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OET Writing

 OET writing is profession-specific. There is one task for each profession based on their work situation and profession for example nurses go with the nursing task, a doctor goes with doctor tasks and so on.

 Format for writing Sub-Test 

 There is only one writing task in the sub-test which is based on a set of case notes. You need to write a letter to a specific recipient using clear and focused language.


 The duration of the Writing sub-test is 45 minutes. Out of the total time allocated, five minutes is allotted to reading the case notes and the writing task. During these initial five minutes, you are not allowed to write anything on the question paper or your answer sheet. Once your reading time is over, you have 40 minutes to write the letter.

TIPS for OET Writing

Before you begin writing

 The Writing test contains patient case notes and the writing task, or question. Read the writing task first because it will help you understand two things: 

  • Who you are writing to 
  • Why you are writing 

With this information, you will be able to read the case notes meaningfully and choose the most relevant ones to include in your letter. 

  Who am I writing to? 

  When thinking about your audience, ask yourself some questions:

 Why am I writing? 

  The purpose of your letter determines the kind of information you need to put in your letter.

   Reading case notes

Reading case notes accurately is essential if you want to write 'a well-structured letter. Once the test begins, don't be in a hurry to start writing your letter. Take time to understand what the case notes tell you about the patient.

 Planning your letter        

 After you have read the case notes, you will need to plan your letter. You can do this by selecting the case notes that are most relevant to your writing task. How do you choose the most relevant case notes? Remind yourself about the requirements of the writing task - who you are writing to and why you are writing. Remember that the word length requirement is 180-200 words, so you do not need to include all the case notes. OET tasks are designed to have enough relevant case notes for you to meet the word count. If you focus on choosing the most relevant case notes, you are more likely to meet the word count. 

 Use the reading time given to you at the beginning of the test well. The writing task appears after the case notes but read it first so that you understand the audience and purpose before you read the case notes. Begin planning your letter during the five minutes of reading the time.

 Understand the writing task clearly before you go on to read the case notes. Pay attention to who the reader is and why you are writing. Recognize whether it is an emergency situation or not. All these will influence which case notes you select and how you order the information in your letter.

 Read the case notes with the audience and purpose in mind. A good way of doing this is to classify case notes as you read them into 'need to know' (most relevant) information, 'nice to know' (optional) information and 'irrelevant' information.   

Think a little about how you want to organize your letter before you start writing. Once you decide which information is most relevant, think about how you want to place it in your letter. Decide which information can come at the beginning and which can be placed later. Once you have prioritized the most relevant information, you can then see if there is an opportunity to include any optional information. Include the optional information only if you feel it could help your reader fulfil what he/ she needs to do concerning the patient.

 Remember, preparation and practice is the key to improvement. Always time yourself when you practice sample writing tasks during your preparation. This will help you improve your speed at the task.

 While preparing, create a checklist of areas where you struggle (whether it is selecting case notes or an aspect of grammar) so you can work consistently towards 'improving in those areas. 

Assessment criteria

You are marked on six criteria that assess different aspects of writing in a healthcare environment. It is important to understand what is expected for each criterion so that you can improve your score. 

  The Purpose criterion is marked on a scale of 0-3 while the remaining five of the six criteria are marked on a scale of 0-7. Let's go over the six criteria to determine how writing in OET can best match up to the Assessors' expectations

Criterion 1: Purpose

 To achieve a higher score in this criterion: 

  Read the case notes carefully to get a sense of why you need to refer or transfer the patient to the reader. 

  • Indicate the purpose of writing at the beginning of your letter so the reader does not need to spend time searching for this information.
  • Use relevant case notes to elaborate on and support the purpose of your letter. 

Criterion 2: Content

 To achieve a higher score in this criterion, you should: 

  Have a good awareness of the reader of the letter. Consider whether your reader is aware of the patient's case and what is necessary for them to know for continued care in this case. 

  • Provide the information they need to ensure the recovery and care of the patient. In other words, do not leave out important information that is necessary for the reader to know. 
  • Be accurate. Convey the information presented in the case notes without changing the meaning in any way. You may paraphrase or summarize as long as this does not affect the accuracy of meaning. 
  • Avoid making interpretations or giving a diagnosis when it is not stated in the case notes. 
  • Do not add anything extra to the case notes, even if your medical knowledge tells you otherwise.

Criterion 3: Conciseness and clarity

To achieve a higher score in this criterion, you should: 

  • Leave out irrelevant information that could distract your reader from the main message. 
  • Convey the information your reader needs to know in the most efficient way possible. 
  • Summarise information from the case notes when necessary. 
  • Avoid explaining key information in a complicated manner. 

Criterion 4: Genre and style

To achieve a higher score in this criterion, you should: 

  • Maintain a polite, formal tone. 
  • Avoid adding your own judgments and feelings about the case. 
  • Use medical terms appropriately, always considering how familiar your reader would be with a particular term. We cannot assume that all medical professionals will be familiar with all medical terms and abbreviations.
  • If you are writing to a professional in the same discipline then it is appropriate to use specialist medical terms and abbreviations, but if your reader is from another discipline entirely, then you may need to explain terms and avoid specialist abbreviations. 
  • Avoid misuse and overuse of technical jargon and abbreviations. ·
  • Provide simple explanations if writing to a layperson like a caregiver, social worker or parent. 

In short, get a clear understanding of the reader and the purpose of your letter. This will simplify your choice of vocabulary and tone.

Criterion 5: Organisation and layout

 To achieve a higher score in this criterion, you should: 

  • Logically divide information into paragraphs. However, avoid relying on a template or pre-decided format for this. You need to engage with the case notes on Test Day to decide the best organization for your letter. 
  • Order information in a way that is most suitable for your reader. This is not necessarily the same order in which the information is found in the case notes. 
  • Highlight information that you think is important for the reader to know. 
  • Present your letter in an appropriate layout. There is a variety. of accepted letter formats used by health professionals in different local contexts. You do not need to use a particular format in the OET Writing sub-test; just try to ensure that your letter is laid out well and meets the needs of the particular task. 

Criterion 6: Language

 To achieve a higher score in this criterion, you should: 

  • Use appropriate vocabulary suited to the context of the task.1 
  • Ensure the language you use serves the purpose of communicating your message, so avoid using complicated sentences, grammar or linking words just to show that you know them. Even if used accurately, the unnecessarily complicated language will lead to a reduction in your score. Aim to make it easy for the reader to find the required information. 
  • Avoid common spelling errors. 
  • Maintain one spelling convention (US/British English) throughout your letter. 
  • Punctuate sentences clearly. 
  • Use the last five minutes to check your work and correct any errors you notice.