OET Speaking: How to Successfully do the Role Play

OET Speaking: How to Successfully do the Role Play


The speaking section of the OET exam can be seen as very accessible from a certain perspective.  It is designed to be familiar for medical professionals – it involves a conversation between a medical professional and a patient. Something that OET test-takers will very likely have had lots of experience doing in their jobs.  It is even specific to the field of the medical professional involved, so nurses will have a nursing task for their OET speaking exam and doctors will have a task relating to medicine. However, one of the challenges with the exam is that its OET role play element essentially asks candidates to become actors.

The people they will be talking to are not patients, they are OET examiners who are pretending to be patients. This can cause confusion and embarrassment for some OET candidates who suddenly become self-conscious of the fact that they are not in their natural working environment at all but somewhere very different.

After all, the patients you speak to on a daily-basis at work are not pretending to be patients to assess your English, they are actually patients.

Being aware of how this situation can be difficult for candidates, it’s important to prepare well in order to make what is 25% of your OET exam experience as successful as possible. So here are some tips, then, on how to roleplay successfully.


Get plenty of practice


The best way to get good at something is to do it often.  This most definitely applies to doing the OET role play.  I have done many role-plays with OET students who are preparing for the exam. They always improve the more often that they do these practice OET role plays.

At first, it seems strange pretending to be in a work situation while in an exam setting but the continued practice helps candidates feel less self-conscious and makes the experience become more natural.

Doing this with a qualified OET teacher works best as he or she will be able to give you useful feedback on how well you are achieving the speaking task criteria. Many of which centre around effective communication including information gathering, information giving and showing empathy at appropriate moments. This is something you are very likely to do with your patients in your work environment.

The more you practise transferring these qualities to an exam setting, the higher you will score in this part of the test. Have a look at the Swoosh English website here for examples of students doing OET role-plays based on the OET speaking exam: https://staging3.swooshenglish.com/oet-mock-optin/.


Make full use of your previous experience


One of the keys to completing an OET role play successfully is to use as much of your previous experience as possible. For example, look at the following nursing role-play card:

OETexam Speaking Role Play Card


You will have three minutes to prepare before the roleplay begins. As well as naturally reading the information on the card carefully, you should also use that time to mentally prepare yourself for your role by thinking about how your previous experiences could help you.

Think about all the older patients you have spoken to in a working capacity.

How did you speak to them? How did they speak to you? What special considerations did you make when interacting with them? Also, think about the times when you have conducted home visits.

How did you greet the patient when she opened the door? How was she feeling? Nervous? Uncertain? Hostile? How did you deal with these feelings? Finally, in this OET role play card you are required to give a lot of reassurance to the patient.

Think about when you have done this in your role as a medical professional.

How did you make your language reassuring?

What tone of voice did you use? How loudly or quietly did you speak?

How much did you invite the patient to speak?

It may seem as if there are a lot of questions you are asking yourself here but you shouldn’t need to spend too long thinking about them because all you are doing is reflecting on experiences you are likely to have had many times before in your life. All you need to do now is make use of them!



Remember that is not just a test of English


What makes the OET speaking test unique is that, unlike other English language exams, such as the IELTS, for example, you are not solely being judged on language criteria.  Your ability to communicate appropriately with the patient or caregiver makes up almost 40% of your final OET speaking grade.

As a result, you should not view the OET speaking exam as just a test of English but as an opportunity to demonstrate the sorts of skills which can only come from years of experience as a dedicated health care professional.

The way you treat your patients should be the way you treat your speaking examiner, show him or her that you not only know how to speak English, you also know how to treat your patients with care, dignity, respect and empathy! How you treat your examiner is in itself a fundamental part of this test.




1.Look at the following OET role play card. Think about how the elements in it connect to your previous experience:

OET exam Speaking Role Play Card

2.Now write down all of the ways in which you could use your experience. This will help make your role in the speaking interaction as natural and as realistic as possible.

3.Join a Swoosh English mock speaking class in order to practise doing this roleplay.  Write down the feedback your trained OET teacher gives you. Were there any ways you could have used your previous experience to perform the role-play better in the future?

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