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Maximising your three preparation minutes in the OET Speaking sub-test


The OET Speaking sub-test is a crucial component for healthcare professionals aspiring to work in English-speaking countries such as Australia, USA, and the UK. One often overlooked yet vital aspect of this sub-test is the three-minute preparation time before each role play. Using this time effectively can significantly enhance your performance. Here’s a detailed guide on how to make the most of these three minutes. 


Understanding the OET Speaking sub-test 

The OET Speaking sub-test involves role-playing scenarios relevant to your profession. You play the role of the healthcare professional (e.g., a nurse, doctor, dentist, etc.), and you'll interact with an interlocutor acting as a patient or a patient's relative/carer. The test assesses your ability to communicate effectively in a professional healthcare setting. Before each role play, you are given a role card and three minutes to prepare. These three minutes can make a substantial difference in how well you perform. 


Why preparation time matters 

The three-minute preparation period allows you to familiarise yourself with the role card, understand the patient’s situation, and plan your approach. Proper use of this time can help you feel more confident and prepared, ultimately improving your performance in the role play. 


How to use the three preparation minutes effectively 

Here’s a handy checklist to guide you through the preparation period: 


1. Understand the patient’s emotions 

Question to consider: How does the patient or family member feel about this situation? 

Look for adjectives in the background information on the role card. Try to empathise with the patient by putting yourself in their shoes. Understanding their emotions will help you respond appropriately during the role play. 

Example: If the background information mentions the patient is anxious or frustrated, be prepared to address these emotions with empathy and reassurance. 

Tip: If there are no adjectives to describe the patient’s emotions, you can still work this out from the information given. Is the situation positive or negative? Are they in pain? Is this a new or ongoing health condition. 


2. Anticipate the patient’s expectations 

Question to consider: What are they thinking will be discussed in the conversation? 

Consider the patient’s perspective and what they might expect to hear from you. This will help you tailor your responses to meet their expectations or gently guide them towards the necessary discussion points. 

Example: A patient may be expecting a prescription for medication, but your role card may indicate promoting lifestyle changes, so think about how to communicate this effectively. 


3. Identify any differences in expectations 

Question to consider: Is this what you plan to discuss or is there a difference? 

Compare the patient’s expectations with the information on the role card. Plan how to address any discrepancies tactfully and clearly. 

Example: A patient experiencing insomnia might want sleeping pills, but your role is to promote non-pharmacological interventions first. Plan your approach to explain the benefits of these interventions. 


4. Simplify medical language 

Question to consider: Is there any medical language on the role card I need to avoid because they won’t understand it? 

Identify any complex medical terminology and think of simpler ways to explain these terms. Use lay language to ensure the patient fully understands the information. 

Example: Instead of saying "hypertension," explain it as "high blood pressure," and describe its implications in simple terms. 


5. Allocate time for each task 

Question to consider: Which tasks do I need to spend the most time on? 

Estimate the time needed for each task on the role card to ensure you cover all essential points within the five-minute role play. Prioritise tasks that require more discussion and manage your time efficiently by moving more quickly through tasks that require simple question and answer responses. 

Example: If explaining treatment options is more complex than discussing symptoms, allocate more time to the former while ensuring all tasks are addressed. 


Practical tips for OET Speaking preparation 


Practice with sample role cards 

Regular practice with sample role cards can help you get used to the format and the type of scenarios you might encounter. Try to simulate test conditions by timing your preparation and role plays. 


Practice with examples from your workplace 

All the scenarios used in the OET Speaking sub-test are common conversations that healthcare patients have with patients on a regular basis. It’s very easy to practise your speaking skills using the patients you are working with now. Simply note down a few non-personalised details about the patient’s background and treatment plan and use these details with a friend or colleague to create your own role play. 


Seek feedback 

Practising with a peer or mentor can provide valuable feedback. They can help identify areas for improvement and offer suggestions on how to communicate more effectively. 


Use resources 

Make use of OET preparation materials, such as the OET Study Guide, the Speaking Guide: Linguistic Criteria and the Speaking Guide: Clinical Communication Criteria, which offer a range of resources and advice to enhance your speaking skills. 


Stay calm and focused 

During the test, remain calm and focused. Use deep breathing techniques if you feel anxious. Remember, the preparation time is there to help you feel ready and confident. 


Making the most of the three-minute preparation time in the OET Speaking sub-test can significantly enhance your performance. By understanding the patient's emotions, anticipating their expectations, simplifying medical language, and managing your time effectively, you can approach the role play with confidence.  

For more detailed guides and expert advice on OET Test preparation, visit our study tips and inspiration page