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OET Speaking: overview of criteria for the test

A nurse is sitting with her patient and taking notes. Both are smiling.

One major reason why many so people choose OET is the Speaking sub-test. Unlike other language tests which require you to perform strange or repetitive tasks, respond to a computer, or talk about random topics like space exploration and recycling, in OET, your Speaking test is familiar territory.


What happens in OET Speaking?

You complete two role plays with an interlocutor. You play the role of your profession (e.g., nurse, doctor, physio) and the interlocutor plays the role of your patient or their carer. You are given all the information you need on a role-play card and you have three minutes per role play to prepare.

Not only is this a more comfortable scenario for you as a healthcare worker, but it also means that, as you are preparing for the test, you are improving the language and clinical skills for your future workplace.


How are you scored in OET Speaking?

Your role plays are recorded and assessed by at least two trained OET assessors. They rate your Speaking performance using Linguistic and Clinical Communication Criteria. In this blog, we outline each criterion so you can see at a glance how your speaking skills are measured.


For more detailed explanations and real sample role plays, check out our Ultimate Guides to the OET Speaking Sub-test for Linguistic Criteria and Clinical Communication Criteria.


Linguistic Criteria


This means being able to speak clearly so others can understand you. You need to pronounce words and sounds clearly, use the right tone of voice, and use stress and rhythm in your sentences. Imagine you're explaining a new medication to a patient. You need to pronounce the medication's name clearly, use the right tone of voice, and stress the important words, like dosage and timing, so the patient understands.



This means speaking smoothly and at the right speed. You should not speak too fast or too slow, and you should not pause too much or hesitate when you speak. Think about a time when you had to break bad news to a patient. You would speak slowly and smoothly, pausing at the right moments to let the patient absorb the information.


Appropriateness of language

This criterion considers how you use the right words and tone for the situation and the patient. You should use words that a non-medical person can understand when explaining medical procedures or conditions. If you're explaining a complex procedure to a patient, for instance, you wouldn't use medical jargon. Instead, you would use simple, everyday language that the patient can understand.


Resources of grammar and expression

This means using a wide range of vocabulary and grammar correctly. You should be able to express your ideas clearly and without confusion.


Want to see a role play in action? View samples in the ‘Videos’ section of our Speaking page.


Clinical Communication Criteria

Relationship building

This means starting the conversation in a friendly and respectful way, listening carefully to the patient, not judging the patient, and showing understanding for their feelings and situation.


 Get to know the OET Clinical Communication Criteria in our free interactive course:

OET Speaking | Clinical Communication mini course


Understanding & incorporating the patient’s perspective

This involves asking about and understanding the patient's thoughts, worries, and expectations. You should also respond to the patient's hints or changes in behavior. If a patient is worried about a procedure, for example, you would ask about their concerns and expectations, and then explain the procedure in a way that addresses these concerns.


Providing structure

This means organising the conversation in a logical way, clearly indicating when you change the topic, and using techniques to make your explanations clear and organised.

Learn more with OET All Stars, IRS Group, here: Structure: Techniques for Organization (YouTube)


Information gathering

This means listening carefully to the patient's story, asking open questions at first and then more specific questions, not asking confusing or leading questions, asking for more details when needed, and summarising the information to check for understanding. Imagine a patient comes in with a vague complaint like "I just don't feel well", you would use open questions to get more information, and then more specific questions to narrow down the possible causes.


Information giving

This involves finding out what the patient already knows, pausing when giving information to check for understanding, encouraging the patient to share their reactions or feelings, checking if the patient has understood the information, and finding out what more information the patient needs. Think about giving a patient their test results; you would first find out what they already know, then explain the results, pausing to check for understanding and to answer any questions.


Understanding these criteria will help you do well in the OET Speaking sub-test. But more importantly, these skills will make you a better healthcare professional. They will help you communicate clearly with patients and understand their needs. This will make you a safer and more effective healthcare worker when you move to an English-speaking country.

Good luck with your preparation!