...BlogsIs the recipient of your letter already familiar with the patient’s history?
Is the recipient of your letter already familiar with the patient’s history?

How do you know if the patient is a 'known case' for the recipient of your OET Writing letter?

Many candidates become needlessly confused when deciding whether the recipient of their letter already has an existing relationship with the patient or not. They might ask themselves if the patient is a  or not.

It is important to understand from the task in the Writing sub-test whether the recipient knows the patient or whether you are introducing the patient to the recipient for the first time. Knowing if the recipient is familiar with the is important for case note selection.


How do you know if the recipient has a history with the patient?

Official OET case notes will make it clear if the reader and patient already know each other so you won’t need to guess. Instead, the task will use clear wording to show there is an existing relationship.

Here are some with features which indicate you are writing a letter about a known case:


1) Medicine Writing Task:

In the Medicine Writing task shown below, this is clearly a letter to the patient’s own doctor, who would have some prior knowledge of his medical history. Note the use of the phrase "the patient's regular doctor."

A Discharge Letter: Patient is returning home after a 10-day hospital admission with tuberculosis.

Case Notes

Patient:           Mr. John Aloysius

DOB:                4th September 1985 (Age: 33)

Diagnosis:        Pulmonary tuberculosis

Writing Task:

Using the above information, write a letter of discharge to Dr. Hodges, the patient’s regular doctor, informing her of the treatment Mr. Aloysius has received and advising on further management. Address the letter to Dr. Christine Hodges, 2 Hill Forest Road, Newtown.

2) Occupational Therapy Writing Task:

In the Occupational Therapy Writing task below, this letter is clearly about a patient who is already known by the reader. If you want to see the full sample, visit Sample 5 (Writing Test). Note the use of the phrase "the patient's doctor," which suggests they already have a doctor-patient relationship.

Today, you conducted a home assessment for Mr. Arthur Jamieson, a patient with Parkinson’s disease.

Case Notes:

Patient:           Mr. Arthur Jamieson

DOB:                20 Jul 1937   Age: 83

Referral:            By Pt’s GP (Dr Noah Andrews) – Patient’s GP for 35 yrs

                           GP concern – insufficient support for PT in his home.

Writing Task:

Using the information given in the case notes write a letter to the patient’s doctor, Dr Andrews, informing him of your assessment and recommendations for treatment. Address the letter to Dr Noah Andrews, Greenhills Medical Centre, 99 Major Street, Greenhills.

3) Nursing Writing Task:

Here is an example of a Writing task which indicates you are writing a letter about a new patient. Note the clues in the task instructions that indicate the reader has not met the patient before and, therefore, the patient is not a known case. If you would like to read the full sample, view the Sample 5 Writing tests on the OET website.

Discharge Letter: Patient was admitted to hospital after a fall. He is being discharged to a nursing home

Case Notes:

Patient:              Mr. George Gale

DOB:                24th April 1936, 85 yr. old

15 May 2021: Ready for discharge to a nursing home for temporary care.

Writing Task:

Using the information in the case notes, write a letter of discharge to Ms. Gold, the Head Nurse at Primrose Nursing Home. In your letter, briefly outline Mr. Gale’s history as well as your concerns and recommendations. Address the letter to Ms. Jane Gold, Head Nurse, Primrose Nursing Home, 3 Blackwood Street, Oldtown.

Vocabulary tip!

The words ‘family’ doctor or ‘Community’ nurse do not, on their own, mean that the reader is familiar with the patient. This is just part of their job title.

Beware! If you are working with case notes that include such vague terms, without any further reference to the recipient’s relationship to the patient, it is likely that they are unofficial. It’s not recommended to rely on such materials which don’t represent the test accurately and can hinder your preparation for OET.

Once you have decided that your reader is familiar with the patient’s history, you then need to only include the information that is relevant to the current situation or reason for writing. This may involve mentioning some history, but only if you think it is necessary to remind the reader of the context of the situation. You may, for example, write:

As you are aware, Mr. X was diagnosed with diabetes 12 years ago...

Being able to identify if the patient is a known case in the task from the OET Writing sub-test is important for case note selection. With this information, you are able to select the important case notes for your letter.