OET Reading: The Complete Guide

About This OET Reading Guide

At Swoosh English we care deeply about our students and we want nothing more than for you to achieve your goals.  To read and answer questions on lots of different texts under exam conditions can be stressful and confusing. In the OET Reading exam, not only are you faced with the challenge of getting the answers correct. But you have to do this within strict time limits.

Staying focused and avoiding panic are easy things to recommend but not always so easy to do in practice.  But, with the right approach and strategies, you will have every reason to walk into the OET reading exam with confidence and composure.  This guide will give you the vital information you need to help you become an expert OET reader. And help you to achieve the results for your career dreams.


What is the OET Reading Test?


The OET reading test is a test of English designed for medical professionals.  Unlike the OET Writing and OET Speaking, It is not designed for medical professionals from a specific medical background.
It’s a test that is designed to relate to medical professionals’ experience both inside and outside the workplace more generally. The exam, in total, will last for 60 minutes and it is divided into three sections. 
Section A is the shortest, it lasts for 15 minutes and involves four short texts all related to a specific medical area
During this time you must answer 20 questions which are worth one mark each.
The questions will be split into three sections of between six to seven items with three different question types.
First, you will have to complete a set of matching questions where you have to match each question with one of the four texts. Next, you will have a set of both gap-fill and short answer questions. Both of which will require you to write between one to three words. 
It is important that you answer the questions for part A within 15 minutes. Because the paper will be taken away once this time has passed. Once the invigilator collects section A letters, they will present you with sections B and C. 
You will have 45 minutes to answer the questions for both of these sections. There are 22 of them in total and each is worth one mark. 
Section B is comprised of six three-option multiple choice questions with a short text to go with each question
Each text is based on the sort of material that you would expect to find in a workplace setting. For example, a notice, a section from a training manual or a work email. 
Section C is made up of two longer texts and 16 four-option multiple-choice questions with eight of the questions relating to each text.  The texts are more academic in nature and are based on areas of recent medical research.


What to do to prepare before the OET Reading Test


Get familiar with the exam


The first step to take is to make sure you are familiar with what you will be required to do.
The last thing you want to experience in any test is confusion over instructions. Or surprise over unexpected question types, so ensure that you are clear about the format and procedure of the exam. Read the section above and analyse a copy of the test as many times is a good idea.


Assess your level


It’s important that you are able to assess your current level. So you can see how close you are to achieving a B or above in OET reading. 
The most effective way of doing this is to take the Swoosh English OET Reading Readiness Test. With this you will have the opportunity to do a shortened version of the OET test to get direct feedback on your current level.  Click on the link at the bottom of the page to find out more information about this.


Get plenty of reading practice


Once you have found out your current level, you will know how much practice you will need to do to be ready to take the test. One form of practice should come with doing OET mock reading tests so that you get plenty of exposure to the exam format. And you can also track your progress each time you do so. 
Reliable mock reading tests can be hard to find. But at Swoosh English we will be able to provide you with plenty of such practice, just click on the following link. 
Your reading practice should not be limited to doing OET tests though. You should also take the opportunity to read as much English as possible. This includes medical journals, websites, newspaper articles and any other reading content you can find. Particularly those centered around medicine and health.  
Some recommended reading resources are the ABC health newsletter and the British Medical Journal
These resources can be accessed online and they provide a regular stream of articles on topical medical issues. (find the links to these websites included below).


Get direction from a qualified OET English teacher


Linked to reading practice is the need to develop the specific reading strategies you will need to complete the exam
These strategies include: reading for gist, for specific information, to detect opinion, to detect meaning from context and to recognise features of cohesion.
As it can be difficult to make sense of and operationalise these strategies alone. We recommended that you contact one of our qualified OET English teachers.
They will organise lessons with you to focus on developing your reading skills. And they will be able to set you questions which will give you practice. To help you to develop your ability to use these key reading strategies. 
A qualified OET teacher will also be able to advise you on when you are truly ready to take the exam. That way you will not waste vital time and money sitting the exam too soon.  Follow this link to contact a Swoosh OET teacher now.

Preparing for part A: Skimming


Taking all of the above steps should ensure that you are able to enter the exam room with the necessary ability, experience, and confidence to get the OET reading result you need
Once you enter the exam room, it is important that you make use of key reading strategies immediately.  This is because you have very little time to complete the questions for OET reading part A.
Not using strategies that will speed up your reading is quite not an option.  The first set of questions for this section will always be matching questions. 
These questions test your ability to read for gist. This is to read each of the four short texts for their content and purpose. 
Gist reading involves doing things such as reading headings and observing the format of the texts. To work out whether they are providing definitions, instructions or guidelines, for example. 
You should not read every word of the articles, instead you should be skimming your eyes across all four articles to get a general idea on their content.  You should be spending no more than five minutes in total on the first set of questions.


Preparing for part A: Scanning


The next two sets of questions will test your ability to scan for information.  To answer them you should first of all decide which text you think each question relates to. 
Your skimming for the first set of questions should guide you here. Read this article for more information on how skimming builds to scanning.
 Once you have decided which text each question relates to. You should scan through the text looking for the specific information which will allow you to answer the questions.  You should not be reading any of the texts in detail, you simply do not have time.  Just move your eyes quickly through each line of the text until you settle on the keywords you need.


Preparing for part A: Being prepared to skip a question


Related to the previous points, if there is a particular question which you are not able to answer while you are scanning. You should skip it and move onto the next one.  As you only have 15 minutes to answer 20 questions.
You should dedicate, on average, 45 seconds to each question.  If you are finding yourself spending up to two minutes on any question. Then you are losing the opportunity to answer another question (or even more than one question), which you might find much easier to complete.  If time remains at the end, you can always return to any skipped questions.


Preparing for part B: Making use of background knowledge


Making use of the background knowledge that we have about a topic helps us to make more sense of reading texts on that topic. All of the six texts from section B of the exam will be based on the sorts of text that you would encounter as a medical professional in a working environment
They should look familiar and contain the sort of information you may well have been exposed to in your place of work
Make use of this background knowledge as you’re reading the texts to make full use of your professional experience
If you see that there is a text about providing bed baths, for example, spend a moment thinking about the information it is likely to contain. Very quickly think about which elements of the procedure might be important or might be worth highlighting. Then go on to read the question.


Preparing for part B: Reading the options carefully


You will have three options to select between each question. It is important that you read all these options in detail. Unlike many of the questions in OET reading part A, it is unlikely that scanning the text will be sufficient to provide a correct answer to the part B questions
Instead, you will have to pay attention to detail and this begins with the options.  Don’t just pay attention to individual words and phrases. Make sure you are absolutely clear about the overall meaning of each sentence.


Preparing for part B: Recognising paraphrasing and avoiding distractors


Once you have read the options in detail, you should go on to read the texts in a similar manner.  You should expect the information which provides the answers to the questions to be paraphrased.
The answers in the text are likely to be worded differently to the options in the question but the meaning will be the same
It is not enough to see similar words in the text compared to the options and choose an answer on that basis. You need to read in more detail than this to see if the words are being used in such a way so that it matches the fuller meaning as expressed in the option.


Preparing for part C: Reading for gist


In the final part of the OET reading exam, you will be presented with two longer texts on which you have to answer questions. To help you make sense of the questions in part C, it is a good idea to spend a minute quickly skimming the text you are about to answer questions on, similarly to how you should have read the texts in part A. 
This will help to provide a context for the questions you will answer and will allow you to answer them more easily.


Preparing for part C: Identifying opinions


Questions in this part of the reading test often ask us to identify the opinions of writers and individuals referred to in the texts.  In order to do this successfully, we should pay attention to evaluative language, particularly language such as adjectives and modal verbs which may be used to express notions such as doubt, optimism or likelihood.  Just as in part B, it’s important that you read the questions and information in the text in detail, to ensure that you have correctly identified the opinions of the relevant individuals and, thus, answered the questions correctly.


Preparing for part C: Recognising referencing and detecting meaning from context


These are the other two types of question you will have to answer for part C.  Each type will ask you  to either select the meaning of a specific word or phrase in the text or to identify what a specific word or phrase is referring to.  The ability to answer both questions relies on your being able to use other information around the specific word or phrase in order to work out its meaning or reference.  These surrounding words provide clues and you should note information about them including their part of speech (are they nouns, verbs or adjectives, for example) and also their connotation (are they expressing a negative, positive or neutral idea).  For more information on detecting meaning from context, read Blog Article 7 “Detecting meaning from context”.


The OET Reading checklist


To summarise, then, for OET reading success:

  1. Make sure you are fully familiar with the OET reading test
  2. Take an exam readiness test so that you are clear as to your current level
  3. Get plenty of practice both by doing OET reading mock tests and engaging with other relevant reading material
  4. Find a qualified OET teacher to help you become aware of and to develop your reading strategies
  5. Make use of skimming and scanning in order to complete part A quickly.  Don’t waste time on difficult questions, skip and move on if you have to.
  6. Use your background knowledge and ensure you read the options and texts in part B carefully to ensure that you do not get distracted into selecting an incorrect option.
  7. Skim the texts in part C before reading the relevant parts in detail in order to identify opinion, detect meaning from context and recognise referencing.
  8. Celebrate.  Your exam has come to an end and you should now be ready to contemplate success.


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.

8 thoughts on “OET Reading: The Complete Guide”

    1. Swoosh English Team

      Hi Samina, Thank you for your comment.
      We have sent you an email 🙂 Let’s help you improve your reading skills.

      Swoosh English Team


    Hi, Please help me to improve my reading, any suggestions . Please send me some reading materials also ,Thank you

  2. Recently, I took OET eaxm. Apart from reading, I passed all the other subtests. I was almost there though, my reading score was 330. I’m quite a slow reader. Could you please tell me if your institution trains to read fast? maybe OET reading specifically.

    1. Hi Phes, thanks for your message. Very excited to share more information with you, we are here to help and support you through your preparation journey. I have emailed you with more information. We only handle package enquiries via: [email protected], please check your inbox.

    1. Hello Ty. Oh yes your exam is very soon. We would love to help you. Please send us an email at [email protected] or simply start a conversation through our chat on our website. Let me know if you get talking to a member of our team. 🙂

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