OET Speaking

How to conquer the nerves in OET Speaking

In the speaking component of the OET exam, nerves can often impede your best performance on the day. Stress is a natural reaction to a high stakes exam like OET, especially in a situation where you are interacting with an unknown examiner and given only 3 minutes preparation time per scenario. Here a couple tips to increase your confidence and make your interaction much smoother:

  • Prepare an opening line: Often students comment how hard it is to start the conversation with their patient. A strong opening can be the key to maintaining strong momentum. Hence, prepare an opening line that can be applied to any scenario: “Good morning, my name is Laura and I’m an ED nurse. I’ll be looking after you today, I hear you have concerns about…”
  • Make a conscious effort to speak slower than your normal pace: At times, when we are nervous, we subconsciously speed up our speed of speech, which can impede the patient’s understanding of your questions.
  • Practice with as many different simulated scenarios as possible: Before your exam, expose yourself to as many different situations as you can. This can give you the confidence to know, that whatever scenario you are given on the day, you will have the ability to adapt and meet the challenge

(Rashmi Shingde, April 2016)

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!

More Tips to Improve OET Speaking

1. Explain everything in as much detail as possible!

Remember your speaking task is marked using the recording of your voice. This means that the examiners cannot see your hand actions or facial expressions. Therefore, you need to explain everything in words – clearly. Step by step.

Example: Explaining how to inject insulin.
Firstly, you should choose your site for injection (such as, the abdomen). Then, you need to pinch the skin between your thumb and index finger. Then, hold the needle at 45 degrees to the surface and inject!

2. As the example above, use words like firstly and secondly, etc.

This is recommended as it gives your speaking task a sense of structure. It allows you to explain medical procedures in a simple, systematic sequence. Some other words you can use include in addition, furthermore, following on from that… and the list goes on. You can use these in writing, too!

3. Clarify with the patient and check that they are understanding you.

As medical procedures can be quite complicated and detailed, it may be difficult for the patient to follow what you are saying. To overcome any confusion and to clarify with the patient, use pauses throughout your speaking to give the patient a chance to ask their questions. In addition, you can ask them questions like “Are you following?” “Does this make sense?” “Do you have any questions about this procedure so far?”

I hope these tips can help you improve in OET speaking and reduce those nerves! Good luck.

5 Simple Steps to Improve OET Speaking

1. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Before you begin each speaking task, you will have 2-3 minutes of preparation time. As you are reading the task, if there are any aspects which you don’t understand, it is worthwhile to ask the roleplayer as they may be able to help you out. You will NOT be marked down for asking questions.

2. Follow the dot points in order.

This is NOT something you MUST do, but it is highly recommended. By following the dot points in order, you will not get lost or confused during the task and this will ensure that you are able to engage with the roleplayer (i.e. the patient).

3. If you get stuck, use the phrases/terminology on the card.

You are allowed to do this. This is particularly useful if, perhaps, the topic is unfamiliar to you.

4. Listen to the samples on the OET website.

Most students neglect to check the official OET website for samples and materials. In fact, they have uploaded 2 nursing speaking tasks and 2 medicine speaking tasks. Have a listen to these as they will familiarise you with the structure of the speaking exam, even if you are not taking the nursing/medicine exam.

5. And, as always… practise, practise, PRACTISE.

With a family member. With a friend. With your dog? Even by recording yourself! Just practise!!


All the best!


Carol Luo

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