The GMC has announced that they will accept a new form of English language test for non UK doctors wishing to come and work in the UK.

You can now take the Occupational English Test (OET) as well as the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).

What is the OET?

The OET is an English language test specifically for medical professionals. Like IELTS, the test consists of four modules:

Reading: 60 minute test split into two parts. The first is to fill in the missing words from a passage of medical text and the second is multiple choice questions.

Listening: Split into two parts and last approx. 50 minutes. You will take notes whilst listening to a conversation between a patient and healthcare professional, plus a lecture from a professional speaker.

Speaking: A role-play based test which lasts around 20 minutes. You will take your professional role (e.g. as a doctor) and have a conversation with a patient / client / carer etc.

Writing: Lasts 45 minutes and is profession-specific. If you are a doctor, you will usually be asked to write a referral letter.

What are the main differences between IELTS and OET?
     1. Content

The main difference between the two tests in the content you will need to learn.

The IELTS focuses on a wide range of topics, and could test your English on any number of subjects
The OET tests your English ability in relation to the medical profession, therefore as a nurse or doctor you will be tested on topics that relate to your job and subjects that you will likely come across day-to-day working in the NHS.
     2. Preparation for the test
Both are English language tests, so a good level of overall English is required. However, as the content is so different, the preparation you will need to do for each test is different.
Each year, 3 million people take the IELTS test, compared to 25,000 who take the OET.

This means there are far more preparations option for the IELTS, ranging from free online options to private tutors. The range for OET is rather limited in comparison.

You will have to invest a large amount of time preparing whichever test you decide to take, so if you have already started preparing for one, it may be a bad idea to throw that away and switch to the other.

     3. Taking the test
OET has test dates once a month, at over 80 test centres in 40 countries.

IELTS is available much more frequently, at over 1100 test centres in 140 countries.

IELTS also comes in much cheaper than OET, at £160 for the IELTS compared to £325 for the OET.

So which test is right for me?

Charlie Massey, Chief Executive of the GMC, said: ‘Doctors from overseas make a huge contribution to frontline healthcare in this country, and it is more important than ever to make sure that the path for highly-skilled doctors to work in the UK is as straightforward as possible. But it is also vital that those doctors coming to work here have a good standard of English. We have reviewed the OET thoroughly and are confident that, as well as giving more flexibility for doctors keen to work in the UK, it will continue to ensure that only those with a high level of English will reach the required standard. We are giving overseas doctors an alternative way of demonstrating their English skills, but without reducing the high standards we require and that patients would expect.’
Neither test is easier, it is simply another route to gaining GMC membership in the UK.

If you have spent a significant amount of time preparing for one test, think very hard before switching to the other. Preparation costs money, time and energy.

You should focus on improving your general level of English and your test skills, no matter which one you choose.

If you need help with your IELTS or OET preparation, please feel free to contact us here

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