How to Write a Referral Letter | OET Writing (OET Podcast Ep. #2)

OET Referral Letter, OET Writing Task


In this episode of the Swoosh English OET Podcast, UK English teachers Scott and Una discuss the OET Writing Task which, as most of you know, involves writing a letter. This letter can be a discharge letter or most commonly, a referral letter. 

Learn the best practices to help make sure that you can successfully take the OET on your first try! You can prepare beforehand by practising your English writing and also apply useful test-taking tips that will be discussed today.


01:43 Overview of the OET Writing Task

• A profession-specific letter, if you are a doctor you will be writing for a doctor and if you are a nurse you are writing for a nurse, etc  

• Non-doctors and nurses will also get their own chance to write for their own relevant profession

• You will be provided with case notes 

• 5 minutes to read the case notes, 40 minutes to write the letter 

• Tone should be informative and professional

• Main idea is to communicate what the issue with the patient is and what you want the reader of the letter to do about it

• Do not bring in outside medical knowledge since you are only being assessed on what is in the referral letter 

05:12 Scoring and criteria

6 sections of criteria for Scoring an OET Referral Letter:

Purpose – Scored from a scale of 0 to 3

• The reason for the letter is apparent from the start and developed throughout the course of the letter

• Refer to the purpose in the beginning and expand upon it again at the end of the letter 


• Scored from a scale of 0 to 7

• Including the relevant information or achieve that purpose 

• Make sure the information is relevant to the reader and there is no repeated or irrelevant information

Conciseness and clarity – Scored from a scale of 0 to 7

• The letter has to be between 180 and 200 words though the OET is not very strict with word count

• This does affect the conciseness and clarity of your letter however

• Have an effective summary for the reader and you do not omit essential information and include anything unnecessary 

Genre and style – Scored from a scale of 0 to 7

• Be polite in your tone but not over the top that it affects your word count 

• Make sure your register, tone and use of abbreviations and acronyms are appropriate for the reader 

• If the person is in the same field, it may be appropriate to use acronyms that they are familiar with as well 

Organization and layout – Scored from a scale of 0 to 7

• Organized well and easy to read 

• Structure may differ depending on who you are talking to and the available case notes 

• State the purpose, medical history, summary of the patient’s previous care and what you want the professional to do about it

Language – Scored from a scale of 0 to 7

• Refers to the accuracy of the grammar, vocabulary, spelling and punctuation 

• Also assesses your tenses, events and periods of time, passive voice, use of articles and prepositions and punctuations 

11:53 Referral Letter writing process:

• 5 minutes at the very beginning to plan and analyze the case notes 

• Consider who is the patient? What are they suffering from? Identify the pain health issue. 

• Also establish if the case is urgent or not 

• Think about what the professional reading your letter would need to know 

• Highlight relevant information and cross out irrelevant information

• Think of a logical way to order the information in a way that is easy to understand 

• You can number the information as you come across them 

• At the start of the 40 minutes, spend the first 5 minutes to organize the letter into a logical structure 

• See if you can use any templates to convey the information

• Include the address, date, greeting, reference (which often will include the patient’s name and their date of birth)

• Have an introduction, main body paragraph, a polite ending and also the formal sign off at the end

17:07 Introduction:

• Purpose

• Main health issue

• Request

Sample introduction for a referral letter:

I am writing to urgently refer Mr Smith who has been diagnosed with COPD for your further assessment and management.

Main body and paragraph:

• Include the most recent information

• Summary of the previous case

• Social and medical history 

• Outcome: what you want the reader to do 

• Use dates and linking words and phrases to make your letter cohesive overall

• Every paragraph should begin with a date or a linking phrase (example: On examination today…, The patient first presented on the 14th… In terms of the patient’s medical history… In view of the above…)

• Watch out because you can go overboard with the linking words. Is the linking word essential?

21:25 Tips: Avoid common language mistakes 

• Make sure you are working on your usual mistakes in vocabulary and spelling 

• Studying more efficiently and effectively 

• Practice writing conditions that are similar to the actual OET especially writing the whole letter under 45 minutes

• Use the last 5 minutes to review your letter to ensure good flow and no grammatical errors

• Be realistic with yourself: make sure you have a realistic date to take it and that you can afford to take the test itself!

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