At Swoosh English we care deeply about our students and we want nothing more than for you to achieve your goals. Speaking in a foreign or second language under exam conditions is going to be a nerve-wracking and challenging experience. However, if you have prepared effectively and are aware of what the examiners are looking for, you will be in a position to pass your OET Speaking exam with flying colors. This guide will give you the vital information you need to help you become that expert OET speaker. Therefore, achieve the result you need for your career dreams to be realised.
- What is the OET Speaking Test?
- From reality to roleplay
- What to do to prepare before the OET Speaking Test
- Using the warmer to enter “English-mode”
- Using the preparation time effectively
- Demonstrating your language skills
- Opening the conversation
- Gathering information
- Responding to your interlocutor
- Structuring the information you give
- Closing your conversation
- The OET Speaking checklist
- How Swoosh can help you
What is the OET Speaking Test?
Just as with the OET writing section, the OET speaking test is specific to your medical discipline. For example, if you are a nurse, your roleplay will centre around a nursing scenario. If you are a doctor, your roleplay will centre around a medicine scenario.
The speaking exam will last around 20 minutes in total. When you enter the exam room, you will have a two-minute warm-up conversation with your speaking examiner. You will then be given three minutes to read the role card relating to your roleplay while preparing your response.
The roleplay itself will then last 5 minutes. It will be a consultation between yourself, as the medical professional, and a patient or who requires your help.
Once the first roleplay has finished, you will then be given a new role card, which you will have a further 3 minutes to read and prepare for. This will be followed by a second five-minute roleplay and, after this, the speaking section will be complete.
From reality to roleplay
Although doing a roleplay is, naturally, in and of itself an invented and, therefore, inauthentic experience, the OET Speaking Test is designed to simulate a real-life medical consultation. As a result, you are expected to draw on your medical experience and your real-life work experience when doing the speaking exam. The interlocutor (the examiner who will be playing the role of patient/caregiver) will be acting as if he or she genuinely requires your help.
Therefore, try to treat the speaking exam as an opportunity to demonstrate how you would treat someone who was in need of your care. It is particularly important that you do this as, while language skills are the most important part of the test, they are not the only part. You also need to show that you have the communication skills necessary to treat those who are reliant on your care appropriately (more on this below).
What to do to prepare before the OET Speaking Test
In order to ensure that you have prepared effectively for the OET Speaking Test, you should follow the following steps:
Make sure that you have familiarised yourself with the OET Speaking format:
The format has been communicated above, so make sure that you take the time to read it carefully so that there are no unexpected experiences when it comes to sitting the speaking exam.
Get plenty of practice doing the exam:
There are a number of ways you can do the above. The most advantageous way, in terms of receiving feedback, is with a qualified OET English teacher, whom you can access via Swoosh English.
This can be done as a mock-speaking exam, from which you will receive detailed feedback on each of the speaking criterion. or it can be done as part of a wider class, where you will do additional exercises designed to help you improve your speaking.
You can also get practice by working with an OET study partner at Swoosh English, another person who is planning on taking the test whom you can contact and get feedback from.
Finally, you could practise by speaking into a recording device and then assessing your performance afterwards. The downside here is that it is very difficult to replicate conversation by yourself but you will at least be able to do some form of practice.
Pay careful attention to feedback:
Your qualified OET English teacher will be able to give you lots of useful feedback on both your language and communication skills. He or she will also be able to advise you as to whether your skills really are at a high enough standard to be able to achieve a B or higher during the OET test.
You should pay very close attention to the feedback that your teacher gives you.
Make sure that you do not sign up to take the test until you are able to demonstrate a high enough level in the speaking criteria so that you have the best chance of not losing both your time and money. The OET exam is not cheap so it’s important to ensure that you are ready before taking it.
Use learning strategies to help you improve:
As well as practising your speaking with a qualified teacher/study partner, you also need to be able to follow up on elements of the speaking test where you are demonstrating weaknesses.
For example, if you need to extend your vocabulary then making a vocabulary list on key conversational language and revising and practising this language would be a useful strategy to use. Or, if you need to focus on improving pronunciation, marking both the stress and vowel sounds in those keywords and practising saying them is a strategy you could use to help you in this area.
There are many other strategies you can use to improve your speaking skills. Ensure you consult the OET blog to find move useful ways of using strategies to improve your speaking ability.
Using the warmer to enter “English-mode”
We have covered the steps you should be taking before entering the exam room. Now it’s time to look at what you need to be doing in the exam room in order to leave it having successfully attained your OET B or above speaking score. First up will be the warmer. This is completely unassessed so do not worry. Its purpose is to help you relax and to get you into the rhythm of speaking English before the actual exam starts.
Take advantage of this and try to speak as much as possible in order to get properly warmed up. It is also an opportunity to listen to and become familiar with the accent of the interlocutor, so pay close attention to him or her. Getting familiar with their accent at this stage will make following what they say during the exam that bit easier.
Using the preparation time effectively
Now it’s time for the assessment to begin. The first step here is to make sure that you read the role card carefully. You have three minutes to do this so make sure you use all of this time wisely. You should pay attention to exactly who the patient/caregiver is; for example, their gender, age and background. You should also pay attention to why the patient/caregiver has come to see you; for example:
What is their medical complaint?
How long have they been suffering with it for?
What treatment are they requesting?
Are they likely to be resistant to any course of action you recommend?
How do you plan to deal with that?
It is important that you are ready to address any difficulties or sensitivities the patients may present.
On the role card you will also have a number of tasks you will need to complete during the five-minute consultation. Read these carefully and begin noting down useful words and phrases which will help you respond to these tasks. As you do this, ensure that you pay close attention to the instructions included in each of the tasks.
For instance, “Advise the patient to speak to speak to a bereavement counsellor” is a very different instruction to “Persuade the patient to speak to a bereavement counsellor”. Thus, it will require different language and a different approach. Read this blog article providing more advice on responding to instruction words from the OET speaking tasks here: OET Speaking: How to Successfully do the Role Play
Demonstrating your language skills during the OET Speaking exam
Once the preparation time has ended, it is time for you to demonstrate your language skills. The language skills the examiner will be assessing will relate to your fluency-level, your pronunciation, your grammatical range and accuracy. Also the appropriacy and accuracy of your vocabulary. To score well in these areas, it is crucial that you have prepared properly before the exam (see above).
If you have then it is simply a case of demonstrating the knowledge and skills you have. On a practical level, ensure that you speak clearly and at an appropriate volume so that the examiner can hear what you’re saying. And speak at a natural pace to demonstrate fluency.
Don’t go too slowly or too fast, try to take some deep breaths if you feel yourself speeding up because of nerves. What you want is for your message to come across as clearly as possible.
Opening the conversation
Creating a good first impression is critical in all areas of life, none more so than in an exam or, for that matter, when providing a medical consultation. So draw on your real-life experience and open in a friendly professional manner. Greet the interlocutor formally; for example, “Good morning/afternoon Mr/Miss/Mrs/Ms…”, and then ask the interlocutor how they have been. Try to smile as you do this in a friendly/reassuring manner.
Although it is you who is being examined in an unfamiliar environment, you need to be the one who is welcoming and reassuring to the interlocutor in order to demonstrate the positive communication skills you will be assessed on during the exam.
One of the communication criteria you will be assessed on is your ability to gather information from your interlocutor. So ensure that you ask relevant questions so that you find out how the patient/caregiver is feeling and exactly what their situation is.
That way, your responses to their situation will be more relevant and useful. Make sure you include open questions during your information gathering and throughout the conversation. These sorts of questions will encourage the patient to talk more and, therefore, give you more useful information to respond to.
Responding to your interlocutor
As your interlocutor is speaking, it is important to you show that you are listening actively. You can do this by asking the interlocutor questions to clarify information he or she is giving you.
Also you can simply respond by showing empathy, using expressions such as: “Really?”, “Oh dear.”, “That must be difficult.” in order to show that you are listening to the interlocutor and that you care about their wellbeing. While doing this, it is important to remember that this test is supposed to simulate a real-life situation.
Structuring the information you give in the OET Speaking part
As well as gathering information, you will of course need to provide it. When you do this, however, it is important to make sure that your patient is able to receive the information you provide in a manner that is clear and easy to follow. This is why it is important for you to structure the information you give. Use sequencing phrases such as: “Firstly” and”After that”, to ensure that you’re not providing too much information in one sentence.
Also, clarify that the patient has understood the information you have given by asking: “Is that OK?” or “Do you have any questions about that?” By doing this, you are able to find out for yourself whether the patient has understood the information provided.
Closing your conversation
As you come to the end of your roleplay, you need to think about the final impression you want to be leaving on your examiner. Just as in real life, you need to make sure that your patients are clear on the information you’ve given them. Try to repeat the main points from the consultation, such as the key advice you’ve given and then confirm that the interlocutor is clear as to the next steps which he or she should take.
Then wish the interlocutor well, as you would your patient in real life. At this point it’s important to note that your roleplay may be ended if you have reached the five minute mark before you have closed the interaction. Try not to worry about this. The important thing is to make sure that you have followed the task appropriately, demonstrated your language skills and have dealt with the interlocutor’s concerns in a caring and professional manner.
The OET Speaking checklist
- Prepare yourself thoroughly to make sure that you are ready for the exam.
- Relax and use the warmer as a way to enter into English mode.
- Make sure you use your preparation time effectively: read the role card in detail
- Greet the patient appropriately
- Use open and closed questions to gather information about the patient
- Respond with interest and empathy to the information the patient gives you
- Provide the information the patient needs, make sure you address all of the tasks on the role card (if time permits) in a structured manner
- Ask if the patient requires any clarification
- Repeat the main points and confirm any future action which needs to be taken
- Say goodbye and wish your interlocutor well
- Get ready to do the above one more time for your second roleplay and then relax. Your speaking exam will have come to an end.
How Swoosh can help you
I hope that you have found this guide useful. Swoosh English has a vast amount of resources of live classes, videos, correction services, blogs and articles and a team of highly trained professionals for you to use.
If you have any doubts, any questions or need any further guidance, please contact us.