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OET Reading: managing multiple-choice questions

Reading and Listening Parts B and C in OET require you to answer multiple-choice questions. To perform well in these tasks and feel confident on test day, it is essential to improve these skills.

This blog post will provide you with strategies and tips to help you effectively answer multiple-choice questions in Reading Parts B and C.

 

Overview of OET Reading Parts B and C

In OET Reading Part B, you read six short texts from the healthcare workplace, and each one has a 3-option multiple-choice question. In Reading Part C, you read two longer texts. Each text has eight multiple-choice questions.

If taking OET on paper, you need to fill in the circle using a 2B pencil:

Circles with A, B, C inside. The B circle is shaded grey.

 

If taking OET on Computer or OET@Home, you select the correct answer with a left click of your mouse. You can also eliminate answer options by right clicking. Click again to de-select. Watch this video for more information on taking OET Listening on computer: OET Reading Test on Computer – Guide.

 

Approaching multiple-choice questions

Compared to other question types where you have to pick out the answer from what you read, with multiple-choice questions you don’t; it’s given to you on the answer page.

The drawback to this is that some test takers take quite a simple approach to multiple-choice questions believing it will be easy to spot the correct answer from the incorrect ones. With skill and strategies such as the ones below, it can be possible to consistently select the correct answer, BUT it takes practice. After all, a pass grade at OET is providing proof to regulators and employers that you have proficient English skills in Reading.

 

Strategy 1 – Understand the question

The question contains a lot of essential information to help you choose the correct answer option but you have to read it carefully. There are two types of question used by OET in Reading Parts B and C:

  1. Short answer questions: For example, "What was the aim of the study described in the fourth paragraph?"
  2. Sentence completion questions: For example, "The memo says failure to screen a patient for malnutrition may result in..."

Some students find the second type of question more difficult to understand because it is not phrased as a question. Instead it provides you with the start of the sentence and you need to decide which of the options is the best way to complete it.

It may be helpful to turn the incomplete sentence into a question, so you feel clearer about its meaning

 For question 2 above, you could re-imagine this as the question: "What may be the result of failing to screen a patient for malnutrition?"

 

Strategy 2 – Understand the options

In Reading Parts B and C, selecting the correct answer comes from understanding each of the options, how the ideas they contain are similar or different to each other and which one is expressed in the text.

The verbs used in each answer option in Reading Part B are a good place to start. Identify each verb and think about its meaning as well as how it differs in meaning from the verb in the other answer options.

Look at this question from Reading Sample Test 1, for example:

5. The guidelines require those undertaking a clinical medication review to

A. involve the patient in their decisions.
B. consider the cost of any change in treatments.
C. recommend other services as an alternative to medication. 

Put the verbs into your own words as this makes sure you really understand them. Remember that it is likely that you will read synonyms rather than the exact same words which are written for the correct answer option, and perhaps words with different or opposite meaning for the incorrect answer options.:

  • ask the patient for their opinion [all patients should have the chance to]
  • think about
  • advise

Sometimes the verb also reveals either a positive or negative stance towards the idea, which can assist you when eliminating options e.g. if the section of text you are reading is reporting positively about the topic, the answer option which suggests a negative response is unlikely to be correct.

Look at this question from Reading Sample Test 3, for example:

6. When dealing with patients following a safety incident, staff must avoid 

A. saying anything until the facts have been established.
B. speculating on the possible causes of the incident.
C. contradicting what has been said by other staff.

The first two options are fairly neutral in meaning saying anything (speaking), speculating (guessing), but the third option is negative (contradicting (disagreeing).

 

Strategy 3 – Maintain concentration

Staying focused during your test, especially during Reading Part C, can be challenging if you are unused to reading with the level of concentration required for half an hour or more. Plus the testing environment can cause distractions to intrude into your thoughts, for example the low level noise from other candidates also taking the test in the same venue, the clock at the front of the room or on your screen etc.

Here are some tips to work on your concentration before test day and on test day.

 

Before test day

Build your stamina. Practise reading to longer texts and if possible in the way you will read in your test e.g. hard copy if you will take OET on paper on a laptop or desktop if you will take OET on computer. If reading feels like a struggle, start with 10 minutes a day and gradually build up your reading habit.

Practise active listening. When practising, engage deeply with the audio. Take notes, visualise the speakers and their activities, think of follow-up questions you might ask them, or imagine you’re part of the conversation with them. These techniques will help you stay alert and attentive.

Practise summarising. After you listen to a few minutes of an audio, pause and challenge yourself to write a one-sentence summary of what you hear. This technique helps you to listen for overall meaning or gist and not get lost in the detail.

 

On test day

Predict and anticipate. Use the time before the audio plays to read ahead. Use the context statements to think about the type of language you are about to hear. Focus on the questions. While you won’t be able to guess the answers, reading ahead will help you be ready to listen actively.

Use signal words.  Listen for words that indicate a change in ideas, transitions or highlighting of important information. Language such as ‘However’, ‘First’, ‘On the other hand’, and ‘For example’ can give you clues about what information is coming up and will help you keep up with the audio.

Breathe! Taking a few deep breaths in between sections will help keep you alert and engaged. It can also help you shake off the previous section and let go of any doubts. Take a breath, clear your mind and get ready for the next set of questions.

 

Strategy 4 – Move on

All of the multiple-choice questions are independent. This means they don’t require you to get the previous question correct to be able to get the next question correct. If you find you have missed an answer in Listening or you can’t easily answer a question in Reading, move on. If it’s Listening, make a guess based on your understanding of what you heard. For Reading, also make a guess so you have the answer on the paper within the time limit but perhaps come back to it if you have time at the end for a second check.

 

Strategy 5 – Keep moving forward

Remember that all multiple-choice questions are independent, meaning you do not need to answer the previous question correctly to answer the next one accurately. If you miss an answer in the Listening section, don’t waste time worrying about it. Make an educated guess based on your understanding of the audio or text, and then move on. Remember that you won’t lose marks for an incorrect answer, so it’s always better to choose something rather than skip a question.

 

Now that you know the best strategies for success in OET Listening Parts B and C, be sure to try our free Listening sample tests. You can also try a practice test with Rebecca in this video: Guided Practice: New OET Listening Sample Test 4.

Ignore repeated words in the answer options or when the verbs have similar meaning 

In Parts B and C, you usually need to comprehend more than just one sentence. To do this, you need to understand the meaning of the answer options and not get distracted by vocabulary. In other words, just because you may hear the word ‘appendix’ in the audio for Question 28, it does not automatically mean that Option A is correct.