OET Writing

OET Writing – Making subjects and verbs agree (Part 1)

When you write in English, you have to follow a rule called subject-verb agreement. This is also known as “number agreement”, because subjects and verbs have to “agree” with one another in number. That is, if the subject of a verb is singular, then the verb must also be singular. If the subject is plural, then the verb must also be plural.

  1. This is simplest in the present tense: nouns become plural by adding an s, and verbs become plural by removing an s.
    1.a. The patient takes medication.
    1.b. The patients take medication.
  1. For verbs in the past simple tense (without any helping verbs), the same verb is used regardless of whether the noun is singular or plural.
    2.a. The doctor assessed the patient.
    2.b. The doctors assessed the patient.
  1. However, if a helping verb is used, then this needs to agree with the subject:
    3.a. The doctor has assessed the patient.
    3.b. The doctors have assessed the patient.

The following are all helping verbs:

Singular Plural
is are
was were
has have
does do

Practice using these different helping verbs with the sentences in examples 3.a and 3.b.

  1. Finally, the subject-verb agreement rule applies to all pronouns except I and you (singular). Even though they are singular, I and you (singular) always use the plural verb:
    4.a. I appreciate your help with this patient.
    4.b. You (singular) talk to the girl.

Remember, this is for verbs that have only one subject! Stay tuned for Part 2 – Compound subjects.

All the best with your preparation!


– Anna Brzeska, OET Teacher

FAQs in OET Writing – for Medicine

In my time as an OET teacher at Sydney Language Solutions, I have seen many Medicine students take the OET examination. Here are some questions that Medicine students frequently ask me and I will provide the subsequent answers.

What kind of a letter will I be writing?

You will be writing a referral letter based on the patient’s notes provided.

Who will I be writing to?

Most of the time, you will be writing to a specialist for further management of the patient’s presenting problems. However, perhaps it is also wise to be prepared to write a letter to a nurse or an allied health professional. It is very important to keep in mind WHO you are writing to and what their ROLE in the patient care is.

Do I have to include all the information?

No, you do not have to include all the patient’s information. In fact, you shouldn’t because you may exceed the word limit of 200 words. Choose the most relevant and appropriate findings. If possible, write only positive findings. Try to SUMMARISE and write as CONCISELY as you can.

Are the address, date, subject line and salutation (e.g. Dear Doctor) included in the word count?

No, these sections of the letter do NOT contribute to your word count. The word count begins at the start of your introductory paragraph. However, it is still important to include these elements (address, date, subject line, salutation) because they make your letter LOOK like a letter.

All the best!

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!

Example of a Writing Task OET for students to practice during Christmas holiday

You are a health professional at the Royal North Shore Hospital. Read the case notes and complete the writing task as follows:


Patient: Mr James NaismithOET_Writing

DOB: 25.12.1940



Symptom A, symptom B, symptom C

Examination shows sign A and sign B

Diagnosis: disease A

Prescribe drug A 25mg tid


Reports compliance with therapy A

Symptoms B and C are worse

Examination shows sign C

Increase dosage of drug A 50mg tid


Chronic condition A since 2002

Surgery A in location A – 1996

Episode of acute condition A in 1995, resolved


Father died of disease B at age 65

Social history:

Widower, lives alone in Sydney Retirement Solutions

Quit smoking in 2005

Emergency contact is son who lives in Homebush, mobile: 0555 555 555

Plan: refer to specialist to discuss possibility of therapy A

Using the information in the case notes, write a letter of referral for further investigation and discussion of a new management plan to the specialist Dr Michael Jordan, at 55 Main Street, Newtown.

In your answer:

–          Expand on the relevant notes in complete sentences

–          DO NOT use point form

–          Use letter format

The body of the letter should be approximately 180-200 words

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