English Language Testing and OET webinar

Watch the recording of this webinar about the Occupational English Test (OET) and hear how this has been adapted in response to COVID-19.

20 October 2020

This webinar was sponsored by the Occupational English Test (OET) and explores how the OET is supporting organisations to prepare and enable overseas nurses to quickly pass the OET exam. The session also features Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust who are facilitating in-house testing.

The virtual session was chaired by Adele Bunch, programme lead at NHS Employers, supported by Joe Plewes, senior programme officer. They were joined by Mickey Bonin and Rebecca Bush from OET, and David Howe and Carlos Gomes Da Costa from Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust.

The presentations were followed by a question and answer session (those questions which were not answered in the session can be found below).

Questions and answers

Below are answers to questions asked during the webinar, some of which we did not have time to answer during the session.

Is there an estimated equivalency between IELTS and OET scores?

You will receive a Statement of Results which shows your score for each of the four sub-tests and includes an IELTS equivalent band score. For more information go to the OET website.

Is the OET Handbook for NHS clinical educators available online or through the course? 

The handbook is used within the sessions and attending educators get to take it away to use as a reference tool afterwards. We would love to run the session again so please let us know your interest so we can start to plan a date for this to happen.

Does having to train on arrival to UK for OET effect their OSCE training? As they are already limited by time to complete OSCE.

These are both a requirement for registration with the NMC but training can begin before staff arrive in the UK.

Are there any plans to reduce the fees for OET? It is one of the main obstacles for us.

At the moment there are no plans to reduce the fee although we are looking at bulk discounting. There are plans to revise OET in the next few years and one of the aims of this project is to reduce cost.

Will the procedure for computer test at home or at test centre will be different than the current procedure?

OET@Home requires that you have a computer with the right specifications and the room you're taking it from meets security requirements. For a computer-based, it's the same experience as a paper-based except you do the test on computer in a test venue. Further information can be found on the OET website.

Would you consider some kind of qualification/ certification for OET educators?

We would be happy to issue a certificate of attendance to any educator who attends our NHS session. Potentially, if there was enough interest, we would consider further training or a course specifically targeting clinical educators but this isn't something we feel there is demand for currently.

OET computer based will only be in the OET centres? And for countries where OET centres are not available what should we do?

We will have a full list of OET computer-based centres on our website shortly. We have signed an agreement with Prometric, one of the leading computer-based assessment organisations in the world which will significantly increase locations where we can offer OET.

Can you use OET for UK Visas and Immigration fully now and are there any barriers? I remember this being an issue a while ago?

Yes you can. Please see further information on the OET website.

Can you talk about any differences in pass rates between OET and IELTS?

As the presenters from Buckinghamshire noted their pass rates went up after using OET but there is only anecdotal evidence on this issue.

Could the preparation material especially the writing letter part be free to ensure better support?

We have lots of free preparation material for all parts of the test including Writing. Please visit the OET prepare page for its writing guide, sample tests, on demand Masterclasses and Start for Success pack.

What is the difference between a nurse taking OET in country before arrival, and doing it in the UK? Can this cause difficulty on arrival if the candidate finds the OET difficult?

The training can start in their own country. Please see further information on the OET website.

Some of our candidates were surprised that the OET examiner challenged the member of staff on their clinical competency. Is this appropriate for an English language test?

The OET Speaking test assesses candidates on two specific areas: their linguistic skills (fluency, accuracy, tone etc.) and their clinical communication skills. These skills are focusing on the language used by healthcare professionals when speaking to patients e.g. asking the patient to provide details of their symptoms, checking the patient has understood a treatment process, showing empathy when providing bad news to a patient etc. OET assessors are only scoring candidates on these language-based skills not any clinical accuracy from a medical sense.

This webinar focuses on nurses. Is this available across a range of professions?

OET covers 12 broad healthcare professions. Nursing (and midwifery) and Medicine are the two most popular professions tested and we have preparation support available for these and all OET professions on the OET web page.

Are there any NHS trusts in London, like Buckinghamshire Healthcare, that has been working on this, that can can help longstanding nurses?

Please contact OET about this. 

I am from Gaza but wanted to ask about OET@Home. There's no test centre here - how can we progress OET@Home?

Please contact OET.

For David and Carlos: Very good strategy, well done. Did you provide protected/paid study time to the candidates for their OET preparation training? Or did the candidates use their own off-work time for the training?

A mix of both but its about getting the balance. If we took everyone off the ward at the same time that would cause chaos so it is rostered in, but it is also expected candidates will do some in their own time. The training can start as soon as they are appointed so some of this can begin in their own country.

You mentioned you had had a high pass rate 80 per cent, could you provide any more detail on why that has gone so well for other trusts?

We did see that pass rates went up after using OET but the evidence on this is only anecdotal.