeed in Reading Part A. More tips can be found in Part 2 of How to Succeed in Reading Part A.

Hope you find this helpful and good luck!

Nadishi Athulathmudali, OET Tutor.

 

Tips for Improving OET Reading

Reading B – Assigning titles to paragraphs/articles

A common question type in Reading B is one where you asked “What is the most appropriate title for this paragraph?” or “What would make a suitable title for this article?”. It is useful to consider how best to answer these questions. The general principle that works for questions like this is to ask yourself “Which title covers everything in the paragraph, but is as narrow as possible?”. This principle might seem contradictory at first – how can a title cover everything, but be narrow? However, we will consider an example to illustrate the principle at work.

Example 1

Alcoholic cirrhosis is the most common cause of hepatic cancer in Australia, accounting for approximately 60% of diagnoses, closely followed by hepatitis B virus, which is responsible for an additional one fifth of these patients. Other, less common, aetiologies include other viral hepatitides, hepatitis of non-infectious causes, aflatoxin exposure, haemochromatosis, Wilson’s disease, Type 2 diabetes and haemophilia.

Which of the following titles is most appropriate for this paragraph?
A) Complications of alcoholic cirrhosis
B) Risk factors for hepatic cancer
C) Alcoholic cirrhosis in the aetiology of hepatitis B
D) Causes of hepatic illness

At first glance, answer A looks like it could fit – the text talks about alcoholic cirrhosis leading to the complication of hepatic cancer. However, this title only really applies to the first sentence, and the rest of the paragraph has no relevance to alcoholic cirrhosis. Similarly, answer C is incorrect because it only considers terms in the first sentence, and is also incorrect as the paragraph considers alcoholic cirrhosis and hepatitis B in the aetiology of hepatic cancer. Both B and D do fit the whole paragraph, but the most appropriate title of these two will be the one that is most narrow. The article doesn’t talk about hepatic illness in general, but instead focuses on hepatic cancer – D is too broad, where B fits the paragraph perfectly.

The same principle can be applied to questions asking you to give a title to the whole article – make sure that your title choice can be applied to any given paragraph in the article. Unlike Reading A, in Reading B you have a bit more time to read and process the text to get a general feel for the information in the article, and this can help your choice of a title.

Tips for Improving OET Reading at Home

Many of my students struggle to complete either part A or part B of the reading for a number of reasons. Part A requires you to be able to quickly skim read and pick out key words that will guide you to the answer, while Part B is a test of your reading comprehension and will highlight a need to improve general vocabulary and understanding of the written language. Below are some of my suggestions on how to improve your reading at home.

  1. Get into the habit of reading every day. Whether it is an English novel, the newspaper or a magazine it is very important to read something every day, or as regularly as possible to improve your reading speed and comprehension. For the OET in particular it would be a good idea to read scientific journal articles online from wites such as Medline, EBSCO and PubMed, or read information on medical websites such as the BMJ (British Medical Journal).
  2. Following on from the above suggestion, when you find a word that you do not understand while you are reading, copy it down into a book with the dictionary definition for future reference. I find that a lot of my students miss out on choosing the correct answer in Reading Part A and B because they come across a word that forms part of the answer but they do not know what it means. Therefore, it is extremely important to read regularly and write down new words when you come across them. To really improve your vocabulary put some time aside in your day to also revisit the new words you have written down so that you learn them for the future.
  3. Finally be smart about what you read and try to summarise the meaning to test how well you understand the text. This is an exercise you can do to see how well you are able to understand what you have read. While you are reading a book/newspaper/magazine pick a page, or a few paragraphs and read them, then try to summarise what you have just read either verbally or by writing a small summary.

Hopefully these small tips will help improve your reading skills immensely. Best of luck in the future with the OET!

How to Improve Speaking at Home

Most students ask me for tips on how they can improve their speaking when they’re at home, without a Sydney Language Solutions teacher/tutor to practise with. Below are some of my suggestions.

  1. The first and most obvious suggestion is to practise with someone who speaks English at home. Perhaps a family member. Perhaps a friend. Or, even better, a friend or family member who is ALSO doing the Occupational English Test. Get them to practise different tasks with you and give you feedback afterwards about your fluency, the clarity and speed of your speech and about the language you used.
  2. Another way is to practise by yourself. This can involve, for instance, recording yourself speaking! For this exercise, I particularly encourage you to check your speed (tell yourself to SLOW DOWN!) and to check whether or not you say words like “um”, “uh”, “like” or “er” which can affect your fluency. Count how many “um”s you say!
  3. One final suggestion is, indeed of speaking, you can PLAN out the conversation and write down what you would say in the scenario. This can improve both your grammar and your sentence structure. Think of different phrases you can use to reassure patients, to advise patients or to ask clear questions.

Hope these help! Good luck!

The Most Important Thing to Remember about the OET

Whether it is your first time, or your second/third/fourth time, sitting the Occupational English Test can be very nerve-racking. Your palms will sweat, you’ll feel palpitations and your breaths will be shallower. A common feeling is that you’ll feel as if you can’t remember a SINGLE thing medically-related because you’re so nervous.

Luckily for you, the most important thing to remember about the OET is that: The OET does NOT test your medical knowledge. It is simply testing your ENGLISH.

So what does this mean?

For the listening, it means that, even if you don’t know anything about the topic/s being discussed, you can still pass if you listen to the conversation carefully.

For the reading, it also means that if the topic is something you have never read about, you can still pass both parts A and B through careful reading and analysis of the texts. The answers require no prior medical knowledge.

For the writing, it means that when you come across a completely new scenario in the case notes, you can just base your letter on the notes given (obviously).

And finally, for the speaking, it means that you can actually – and a lot of students don’t realise this – make information up! You will not get penalised for incorrect content, as long as you sound confident in what you’re saying.

So there you have it. Don’t stress if you come across a new topic!

Recommended Books for the OET Student

Cambridge English for Nursing (Intermediate Plus) Student’s Book with Audio CDs

This book can be bought at slsbooks.com.au

This book provides a range of exercises to develop both your nursing knowledge as well as your language and communication skills. There are listening activities reflecting everyday nursing scenarios and sections that focus on communication (such as how to give advice), which are important for OET speaking roleplays. The section on abbreviations and acronyms used in healthcare will be useful for OET writing, as well as the online glossary with a pronunciation guide. You can also review your knowledge of common nursing scenarios to prepare for the speaking exam – such as in respiratory care, nursing wound care, etc.

 Cambridge English for Nursing Pre-intermediate Student’s Book with Audio CD

This book can be bought at slsbooks.com.au

Units such as ‘Caring for patients after an operation’ and diabetes management will be vital in preparing for your OET speaking exam as it is a common scenario. This book can also be used review your language skills with listening activities and a focus in every chapter on communication – such as showing empathy during hospital interactions. This is recommended for the nursing student seeking to review their basic nursing skills and techniques, as well as basic medical sciences.

English for Medicine in Higher Education Studies

This book can be bought at slsbooks.com.au

This book is designed for students who plan to take a course in the field of medicine entirely or partly in English. Complete with audio for lecture and seminar excerpts, these are perfect for the OET student studying for the listening component of the exam. I particularly recommend utilising their great tips for note-taking (useful for OET listening) and recognising digressions, and choosing the vital information from the irrelevant information of a text. Students can also use the exercises with figures and diagrams to develop your skills in interpretation of figures, in preparation for the OET reading.

English for Nursing, Academic Skills

This book can be bought at slsbooks.com.au

This book is great for the Nursing student. There are sections on critical thinking in Nursing, a vital skill to incorporate and develop during medical studies, whether in Nursing or Medicine. For the students preparing for the OET in particular, specific chapters of the book focusing on reading and skimming skills may reveal new strategies you can use to tackle your OET reading. The section on ‘Developing Note-Taking Skills’ will assist in both your study and work environments, as well as in the OET, especially in the Listening section. I also particularly recommend this book to develop your understanding of research terminology.

English in Medicine: A Course in Communication Skills

This book can be bought at slsbooks.com.au

English in Medicine is an introductory text for overseas health professionals wanting to review their basic communication skills, perhaps in preparation for the OET exam. It provides insight into a range of clinically relevant tasks, such as taking a detailed patient history, communicating with the patient during the physical examination as well as completing clinical notes. Suitable for health professionals just starting out in an English-speaking environment, there are sample patient-doctor dialogues that the student can listen to, accompanied with the appropriate transcript, which can be used to practice for the OET listening component. In addition, the section on search strategy can be relevant to your other medical studies.

Oxford English for Careers Nursing 1: Student’s Book

This book can be bought at slsbooks.com.au

Short exercises and simple language are the benefits of this book for the student who is beginning their studies in English. The book advances from more general chapters regarding the hospital team and environment, to more specific topics include mental health nursing and managing a patient’s medications. Use the language spot to revise your grammar skills, including prepositions or the passive form. A basic, easy-to-use revision textbook if you’re looking for one to review and prepare for the OET exam.

Oxford English for Careers Nursing 2: Student’s Book

This book can be bought at slsbooks.com.au

This book progresses on from Book 1, with a more detailed focus on areas of Medicine, ranging from Obstetrics to Renal and Psychiatry, suitable for the more advanced student. A more comprehensive revision of essential writing, speaking, listening and reading communication skills is provided to help pass your OET as well as to work as a nurse. Signs and symptoms relevant to each discipline are reviewed and discussed, useful for writing and speaking in the OET. Again, the language spot will assist in revision of grammar and vocabulary.

Professional English in Use Medicine

This book can be bought at slsbooks.com.au

Designed to assist those who wish to improve in their interpretation and fluency of medical journals and textbooks, Professional English in Use Medicine will take you through the various body systems and the relevant terminology that is commonly used in each specialty. Students may also find the sections on history-taking, physical examinations as well as communicating treatment and management to be useful to their studies. For the OET student, this is a concise textbook to review your basic medical terminology as you begin to undertake your studies and work in an English-speaking setting.

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