OET Strategies

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)

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

Another tips for OET Writing

“The” patient

A common mistake that ESL students make in the writing section is when making reference to the patient. This is done as necessity all throughout the letter.

Letter header

The patient’s full name and date of birth or age should be mentioned right at the start of the letter in the letter header “Re: (patient’s first name AND surname, date of birth).” This should always be included in a referral letter as the doctor or health specialist that you are writing to will most likely have hundreds of patients they see and need a quick way of filing and identifying patients without mixing them up.

First paragraph

In the introductory paragraph of the letter, you will invariably be mentioning the patient. It is important to mention at least the patient’s first name or their surname with appropriate title of Mr/Ms when referring to them.

Body paragraphs.

Ideally you would mention the patient’s name at the first sentence of every new paragraph. You would refer to the patient by their name if there is more than one person involved in the patient’s case. For example, the patient’s name may be mentioned when describing reports from a collateral account like a parent to not confuse the two.

Otherwise, you can refer to the patient as “the patient” or she/he etc as appropriate grammatically. Oftimes I see students just writing “patient” instead of “the” patient. It is always “the patient.” It may seem like a pedantic pointer but always remember this is a English test so proper grammar counts!

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