Speaking Sub-Test Overview

The speaking sub-test takes about 20 minutes. It is a profession-specific test in which the candidates are required to complete two role plays based on typical workplace situation. The candidates take this part of OET using materials specially produced for their profession. In other words, you would be enacting the role of a nurse and will be expected to demonstrate the ability to deal with situations that occur realistically in the workplace. For instance, 

  • Asking questions to the patient.
  • Answering the patient's questions
  • Engaging with a variety of patient types, e.g. different ages, various health problems, different concerns.
  • Explain medical conditions and treatments in a clear and accessible way.
  • Rephrase ideas in a variety of ways to help or persuade a patient.
  • Reassure a worried or angry patient.

The interlocutor will take on the role of a patient or in some cases, a patient's caregiver or family member.

Structure of the test

Initially, there is a short warm-up talk about your professional background following which you are given two role-plays, one by one, and you have 2-3 minutes to prepare yourself for each role play. The interview is recorded, and the recording is then assessed by two different assessors in Australia. The interlocutor is not assessing you. The interlocutor follows a script so that the interview structure is similar for each candidate.

Assessment Criterion and Tips to improve each criterion
Candidate’s performance in the two role-plays is assessed against five criteria:

Overall communicative effectiveness – including how well you can maintain meaningful interaction.


  • In each role-play, take the initiative to gather and to give information, as a professional does.
  • You should talk to the interviewer as you do to a patient.
  • Make sure you use a simple language easily understandable by the patient.
  • Remember that you are interacting with the patient, not just explaining to him/her.

Intelligibility – including pronunciation, intonation, stress, rhythm, and accent.


  • Consider each aspect that makes up this criterion: not just pronunciation, but also use of stress to emphasize the most important information, and use of intonation to signal whether you are asking a question or making a statement.
  • Practice the pronunciation in English of common words and phrases used in your profession.  

Fluency – including the rate (speed) and natural flow of speech.


  • Speak at a natural speed. If your speech is too slow, the listener might feel frustrated while waiting for you to finish or may lose the flow of the argument. Similarly, if the speed is too fast, it might difficult for the listener to comprehend.
  • Pauses contribute to an improved understanding- therefore, use pauses effectively in your speaking.
  • Aim for even speech [not broken up into fragments] – reduce hesitation or speaking in ‘bursts’ of language.

Appropriateness – including the use of suitable professional language and the ability to explain in simple terms as necessary and appropriately, given the scenario of each role-play.


  • Practice explaining medical and technical terms and procedures in simple language. For instance, giving general advice for good health about diet, losing weight, care of wounds, smoking cessation, etc.

Resources of grammar and expression – including the accuracy and range of the language used; how effectively and naturally you can communicate in a healthcare setting.


  • Demonstrate your ability by paraphrasing or different phrases to communicate the same idea to the patient.
  • Make sure you can form questions correctly (word order) – particularly those questions that you often use with patients while investigating the presenting complaint or taking medical history [‘How long...?’, ‘When’].

Remember that OET is a test of English-language skills – NOT a test of professional knowledge. The medical information needed to carry out the role-play is provided on the cue card. The role-play is designed so that knowledge of a medical condition or treatment will not advantage or disadvantage you in any way. You will be assessed on how effectively you deal with the communicative situation on the card, NOT on your knowledge of the specific medical topic.

General Tips

  • The introductory section of the Speaking sub-test is not assessed. Use this time to ‘’warm up’’ and get used to speaking to the interlocutor. During this time, ask the interlocutor if you have any questions about what a word/phrase means, how it is pronounced, or how a role-play works.
  • When preparing for the OET test, practice using the communicative functions that you are likely to need in any consultation context: explaining, summarising, clarifying, eliciting information, reassuring etc.
  • Speak loudly and clearly at a natural speed.
  • You are allowed to make notes on the cue-card and keep it with you while performing the role-play.  
  • Take time to read through the role play card carefully.
  • Don’t follow a formula for the role-play that may not be appropriate – e.g. sometimes you do not need to introduce yourself because it is clear you know the patient already.
  • Use the notes on the role card to guide the role-play:

    • What is your role?
    • What role is your interlocutor playing – patient, parent/son/daughter, carer?
    • Where is the conversation taking place?
    • What is the current situation?
    • How urgent is the situation?
    • What background information are you given about the patient and the situation?
    • What are you required to do?
    • What is the main purpose of the conversation [e.g. explain, find out, reassure, persuade]?
    • What other elements of the situation do you know about? [E.g. The patient appears nervous or angry; you don’t have much time].
    • What information do you need to give the patient?

  •   Take the initiative to start the roleplay yourself.
  •   Don’t worry if the interlocutor stops the role-play after five minutes – there is no penalty for not completing all the elements on the role card.