OET Exam Pattern Made Easy: All You Need to Know

Jul 3, 2023 | OET

The OET exam, administered by Cambridge Boxhill Language Assessment Trust (CBLA), comprises four sections:

  •  Listening Section
  •  Reading Section
  •  Writing Section
  •  Speaking Section.

Listening Section [45 minutes]

The Listening Section, consists of three parts and encompasses a total of 42 question types that must be finished within a duration of 45 minutes. It focuses on healthcare-related topics that are relevant to candidates from various professions.

The listening audio lasts approximately 40 minutes, including both recorded content and designated pauses for candidates to write their answers.

It is essential for candidates to listen attentively as the audio is played only once, utilizing the pauses provided to complete their responses.

    • Part A: The Listening Section, healthcare professionals will listen to two recorded health professional-patient consultations and be tasked with identifying specific information to complete health professional notes. Each consultation lasts approximately 5 minutes.

    • Part B: Candidates will listen to various recorded extracts, such as team briefings, handovers, and health professional-patient dialogues. They will then answer one multiple-choice question for each extract, testing their ability to identify details from short healthcare workplace scenarios. Each extract in this part lasts around 1 minute.

    • Part C: It involves multiple recorded presentations or interviews on accessible healthcare topics. Candidates will answer multiple-choice questions for each extract, with each presentation or interview lasting about 5 minutes. This part evaluates their comprehension of the content discussed in these healthcare-related extracts.

Reading Section [60 minutes]

The Reading Sub-section is structured into three parts, encompassing a total of 42 question types that candidates must complete within a time frame of 60 minutes.

The OET Reading section covers a range of healthcare-related topics that are relevant to candidates from diverse professional backgrounds. Let’s explore the specific topics covered in this section.

    • Part A: Candidates will engage in an expeditious reading task where they will read four short essays related to general healthcare topics. The objective is to locate specific information from the texts by answering various question types, including matching, sentence completion, and short answer questions. This task is expected to be completed within 15 minutes.

    • Part B: Candidates will undertake a careful reading task. They will be presented with multiple short texts covering generic healthcare topics, such as policy guidelines, hospital guides, manuals, emails, memos, and internal communication. The goal is to identify the main points of these texts and answer multiple-choice questions. Part B, along with Part C, requires a duration of 45 minutes.

    • Part C: Candidates will continue with the careful reading aspect. They will be required to grasp the detailed meaning of a provided topic and answer multiple questions related to it. This task serves as the last part of the Reading section in the OET exam.

Writing Section [45 minutes]

The Writing section of the OET exam lasts for 45 minutes and involves writing a career-precise letter, typically a letter of reference inside the candidate’s area of area of expertise.

Candidates are furnished with background information associated with the mission, which they can pick out to contain or no longer of their reference letter.

It is essential to be aware that the unique project varies based at the candidate’s career. For instance, a nurse might be required to write a letter precise to nursing, even as a dentist would want to compose a reference letter unique to dentistry.

Speaking Section [20 minutes]

The Speaking section of the OET exam lasts for a total duration of 20 minutes and involves individual role-playing in realistic scenarios within a professional healthcare setting.

This profession-specific exercise requires candidates to act out their professional role while interacting with a panellist who plays the role of a patient in the first part. The roles are then reversed in the latter part, with the candidate portraying the patient and the panelist acting as the healthcare professional.

Before each act, candidates are given a preparation time of 3 minutes to familiarize themselves with the scenario and gather their thoughts.

These roleplays are designed to simulate workplace situations that reflect the atmosphere and challenges of the healthcare environment. Candidates are provided with sufficient background information to adequately prepare for their roleplay sessions.

OET Exam Pattern

OET Exam Module Test Duration OET Description
Listening 45 minutes The Listening section is composed of three parts that evaluate candidates’ listening skills through diverse formats and tasks.
Reading 60 minutes Reading section consists of three parts that assess candidates’ reading abilities across different formats and tasks.
Writing 45 minutes In writing section candidates are required to write a profession-specific letter of reference.
Speaking 20 minutes In speaking section candidates engage in profession-specific roleplays that simulate real-life healthcare scenarios.
Source: Oet.com


Healthcare practitioners interested in studying or working in English-speaking countries should be aware of the OET exam structure. The four exam sections-listening, reading, writing, and speaking, each have their own objectives and time limits.

Candidates who are familiar with the exam format can prepare efficiently and perform well on test day. To improve skills in each section, it is critical to set aside enough practise time, use reliable study resources, and seek guidance.

You can pursue your professional goals in healthcare with meticulous preparation and a good understanding of the OET exam methodology.