In our day to day life, we are accustomed to using the four essential language skills without any hesitation. We don’t pay much attention to whether it is appropriate or not. But, when it comes to taking an exam and proving our proficiency, most of us fumble and become anxious.

While Listening and Reading can be mastered easily with the help of various resources available on the internet, Speaking and Writing can be quite challenging. But again, if certain formats are followed and one revises the grammatical rules, even writing can be mastered as well, which is not the case for Speaking. Due to this, certain tips and suggestions for preparing for the Speaking section for exams like OET are very helpful.

Therefore, in this article, we will first get to know some details on this specific subtest and then discuss five top tricks that you can keep in mind while practising for the exam.

Overview of OET Speaking

Speaking is one of the crucial parts of the OET exam, which assesses the candidate’s ability to communicate proficiently in English and handle medical issues that he/she might face in real-life scenarios. The overall duration of the test is 20 minutes which includes five minutes for the main conversation and 3 minutes of preparation time for each. One has to participate in two different role plays with an interlocutor who will be playing the role of a patient or an acquaintance of the patient. The information related to the conversations will be provided on a prompt card which the candidate can keep during the role play and use to take notes.

The topics for the role plays are based on professional situations which take place in real healthcare settings. The OET Speaking subtest is specific to the profession it is evaluating, for example, if a nursing candidate is taking the test, the topics will be related to the field of nursing and the same goes for all the other eleven healthcare professions that are tested by OET.

There are two broad categories based on which this test is evaluated which are Linguistic Criteria and Clinical Communication Criteria. While the former includes factors like intelligibility, fluency, appropriateness of language and resources of grammar and expression, the latter decides on the basis of relationship building with patients, understanding & incorporating the patient’s perspective, gathering accurate data from patients and giving proper information to the patient.

Five Essential Tips for OET Speaking

Organization and using the preparation time to our own benefit is the most essential way to kickstart your conversation. It will not only help the candidate to maintain the role he/she is playing but also enable her/him to score grade A on the OET Speaking test. To begin with, remember that there are three stages in which you can organize your conversation and maintain the role:

  • Introduction – In the beginning, the candidate must introduce themselves and then begin the conversation. For example:

Good morning. Please have your seat. My name is ______________. I am one of the registered nurses working in this community health center. How may I address you here?

  • The body – In this part, the main discussion should be included as per the flow of the conversation, like discussing the problems, past consultations, medications, solutions, etc.
  • In conclusion – Finally, the candidate must end the conversation on a positive note with which the interlocutor, who is acting as the patient/patient’s relative and the examiners should agree with. For example:

I am glad to hear that. You can start with the little changes at first, and I recommend that you visit me in 4 weeks’ time to assess your progress. If you have any questions in the meantime, you can contact me here at the centre. Does that sound Ok?


Try not to worry. I hope I have cleared all your concerns. Please contact me if you need any further assistance.

Now that you know one of the key factors of how to prepare, let us delve into the five essential OET Speaking tips that will benefit you.

➢    Initiate the Conversation and keep it flowing.

The role plays will be an exact imitation of the type of conversation that you will have once you begin working in a proper healthcare setting. So, the best way to perform well is not to consider the Speaking subtest as an exam. Rather, take it as a practical medical situation where you are dealing with a patient who has come to you with some health or related concerns. It will not only help you to talk more naturally with the role-player but also guide you to take charge of the interaction. Consequently, you will automatically use appropriate gestures and make the other person comfortable with the whole scenario.

One more important pointer to keep in mind is to never let the interlocutor begin the conversation or push it ahead. Always introduce yourself first and keep the conversation going. If, in any case, you feel the conversation is going to a dead-end or silence pervades the scene, use some silence-breaking questions as per the situation. For instance:

  • Can you give me more information about your situation?/ So, please tell me a little bit more about your situation.
  • Is there anything else you want to share that will help in the diagnosis?
  • Can you tell me more about it? / Is there anything that you would like to add?
  • Is there anything else which is bothering you / keeping you distracted?

➢    Listen carefully to the problems and provide appropriate advice.

When you take a speaking test that involves a conversation, always remember that it is also an evaluation of your listening skills. It is because you need to listen to what the other person is saying and respond accordingly. In the same way, in a healthcare setting, which is mirrored in the OET Speaking exam, you need to pay attention to every detail the patient/interlocutor is relaying before suggesting or asking something.

But, be careful not to focus too hard or follow a specific pattern. This might make you nervous and make you lose track of the main conversation. Just make sure to ask questions, follow-up questions, respond with phrases like ‘Right, ok, I understand.’, answer if the patient asks any and offer advice in suitable words.

Try not to use phrases like ‘You should…’, ‘You ought to…’, etc., while giving advice, which might sound forceful. On the other hand, using phrases like ‘It is highly recommended…’, ‘It would be a good idea…’, ‘I would suggest…’ etc. for providing recommendations will make the patient feel you care and that they are not bullied or forced to do something.

➢    Pay attention to the language and build a rapport

Imagine you are a patient and the doctor or nurse in charge is talking rudely to you or forcing you to do something just because they are not interested. Would you feel comfortable visiting them again? The obvious answer is ‘NO’. Well, the same is the case with everyone.

The first duty of all healthcare professionals is to make sure the patient feels cared for by listening to them carefully and clarifying their doubts about the situation they are in. Therefore, even in OET Speaking, you have to use positive language to interact with the interlocutor who is acting as the patient.

Begin with a greeting, establish trust with the patient, be patient with him/her while they speak and finally offer a suggestion when he/she is satisfied. Remember that the patient will already be in distress or in a bad mood, so try to relax him/her and increase their anxiety. It will not only give them confidence and motivation to visit you again in real life but also impress the examiners during the exam.

➢    Be prepared for unexpected turns and maintain calm

Uncertainty is a part and parcel of our lives, be it in an important conversation or an incident that changes the regular track. In the healthcare profession, it is most likely for doctors, nurses, or other medical experts to face certain situations which they were least expecting. But, it should stop them from providing the best care and attention that the patient deserves.

So, to test if you, as a professional, are flexible enough to handle these crises or unplanned situations, the interlocutor might ask you questions or turn the conversation in a direction you were unprepared for. They might ask odd questions like ‘What’s your phone number?’, ‘Are you married?’, ‘Why did you choose this profession?’ or ‘Are you funny?’, etc. You should fumble or look surprised and answer such questions sincerely and politely so as not to sound rude or impatient. This might help you to build a bond with the patient and prove that you are capable of handling any situation tactfully and with confidence.

➢    Conclude appropriately with proper summarization

It is essential to end any conversation without leaving loose ends, otherwise, it might cause confusion. So, after discussing the condition he/she is in, understanding how to solve the problem and advising them, make sure if they have understood what you have said.

It would be best if you summarized the discussion in a precise way by highlighting the crucial points of the interaction. In this way, the patient will get a chance to revise what has been said and if there is further information or queries, he/she can share it with you. Then, you can round up with a friendly goodbye or offer to communicate further, if required.

In Brief

In short, while taking the OET Speaking test, think and act like you are facing a real-life situation and deal with it patiently and as naturally as possible. Ask questions to the patient, speak slowly and politely, stay calm even when the interlocutor speaks aggressively and customize your language according to the patient you are dealing with.

Some might find all this overwhelming. But, practise as much as you can and if you need professional guidance, you can definitely sign up for master courses as provided by IELTSMaterial.