IELTS or OET- Which Test Should Nursing Professionals Take

Admin December 30, 2022
IELTS or OET- Which Test Should Nursing Professionals Take

Are you looking at a nursing career abroad? Then you already are aware that establishing your English language proficiency is a must before you apply. If you’re applying in the UK, you can demonstrate your English language capabilities by undertaking the Occupational English Test (OET) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), both of which are accepted by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) in UK.  

Of the two tests, which one should you take? Read our blog to find out! 

What is the IELTS? 

The IELTS (International English Language Testing System) is a general English language assessment test that is trusted by over 11,000 organizations across the world, including employers, universities, schools and immigration bodies.  IELTS scores are recognized and accepted across all of the English-speaking countries, including the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA, and the list is growing every year! 

What is the OET? 

Specifically designed for healthcare professionals, the OET (Occupational English Test) is a language assessment test that was initially created for countries such as Australia and New Zealand. From November 2017, the NMC in UK began recognizing this assessment as proof of language eligibility for registration in the UK. Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).  

Since July 2022, the OET was added to the list of recognized English tests for immigration to the USA. Nurses from around the world are now able to use their OET results when applying for US visas. 

IELTS or OET? Which one should Nursing professionals take? 

The IELTS is considered the ‘gold standard’ everywhere, as it gives a broader test of the English language and not just workplace-specific language. It has a stronger impact on life in the UK outside of work, and you would have gained a more widely accepted and recognized qualification. 

However, it is also the tougher exam to crack. Nurses might find that the IELTS focuses on subjects and languages that do not have any relevance to healthcare professionals. If your English is not your strong point, then you might struggle to achieve the mandatory scores in the IELTS. 

Having said that, for most people, IELTS is definitely the better choice as it covers more countries and offers a deep understanding of complex English. But as a healthcare professional, you might just find that the OET is the better option for you, since it uses profession-specific content and prepares you for the level of English that you will actually need to use while working. 

Which test is easier? 

The two tests vary in difficulty. You may find that the OET is easier in some ways as it is more specific to healthcare, so you will be familiar with terms and can put your healthcare knowledge, vocabulary and experiences to good use. The writing and speaking portions of the test will definitely become a little easier, as the situations provided might be something that you have already come across. The written test will require you to write a referral letter for a patient, which is again something that will not be too difficult. During the speaking test, you’ll need to interact with the examiner, who will be playing the role of a patient, relative or carer, and will be required to answer questions asked by them. 

As the IELTS is not specific to the healthcare profession, you might find it more difficult. It is typically taken by professionals and students from all industries, and the topics and content covered will be taken from a range of sources and might be out of your comfort zone. The written portion of the test will require you to be writing an essay, writing a formal letter and analyse written data. During the speaking test, you will have to have a conversation with the examiner based on some specific topics. 

How is IELTS scored? 

The IELTS scores will be calculated on a 0-9 band score basis. The average produces your overall band score.  An individual score of 7 or above is required for the Writing, Reading, Listening and Speaking portions of the exam. However, there are some exceptions determined by various countries. To know more about those, contact MWT Academy.  

How is the OET scored? 

The Occupational English Test is scored in grades (A-E). As a general standard it is expected that candidates need to have a B band. However, there are some exceptions determined by various countries. To know more about those, contact MWT Academy. 

Here’s a brief description of IELTS and OET: 

Test time 2 hours 45 mins Approx. 3 hours 
Listening  30 minutes + 10 minutes transfer time 40 questions You will be asked to listen to a recording with 4 sections and answer all 40 based on what you’ve heard.  The recordings will be two lectures or monologues and two spoken conversations.  The questions will ask you to ‘fill in the blanks’ or ‘match the following’, as well as asking you to label, complete sentences and more.  40 minutes 42 questions The OET listening test has three parts.  In Part A you must take notes on a patient consultation. In Part B you must fill in the blanks and answer multiple-choice questions after listening to a healthcare lecture. In part C you will listen to two different extracts, with six multiple-choice questions for each extract. You may expect two presentations or two interviews, or one of each. Same content for all healthcare professionals.  
Reading  1 hour (including transfer time) 40 questions For academics there will be three long passages of text taken from journals and newspapers etc. You must answer questions and complete tasks based on the reading material.  For general, 5 passages will be provided The questions may be multiple choice, true or false, note completion, identification and so on.  1 hour 42 questions The OET reading test has three parts.  Part A comprises four short texts, and you must fill in the blanks to complete a summary of the topic being discussed in the texts.  In Part B you must read six short texts and answer multiple-choice questions. The texts may accommodate extracts from policy documents, hospital pointers, manuals or internal communications, like emails or memos. Part C assesses your ability to identify detailed meaning and opinion in two texts. For every text, you need to answer eight multiple-choice questions with four options. Same content for all healthcare professionals.  
Writing  1 hour The IELTS writing test includes two tasks Task 1 for academic and general should be finished in 20 minutes.  For academics, you’ll need to study some visual information and write about some data/graphs provided. For general, you are supposed to write a letter which could be formal, informal or semi-formal The second task requires you to write an essay based on a given subject which is common for both academic and general.  45 minutes 5 minutes for reading the question and 40 minutes for writing You are required to read some case notes and write a discharge, follow up or referral letter based on them. Specific to the profession, based on typical workplace situations.    
Speaking  15 mins  This test comprises three parts, and Task 1 includes self-introduction and discussing general topics such as your home, family, hobbies and interests. For the later parts, you’ll be given a  Q card with a topic on to speak about. Your ability to explain your opinions and to analyse, discuss and speculate about issues will be tested. Task 3 will be follow-up questions based on what you said.  20 mins  Before starting, you’ll have a short, spoken warm-up with the examiner.  There will be two role-plays, in which you’ll play a professional role for example, such as a nurse and the examiner will be imitating the role of a patient, relative or caretaker.  The interaction will be based on a selected topic card. Specific to the profession, based on typical workplace situations.   

Now that you know what the two tests entail, which one would you choose- the IELTS or the OET? For intensive exam preparation and support in each of the sections of either test, you can connect with MWT Education Consultancy and our sister institute, MWT Global Academy. Get personalized coaching and guidance that will help you hone your English language skills and get the proficiency you need to ace the exam of your choice. We wish you all the best in your endeavors! 

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