A new option has become available for medical professionals who want to live and work in the US: the Occupational English test (OET), an exam which is designed specifically for medical professionals, has now been accepted by the US states Florida and Oregon.
It has also been accepted by VisaScreen. This is a federal organisation that provides a certificate showing that you have satisfied US visa requirements. This means that it is now possible for healthcare workers to receive a fully-valid occupational visa to live and work in the US after completing the OET exam.
Why is this good news?
This is great news for all medical professionals as the OET is the only test of English which is designed to replicate day-to-day scenarios that healthcare workers have to face in their profession.
Unlike other tests of English, part of your preparation for the exam will come from the fact that you have experience working in a medical environment.
If you have studied for exams such as the IELTS or TOEFL, you will have experienced listening to and reading about topics that you are unfamiliar with.
You will most likely have experienced trying to write reports describing information from graphs or trying to write essays on topics that are confusing or have very little to do with your academic background or professional interests. The OET is designed to avoid this and focus on the type of English which is needed in a medical context.
If you feel more comfortable writing referral letters than academic essays and if you feel more confident advising a patient on healthcare matters than you do talking about environmental policy then the OET will definitely appeal to you.
The OET is for nurses, doctors and all other medical professionals wishing to achieve their ambitions of working in an English-speaking environment.
Have a read of some comments from OET nurses who are familiar with both the IELTS and the OET exam to see what their experience has been:
“A lot of nurses who want to live and work in America are excited about the OET because this is an easier exam than the IELTS.”
“I have friends who now live and work in the UK, Australia and New Zealand who took and passed the OET after failing the IELTS.”
“As a medical professional, you are more likely to pass the OET than the IELTS.”
So, you can see that the OET test is a tried and tested method for those who want to achieve their goals of living and working in English-speaking countries.
While other English exams can seem like a barrier, the OET exam offers a genuine pathway to success.
What score do you need?
Currently, a minimum Grade B score is required in all four sections of the OET exam in order for visa-status to be applicable, which is equivalent to a minimum overall OET score of 350/500.
The four sections of the exam include: reading, writing, listening and speaking.
Nurses who are specifically applying to Florida must achieve a minimum of a C+ in all parts of the exam, which is equivalent to a minimum overall score of 300/500.
When will your OET results be accepted?
Florida and Oregon will be the first states to update their states’ rules to recognise the approval of the OET for visa purposes and this process is on course to be completed by the end of this year.
For doctors who have already taken the OET and achieved that required score, you will be able to register your visa-application if you took the test on or after 1 July 2018.
For those who have not yet taken the test, you can register to do so as early as August 2020 in order to begin seeking US-visa approval as soon as possible.
Preparing for the test
So, what better way of taking advantage of this new opportunity of achieving the American Dream than by looking at some keyways of preparing for the OET in the USA?
1. Prepare yourself for American pronunciation.
In OET listening, it is common to hear a range of accents from Australian English to British English and others. Be ready and prepared to hear American English too. Note key features of American pronunciation such as pronouncing “t” sounds in words such as “water” and “better” as “d” sounds – “wader” and “bedder”.
Also be prepared to hear stronger “r” sounds than you would expect to hear from most speakers of British and Australian English. While British speakers would likely say “wateh” and “betteh”, American English speakers are much more likely to pronounced the “r”s: “wader”, “beder”.
There are also specific words in English which are pronounced slightly differently in American English than in other varieties of English. Examples of this are in words like “frustrated”.
A British English speaker would pronounce the word with the stress of the second syllable: “frusTRATed”.
However, an American English speaker would pronounce the word with the stress of the first syllable: “FRUStrated”. Another example is the word “schedule”, which would be pronounced “shedule” by most British English speakers but as “skedule” by most American English speakers.
2. Spend part of your OET preparation becoming familiar with American expressions.
In OET speaking, it’s important to be aware of natural expressions and there are certain expressions which are much more common in American English than other varieties; for example, the verb “take” is common in American expressions such as “take a shower” or “take a bath”, whereas in British English it would be much more common to use the verb “have” with these expressions: “have a shower” or “have a bath”.
Americans are also more likely to use expressions like “taking a vacation” where a British speaker would say “going on holiday”.
3. Prepare yourself for American spelling.
In OET writing, it is important to be aware of spelling varieties. There are a number of points to be aware of but an important tip is that where British and Canadian spelling includes a “u” in words like “favour” and “behaviour”, American English does not: “favor”, “behavior”.
Another difference is the American preference for “-ize” to end words as opposed to the British “-ise” in words like “sympathize” and “rationalize” (British: “sympathise” and “rationalise”).
Take advantage of this exciting opportunity to move forward with your American dreams by beginning your OET preparation today. If the IELTS hasn’t opened that door then it might just be that the OET exam is the answer you’ve been waiting for.
We at Swoosh English have all that you need to pass your OET exam first time and begin your journey to the U.S.A. Want to know more? Check out our packages for Doctors and Nurses by clicking the links below.