Reading for speed: Tips for approaching Reading part A

Reading at speed is a tricky skill for both native and non-native English readers alike, so could there be anything more anxiety-inducing than the prospect of having to read 4 texts and answer 20 questions all in the space of just 15 minutes! It’s a real challenge, no doubt, so I thought you might appreciate some tips which you can use to make the process that bit more manageable.


1.  Begin with a skim

One of the most common questions I get as an OET teacher is: “Where should I start? With the texts or the questions?” My answer is always the same: start with the texts but don’t read them in detail because you don’t know which details you need yet, so just skim them, read the headings, read the first lines of each paragraph, but quickly, very quickly, you just want to get a general idea of what each text is about. This is important because the first 7 questions of part A will always ask you general information questions which will test your general understanding of the texts. As a result, you should be able to answer most of them from your initial skimming. If you have to go back to the texts to check some of the questions, that’s OK, but it’s general understanding you’re going for here, not detail or specific information. The question you’re asking yourself is, which text is focussed on definitions? Which text is focussed on procedure? Which text is focussed on medication? And so on. Not, what specific phrase was used in the 5th paragraph of Text D? Save those sorts of questions for later. .

2. Let your previous reading guide you forward

Once you’ve completed questions 1-7, you should have a good general idea of what each of the texts is focussed on, as a result, when answering questions 8-20, you should feel confident about knowing exactly which text to go to in order to find the answers. This is because questions 8-20 will always focus on specific information within the texts, so, if you’ve identified that Text A focusses on the general background and definitions related to a condition, then a question such as “Falling on an outstretched hand is a typical cause of ……………………….. of the elbow” would clearly be answered by finding a specific word or phrase from that text. Whereas, if you have identified that Text C focusses on medication then the question: “What analgesic should be used to give to a patient who is allergic to morphine?” would, therefore, demand an answer from Text C. The important thing here is that you waste as little time as possible looking for answers to questions 8-20 in the wrong texts. Time is short so you must use it well.

Join one of our OET course packages (starting at just $49)in order to get high quality practice and feedback from one of our OET UK teachers by clicking here:

For doctors:
For nurses:

3. Write exactly what you read

Unlike the listening exam, in Reading part A, you are expected to produce exact spelling, any errors will cost you marks. So make sure that you are writing exactly what you read in the texts. There’s no need to paraphrase or change the words in the texts in any way when you write your answers to the questions, although the words around the questions will be paraphrased in the texts. As stated above, questions 8-20 will all focus on specific words and phrases from the text, so it might be helpful to underline them when you find them to ensure that you are copying the relevant words correctly. Don’t spend too much time doing this, though, remember the time limit!


4. Be prepared to skip a question

Imagine, you have answered the first 10 questions, you have around 7 minutes remaining and you just can’t locate the answer to question 11, what should you do? Answer: move on to the next question. You simply do not have time to waste. On average you have 45 seconds for each question, if you find you are spending over a minute on any one answer, you need to either produce your best guess or just forget it and move on. It’s much better to miss one question than it is to miss 4 or 5 because you ran out of time.


5. Provide yourself with plenty of practice

The best way to get better at anything is to practise. You can do this with a qualified OET teacher who will be able to monitor your progress and give you feedback on areas of strength and weakness. You can also do this on your own using both mock exams and medical and non-medical literature more generally. Training yourself to read and answer questions under strict, timed conditions will help you to prepare both practically and mentally when it comes to OET Reading part A.

If you’re planning to take the OET exam, we’ve got live group classes, speaking mock exam classes, video courses and writing corrections as part of our OET packages. You can click here to learn more:

 For doctors:
For nurses:






1. Look at the following text, does it focus on A) The definitions and background of an illness B) Information relating to a medical procedure or C) Information relating to detecting the symptoms of an illness?

Guidelines for performance of surgery in case of subdural haetatoma 

Surgery will be required for the majority of cases of subdural haematoma. This may be done via performance of crainiotomy or burr holes.


-Should be performed in the majority of cases where an acute subdural haematoma is evidenced.

-Involves temporarily removing a section of the skull in order to access and remove haematoma.

-Haematoma should be gently removed via suction and irrigation, enabling it to be washed away with fluid.

-Section of skull to be put back in place following removal of haematoma and re-attached using metal plates or screws.

-Operation typically conducted under general anaesthetic.

Burr holes:

-Should be performed in the majority of cases where a subacute/chronic haematoma is evidenced.

-One or multiple small holes to be drilled into the skull and a rubber tube to be inserted in order to drain the haematoma.

-Tube may be left in place for up to a few days post-surgery in order to continue drainage and avoid recurrence of haematoma.

-Operation typically conducted under local anaesthetic.


  1. 2. How much of the text did you need to read to answer the above question? How helpful was the text heading?

3. Looking again at the text above, answer the following questions in under a minute:

1. Which procedure needs to be conducted under evidence of a subacute haematoma?

2. Which procedure requires the use of general anaesthetic?

3. What is used to help resecure the skull following a crainiotomy?



1. B

2. The heading should have given a strong guide as to the answer

3. I. Burr holes II. Crainiotomy III. Metal plates or screws


Join one of our OET course packages (starting at just $49)in order to get high quality practice and feedback from one of our OET UK teachers by clicking here:

For doctors:
For nurses: