At Swoosh English we care deeply about our students and we want nothing more than for you to achieve your goals. Speaking in a foreign or second language under exam conditions is going to be a nerve-wracking and challenging experience. However, if you have prepared effectively and are aware of what the examiners are looking for, you will be in a position to pass your OET Speaking exam with flying colors. This guide will give you the vital information you need to help you become that expert OET speaker. Therefore, achieve the result you need for your career dreams to be realised.
- What is the OET Speaking Test?
- From reality to roleplay
- What to do to prepare before the OET Speaking Test
- Using the warmer to enter “English-mode”
- Using the preparation time effectively
- Demonstrating your language skills
- Opening the conversation
- Gathering information
- Responding to your interlocutor
- Structuring the information you give
- Closing your conversation
- The OET Speaking checklist
- How Swoosh can help you
What is the OET Speaking Test?
Just as with the OET writing section, the OET speaking test is specific to your medical discipline. For example, if you are a nurse, your roleplay will centre around a nursing scenario. If you are a doctor, your roleplay will centre around a medicine scenario.
The speaking exam will last around 20 minutes in total. When you enter the exam room, you will have a two-minute warm-up conversation with your speaking examiner. You will then be given three minutes to read the role card relating to your roleplay while preparing your response.
The roleplay itself will then last 5 minutes. It will be a consultation between yourself, as the medical professional, and a patient or who requires your help.
Once the first roleplay has finished, you will then be given a new role card, which you will have a further 3 minutes to read and prepare for. This will be followed by a second five-minute roleplay and, after this, the speaking section will be complete.
From reality to roleplay
Although doing a roleplay is, naturally, in and of itself an invented and, therefore, inauthentic experience, the OET Speaking Test is designed to simulate a real-life medical consultation. As a result, you are expected to draw on your medical experience and your real-life work experience when doing the speaking exam. The interlocutor (the examiner who will be playing the role of patient/caregiver) will be acting as if he or she genuinely requires your help.
Therefore, try to treat the speaking exam as an opportunity to demonstrate how you would treat someone who was in need of your care. It is particularly important that you do this as, while language skills are the most important part of the test, they are not the only part. You also need to show that you have the communication skills necessary to treat those who are reliant on your care appropriately (more on this below).
What to do to prepare before the OET Speaking Test
In order to ensure that you have prepared effectively for the OET Speaking Test, you should follow the following steps:
Make sure that you have familiarised yourself with the OET Speaking format:
The format has been communicated above, so make sure that you take the time to read it carefully so that there are no unexpected experiences when it comes to sitting the speaking exam.
Get plenty of practice doing the exam:
There are a number of ways you can do the above. The most advantageous way, in terms of receiving feedback, is with a qualified OET English teacher, whom you can access via Swoosh English.
This can be done as a mock-speaking exam, from which you will receive detailed feedback on each of the speaking criterion. or it can be done as part of a wider class, where you will do additional exercises designed to help you improve your speaking.
You can also get practice by working with an OET study partner at Swoosh English, another person who is planning on taking the test whom you can contact and get feedback from.
Finally, you could practise by speaking into a recording device and then assessing your performance afterwards. The downside here is that it is very difficult to replicate conversation by yourself but you will at least be able to do some form of practice.
Pay careful attention to feedback:
Your qualified OET English teacher will be able to give you lots of useful feedback on both your language and communication skills. He or she will also be able to advise you as to whether your skills really are at a high enough standard to be able to achieve a B or higher during the OET test.
You should pay very close attention to the feedback that your teacher gives you.
Make sure that you do not sign up to take the test until you are able to demonstrate a high enough level in the speaking criteria so that you have the best chance of not losing both your time and money. The OET exam is not cheap so it’s important to ensure that you are ready before taking it.
Use learning strategies to help you improve:
As well as practising your speaking with a qualified teacher/study partner, you also need to be able to follow up on elements of the speaking test where you are demonstrating weaknesses.
For example, if you need to extend your vocabulary then making a vocabulary list on key conversational language and revising and practising this language would be a useful strategy to use. Or, if you need to focus on improving pronunciation, marking both the stress and vowel sounds in those keywords and practising saying them is a strategy you could use to help you in this area.
There are many other strategies you can use to improve your speaking skills. Ensure you consult the OET blog to find move useful ways of using strategies to improve your speaking ability.
Using the warmer to enter “English-mode”
We have covered the steps you should be taking before entering the exam room. Now it’s time to look at what you need to be doing in the exam room in order to leave it having successfully attained your OET B or above speaking score. First up will be the warmer. This is completely unassessed so do not worry. Its purpose is to help you relax and to get you into the rhythm of speaking English before the actual exam starts.
Take advantage of this and try to speak as much as possible in order to get properly warmed up. It is also an opportunity to listen to and become familiar with the accent of the interlocutor, so pay close attention to him or her. Getting familiar with their accent at this stage will make following what they say during the exam that bit easier.
Using the preparation time effectively
Now it’s time for the assessment to begin. The first step here is to make sure that you read the role card carefully. You have three minutes to do this so make sure you use all of this time wisely. You should pay attention to exactly who the patient/caregiver is; for example, their gender, age and background. You should also pay attention to why the patient/caregiver has come to see you; for example:
What is their medical complaint?
How long have they been suffering with it for?
What treatment are they requesting?
Are they likely to be resistant to any course of action you recommend?
How do you plan to deal with that?
It is important that you are ready to address any difficulties or sensitivities the patients may present.
On the role card you will also have a number of tasks you will need to complete during the five-minute consultation. Read these carefully and begin noting down useful words and phrases which will help you respond to these tasks. As you do this, ensure that you pay close attention to the instructions included in each of the tasks.
For instance, “Advise the patient to speak to speak to a bereavement counsellor” is a very different instruction to “Persuade the patient to speak to a bereavement counsellor”. Thus, it will require different language and a different approach. Read this blog article providing more advice on responding to instruction words from the OET speaking tasks here: OET Speaking: How to Successfully do the Role Play
Demonstrating your language skills during the OET Speaking exam
Once the preparation time has ended, it is time for you to demonstrate your language skills. The language skills the examiner will be assessing will relate to your fluency-level, your pronunciation, your grammatical range and accuracy. Also the appropriacy and accuracy of your vocabulary. To score well in these areas, it is crucial that you have prepared properly before the exam (see above).
If you have then it is simply a case of demonstrating the knowledge and skills you have. On a practical level, ensure that you speak clearly and at an appropriate volume so that the examiner can hear what you’re saying. And speak at a natural pace to demonstrate fluency.
Don’t go too slowly or too fast, try to take some deep breaths if you feel yourself speeding up because of nerves. What you want is for your message to come across as clearly as possible.