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OET Grammar and Punctuation: How important is spelling?

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The importance of spelling in OET

In OET, spelling is a concern in three of the four sub-tests (Listening, Reading and Writing) but with differing levels of significance. The guidance provided in this article applies for all testing modes (OET on paper, OET on computer at a venue and OET@Home).


Spelling in OET Writing

Spelling is assessed, along with punctuation, grammar and vocabulary, in just one of the six assessment criteria used for scoring Writing: Language. Of course, you want your spelling to be as accurate as possible in this test, but it is not the most important factor.


British and American spelling conventions are equally acceptable, but you should be consistent with the conventions you use during the letter. Be aware of common spelling ‘problem words’ such as advise/advice, recommend and even ‘writing’, which some candidates spell incorrectly with two Ts. Your spelling doesn’t need to be perfect to get the score you want, but it’s worth becoming familiar with your own spelling problem words and learning to spell them, not just for the test but also for your professional communication.


Spelling in OET Reading Part A

The sub-test which must have perfect spelling is Reading, specifically Reading Part A. Even one incorrect letter is enough for you to score zero for that answer in this sub-test, so don’t waste marks unnecessarily.


The reason for the strictness is that you are copying every answer directly from one of the texts. Take a few seconds after you’ve written your answer down to make sure you have copied it correctly. Due to the 15-minute time limit for Reading Part A, you may feel you have no time to spare for such checks, but it's better that every answer you record is spelled accurately and available to be marked correct than answering every question and immediately losing marks because of spelling mistakes.

 For more info about common errors and how to avoid them, watch our video: How to succeed in Reading Part A.


Spelling in OET Listening Part A

Like Reading and Writing, you should aim to be as accurate as possible in Listening Part A, especially with words that are frequently used in healthcare by both professionals and patients.


If during the exam, you hear a word you don’t feel 100% confident spelling, write what you heard phonetically (as it sounded) so you don’t miss what's being said next in the audio. Then, during the time provided for checking your answers, return to this word and rewrite it with the correct spelling if you can. Pay attention to the endings of words, which should be pronounced clearly by the speaker, and can make quite a significant difference to the meaning of the answer you are recording.


Like with Writing, after completing a sample test, make a record of any words you didn't spell correctly and, if these are commonly known words, make an effort to learn them for the future.

Get more important tips in our video: How to succeed in Listening Part A.