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OET Grammar and Punctuation: Useful tenses for OET Writing


Useful tenses for OET Writing

In the OET Writing sub-test, you write a letter, usually to another healthcare professional. In order to produce clear and accurate letters, you need a strong understanding of English tenses. In this blog, we will delve into four essential tenses: present simple, present continuous, past simple, and present perfect, and explore their relevance in OET Writing with examples.


1. Present Simple

Usage: The present simple tense is used to describe habits, routines, facts, and general truths.


Examples in OET Writing:

‘Mr Smith has chronic asthma.’

‘Ms Fedele lives alone and uses a wheelchair.’

‘She has a history of severe chest pain.’


2. Present Continuous

Usage: The present continuous tense is employed to describe actions that are ongoing at or around the moment of speaking or writing. It can also be used to indicate future plans or arrangements.


Examples in OET Writing:

‘Mrs. Jones is experiencing severe back pain.’

‘She is currently taking two tablets daily.’

‘Ms Klim is responding well to the new treatment regimen.’


3. Past Simple

Usage: The past simple tense is used to describe actions or events that took place and were completed in the past. (This could be long-term past or just a few moments ago.)


Examples in OET Writing:

‘On examination, her abdomen was tender on palpation.’

‘She reported a sharp pain in her abdomen yesterday.’

‘He presented at the clinic with shortness of breath and a persistent cough.’

'Her blood pressure was elevated at 140/90.'


4. Present Perfect

Usage: The present perfect tense is used to describe actions or events that happened at an unspecified time in the past and have relevance or connection to the present moment. It can also describe experiences or changes that have occurred over time.


Examples in OET Writing:

‘Since her last visit, Mrs Baxter’s pain levels have reduced from an 8 to a 4.’

‘Mrs. Green has shown significant improvement since starting the treatment.’

‘She has expressed concerns about potential side effects.’



Why is a strong grasp of tenses important in OET writing?

In the OET Writing sub-test, the clarity and accuracy of information are paramount. Using the appropriate tense ensures that the reader understands the patient's current condition, medical history, and recommended future actions. Misuse of tenses can lead to confusion, misinterpretation, and potential risks to patient care.

For instance, writing, ‘The patient experiences chest pain’ (present simple) instead of, ‘The patient experienced chest pain’ (past simple) can change the entire context of the situation. The first sentence suggests an ongoing issue, while the second sentence indicates a past event.


Test yourself with our quiz


Complete the sentences with the correct form of the verb in brackets. Answers are at the bottom of the page.

  1. Martinez ________ in the Radiology Department since 2015. (work)
  2. The patient ________ a severe headache when he arrived at the hospital yesterday. (have)
  3. Nurses ________ vitals every four hours as a standard procedure. (check)
  4. Currently, the research team ________ on a new vaccine for the flu. (work)
  5. Last year, she ________ a groundbreaking paper on genetic mutations. (publish)
  6. The patient ________ any allergic reactions to medications in the past. (not have)
  7. The physiotherapist ________ with Mr. Brown's rehabilitation plan next week. (start)
  8. The hospital ________ a new wing to accommodate more patients. (build)


Mastering the use of tenses is a foundational skill for the OET Writing sub-test. By understanding when and how to use the present simple, present continuous, past simple, and present perfect tenses, you can convey information clearly and accurately, ensuring effective communication in a healthcare setting. As you prepare for OET, remember to practise using these tenses in various contexts to enhance your writing skills and boost your confidence.





  1. has worked
  2. had
  3. check
  4. is working
  5. published
  6. has not had / hasn't had
  7. is starting
  8. is building