OET score in the speaking sub-test is graded from two perspectives: language and communication. When it comes to language, speaking appropriately is something that is deemed as being of great importance to achieve a high oet score in the exam.
But what is the appropriate language? And how can we make sure that we are using it? We will investigate these questions by providing some key tips on the criterion of appropriacy and how to improve your OET score!
Adjust your language to suit the patient
When you receive your role card for the OET speaking exam, you will receive information about the person you will be addressing.
It’s important that you pay attention to not just the diseases and symptoms, but also the patient or carer’s profile.
Have a look at these notes, for example, from a mock OET speaking role card:[Text Wrapping Break]”A young boy, aged 4, was admitted to hospital through the Children’s Emergency Department for acute meningo-encephalitis as a result of a complication following mumps.
He has fully recovered and is ready to be discharged home. The parent is unaware that a vaccine is available which protects against mumps. They also have a 2-year-old son.”
From these notes, you ought to already be thinking about the sort of language you will and won’t be using. “Acute meningo-encephalitis”, for instance. It is not a phrase that the parent will likely be familiar with. So you might avoid using it, focussing instead on the more familiar disease. Which will not confuse the patient; namely, mumps.
Due to the parent’s lack of knowledge regarding the vaccine. You should also be prepared to explain to him or her how the vaccine works and why it’s important.
If the parent, on the other hand, was familiar with vaccinations, it would not be appropriate to go into such a basic explanation. As it would be deemed as talking down to or possibly patronising the parent.
So, the content of your response should relate to the background and profile of the person with whom you are conversing.
Be friendly but formal
It is, of course, important to show empathy as a medical practitioner. It’s also important to be friendly and approachable in relation to your patients. However, appropriacy demands that you use language which shows your professional demeanour.
So, it’s a good idea to be friendly but formal in your role plays, say “Good morning!” or “Good afternoon!” Rather than “Hi!”, for example, when greeting your patient.
Use indirect question forms and formal language. Such as: “Would it be possible for you to reduce your alcohol intake?” Rather than direct question forms and informal language, as in: “Can you cut down on your alcohol?”
Be precise in your language, inform the patient that his blood test results will be made available “within 48 hours” rather than “in a couple of days”. This is because patients will have an expectation that their doctors and nurses are reliable and professional. So language should be used to show that.
Prepare yourself to deliver bad news
One of the most difficult things about being a medical professional is delivering bad news. In certain OET speaking tasks, you will need to do this and examiners want to see that you are able to do this sensitively.
If a patient’s results confirm cancer, for example, it would not be appropriate to announce this without thinking about the impact this news will have on the patient. You need to express sorrow, you need to allow time for the patient to process the information.
Ask questions and then you need to let the patient know his or her options. Use your real life experiences to prepare you for this. Showing empathy, being supportive and staying calm as you would in a real life situation.
Do you want to practice how to deliver bad news? Do you want to improve your OET score by practicing all the tips we have provided here? 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:
The contrast to the above is when you have good news for the patient. In this case, the approach will be different. Now you want to make it clear to the patient that something positive has happened. So think about how you’re going to make the patient aware of this.
A phrase such as, “We have had some positive news…” or “I’m happy to say that the results have confirmed that your cancer is in remission” for example. Use a rising intonation to emphasise the positivity of the results; remember, showing empathy relates to good news as well as bad news.
Be measured in your approach to improve your OET score in appropriacy
Sometimes your patients are going to ask you questions which you cannot give a definite answer to. For example, if a patient asks whether they will have to have hip surgery and you haven’t yet conducted a scan on the affected area.
In these cases, it’s important to balance your response. Use phrases such as “It’s possible but we require more information.” Or “That is one of the options available depending on further results.” Also “That’s not something I can confirm right now but it is a possibility”.
Using phrases like this keeps your options open and it avoids misleading the patient. Which is something you don’t want to do as that would be very inappropriate.
Look at the notes from the following role card. Which language might you avoid using when addressing the patient? How might you rephrase it? What sort of information do you think it will be appropriate to focus on during the interaction?
“This 45-year-old patient is attending the practice after suffering a mild anterior acute myocardial infarct two weeks ago. Recovery was uncomplicated and the patient was discharged 4 days ago. He/She is now very concerned about the long-term process of recovery.”
Look at the first task relating to the notes above. How could you use formal but friendly language in order to approach this?
Find out what is worrying the patient and be reassuring. Some fatigue is to be expected; it usually takes some weeks before full energy levels return.
Look at this next task. How could you use measured language in order to express the information?
Reassure the patient that his/her concerns are appropriate. Moderate physical activity is all right two weeks after an event with a good recovery, with usually four to six weeks before attempting to return to work
Look at the following utterances, do they express good or bad news? How could they be altered to make them more appropriate?
“Your child has jaundice.”
“There have been complications with your daughter following surgery.”
“Your son is now ready for discharge.”
“You have recovered well after your heart attack.”
Do you want to improve your OET score by practicing all the tips we have provided above? 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:
Avoid mild anterior acute myocardial infarct as this language will not be familiar to the patient, a mild heart attack would be more recognisable. Focussing on the patient’s recovery and how to maintain his/her health should be the main objective of the interaction.
Possible answers include: “Can I ask what is concerning you at the moment?” and “Of course, it’s completely natural that you would feel tired at this stage, it typically takes several weeks before your energy levels are fully restored.”
Possible answers include: “Assuming that you continue to make a good recovery, it is recommended that you commence with moderate physical activity after two weeks.” “In relation to resuming work duties, it is recommended that you wait for between four to six weeks before attempting this.”
The utterances lack expressions of empathy. Possible improvements include:
“I’m afraid that your child is currently exhibiting signs of jaundice.” (bad news)
“I’m sorry to tell you that there have been some complications following your daughter’s surgery.” (bad news)
“The good news is that your son is now fully ready for discharge.” (good news)
“It’s wonderful to see that you have recovered so well after your recent condition.” (good news)
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