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OET Reading: Strategies to make managing time stress-free

A healthcare worker is holding and pointing at a red clock

Managing time in OET Reading can be stress-free 

The OET Reading test is 60 minutes long. It is divided into two time periods: 

  • 15 minutes for Reading Part A 
  • 45 minutes for Reading Parts B & C 

The two time periods are separate, which means when the 15 minutes for Reading Part A have elapsed, you submit your answers (to the invigilator or on the computer) before starting the 45 minutes for Parts B & C. 


Managing time when you’re new to OET 

In this article, you will find some tips to manage your time during the test, but first of all, here is a tip to follow when you are new to OET sample tests: ignore the time. When learning something new, it is natural to take longer while you work out what the different steps are and the best way to tackle them. Trying to do something new under time pressure is unlikely to end well; rushing is likely to cause you to make mistakes, and then seeing a poor score in your sample test will make you feel stressed.  

Psychologically, your brain will remember this stress and the next time you attempt to do a sample test, negative feelings towards your ability to answer the questions successfully will resurface. 

Avoid this negativity by starting your reading preparation without the pressure of time. Give yourself time to become familiar with  

  • the question types and texts used in OET  
  • the skills of skimming, scanning and detailed understanding  
  • how to record your answers correctly as per the instructions (including accurate spelling for Reading Part A) 
  • looking for evidence that an answer option is incorrect (as well as evidence for the correct option) in Parts B and C 
  • the feelings of positivity and confidence that come from answering most if not all of the questions correctly 

When you have this familiarity and confidence, it is time to start focusing on the time limit. Start reducing the time minute by minute with each sample test you take until you are able to answer all of the questions within the given time.  


Managing time as you get closer to test day 

As you increase in confidence with answering the questions, there are some extra strategies you can follow to make sure you are as efficient with your time as possible. 


1) Answer the questions in order in Reading Part A

The first set of matching questions are quick to answer, write or click A, B, C or D, and do not require you to read any of the four texts in any detail. However, these questions are helping you to get a good overview of the contents of the four texts which means, when you come to answer the remaining questions, you can more reliably go straight to the text containing the answer.


2) In Part A, look for a single word or short phrase

You do not need to record anything other than the answer i.e., don’t write a full sentence and you should be careful to repeat any of the words (or synonyms of the words) given in the question.


3) Try to answer the six Part B questions in 10 minutes or less

There are only three answer options to choose from for these questions, and it should be quite easy to focus in on the part of the text containing the answer using skimming skills (see below for more information on skimming).


4) Leave yourself at least 35 minutes for Part C and try to split your time evenly between the two extracts

You will need to read for detailed understanding of the arguments and opinions presented by the writer. The 35-minute limite for both Part C extracts allows roughly two minutes per question. If you haven’t been able to decide on a final answer in this time, leave the question and go on to the next. It’s important to answer every question and if you have time, you can come back to this missed question later. You never know, the break from thinking about this question might help you work out the correct answer by looking at it again with fresh eyes. 


Managing time is your responsibility. There are warnings given when there are five minutes remaining and when the time is complete but no other restrictions. You will be able to see a clock at all times (at the front of the room for OET on paper or on the computer screen), so you can check how you are tracking at any point. We wouldn’t recommend checking the time frequently, especially on test day, as this is likely to increase any nerves you are feeling, which are standard for test day. 

If you have been practising answering questions within the time limit, then you can just focus on following your usual strategies feeling comfortable that you will be able to replicate them in the test. 


Even more strategies 

Here are three additional strategies that can help with managing time when reading. 


5) Skim

This is when you move your eyes quickly over the text from start to finish to get a general understanding of its contents. 

To skim effectively, you don’t need to read every word. In Part A, you can skim the headings and textual features (sub-headings, table headings, bullet-points) to identify the different contents each text contributes to the overall topic you are answering questions about. In Part B, you can skim the heading and the first sentence (topic sentence) of each paragraph to get a good overall understanding of the text’s contents. 


6) Use the context statement

For each Part B question, there is a context statement which tells you the type of text you are going to read. It’s good to take notice of the text type as you read the question because it helps you to recall other examples of the same text type you have read. For example, emails follow a standard format: reason for writing, detail, request/follow up. Knowing the format can make finding information or understanding the main idea in the text easier. 

Examples of text types used in Part B are: 

  • memos 
  • guidelines 
  • manuals 
  • policy documents 
  • emails 


7) Sequential questions

The eight questions for each Part C text come sequentially through the whole text and are also independent of each other. This means you only need to focus on the part of the text or paragraph containing the answer and do not need to consider how this relates to information you may have read previously in the same text or that is coming later in the text. Many of the questions also direct you to the relevant paragraph to locate the answer. 


Test yourself

Ready to try out the strategies? Check out our free sample Reading tests for more practice before test day.