OET reading part B can often cause problems for students. The texts are short, much shorter than those in part C.
But they are dense and they contain lots of information.
As a result, it can be difficult to break down the text. To find the detailed meaning we need to understand or to work out that broader picture. Both of which, They require you to be able to score highly in this area. In this article, we will look at some ways in which we can make this process easier to assure that we are scoring as highly as possible in this tricky section of the exam.
1. Make use of background knowledge
The first point to make in relation to reading section B is that all of the six texts will be texts which should be familiar to healthcare professionals from a range of backgrounds. It consists of genres such as hospital notices, instruction manuals, and guideline extracts.
Which you ought to be familiar with from your professional background. Of course, you might not be familiar with reading such information in English (which is a good reason to get lots of practice in this if so).
Even though the language will be different, the content ought to be pretty similar. So for example, if you are reading about the blood transfusion process or nasogastric feeding tubes. Make use of any background knowledge you might have from your experience of working in these areas. Doing so will help orientate you to the information in the text, after all, there is nothing so comforting as familiarity.
2. Read the question and each of the options carefully
Once you have orientated yourself to the main topic of the text. You can now start to read the questions and options A to C in detail.
This step is crucial as many students have made mistakes because they did not read the question and options carefully enough. Particularly pay attention to words such as “all” and “every” as in the example question:
“The manual informs us that the Blood Pressure Monitor …. (A) is safe to use in all hospital environments.” or “(B) is likely to interfere with the operation of every piece of medical equipment.” (Emphases added).
Words such as these are easily contradicted. It’s very possible that the text may provide information about the monitor being safe to use. On “some sites” or that the monitor might interfere with “some medical equipment” but not necessarily all or every piece. This is just one example of how small words can make a big difference so do read carefully.
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3. Work out whether you’re reading for gist or detail
As with the listening section, reading section B questions are broken down into questions that focus on detail and questions which focus on gist.
It is up to you as a reader to work out which are focussing on which. Let’s look at the above question again, this time with all the options. What are you required to do here, read for the overall point or read for specific detail?
“The manual informs us that the Blood pressure monitor…
a. is likely to interfere with the operation of every piece medical equipment.
b. may not work correctly in close proximity to some other devices.
c. should be considered safe to use in all hospital environments.”
The answer is read for specific detail. This is the sort of question you can answer by finding contradicting information for the options above. By clearly underlining the part of the text which does agree with the correct option. If you can find a specific part of the text which does this, you have a detail question. But the following question is different:
“The purpose of this email is to…
report on a rise in post-surgical complications.
explain the background to a change in patient care.
remind staff about procedures for administering drugs.
In this case, you have a gist question, so you need to read the text in order to determine the overall meaning. In this way, it’s possible to mention all the above points.
But only one of them will provide the text with its overall purpose. You’re asking yourself the question: Why did they wirte this text? What part of the information is a background and what part of the information is the main focus?
A key clue here will come from the verbs used in the options: “report”, “explain” and “remind”. Which of these functions is the text performing? Is it merely reporting information? Is it explaining something; namely, providing a reason why? Or is it reminding, merely restating information which has previouslybeen given?
Look for language which will help you make that decision.
4. Be aware of the paraphrase
For both detail and gist questions, a large amount of paraphrasing is likely to apply when working out which option is correct.
For example, if we go back to our question on the Blood Pressure Monitor. Let’s imagine the answer to that was (B) may not work correctly in close proximity to some other devices.
In the actual text, however, we find the sentence: “care should be taken to avoid the use of the monitor within 7 metres of cellphones. Or other devices generating strong electrical or electromagnetic fields.”
This sentence gives us our answer: close proximity has become “within 7 metres”. Some other devices has been specified to refer to “cellphones or other devices”. This may not work correctlyis assumed by the fact that “care should be taken to avoid the use of the monitor within 7 metres”. Why should such care be taken unless it will affect the working of the monitor? So, this is the sort of process you will have to undergo to make sure you are answering the questions correctly.
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1. Look at the following sample question. Have you read anything similar in your native language? So how could you use your background knowledge when reading the text?
The extract explains
A. why bed baths are sometimes necessary.
B. how bed baths can maintain patient dignity.
C. why bed baths are often left to lower-level nursing staff.
Bed Baths in Hospital
Humanity described cleanliness as a right and not a luxury.
There are circumstances in which patients will not be in a position to maintain their own personal hygiene. In such cases, they may be reliant on nursing staff to perform key hygiene-related activities such as bed baths.
Such activities are a vital aspect of providing nursing care. Yet they assign the task to junior or newly-qualified staff.
In this article, we will provide a focus on the correct procedure for giving bed baths to prevent the spread of infection. As well as detailing some of the important ways in which we maintain the dignity and respect of the patient within the realm of clinical practice.
2. Read the question carefully, which words in the options are used instead of “all” or “every”?
3. What sort of question is the above: gist or detail? How do you know this?
4. Are any of the options paraphrased in the text? In what way(s)?
5. Now try to answer the question. Check your answer below. Which of the techniques did you find most useful
1. Possible answers: conducting/observing or ordering bed baths; working in a general hospital environment; reading medical extracts
2. Hedging: “sometimes”, “can”, “often”
3. Detail as it’s asking for which piece of information is explained within the text
4. Option A “Humanity described cleanliness as a right and not a luxury. There are circumstances in which patients will not be in a position to maintain their own personal hygiene.
In such cases, they may be reliant on nursing staff to perform key hygiene-related activities such as bed baths.” Options B and C are referenced but we do not learn about the “how” or “why”.
5. Answer: A
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