OET vs IELTS in 2022: Similarities & Differences between OET and IELTS

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Students moving to an English-speaking country to study medicine must take an English language proficiency exam, which validates the registration with the General Medical Council. This exam also enables prospective medical students to take the PLAB tests. 

Regarding this, there are two exam options, namely OET (Occupational English Test) and IELTS (International English Language Testing System). Both these tests measure the candidate’s ability to converse in English through four sections – reading, listening, writing, and speaking. As a result, many individuals are confused between OET vs IELTS and which test should they opt for. For a clear understanding of students, we have laid down a comprehensive comparison between the two exams. In addition, the following sections also contain a few tips to prepare for IELTS and OET.

What is OET?

The Occupational English Test has been exclusively designed for individuals wishing to enter the healthcare sector. Cambridge Boxhill Language Assessment or CBLA conducts this test.The OET test is widely accepted across various nations, including some of the most popular study destinations like Australia, Canada, the U.S., the UK, and Singapore. OET evaluates all four language skills and uses test materials reflecting model communication scenarios from the healthcare industry. Furthermore, this exam is designed specifically for 12 healthcare professionals, including:

  • Dentistry
  • Occupational therapy
  • Veterinary science
  • Speech pathology
  • Dietetics
  • Medicine
  • Nursing
  • Radiotherapy
  • Physiotherapy
  • Pharmacy
  • Podiatry
  • Optometry

What is IELTS?

IELTS or International English Language Testing System is an English language test that candidates wanting to move to English-speaking countries need to take. There are two types of IELTS – IELTS General Training and IELTS academic. The academic module is suitable for students wishing to study in a foreign country, whereas the general training module is appropriate for medical professions to practice in the country. The general version of the exam is generally easier than the academic one and can be taken for gaining relevant work experience. 

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OET vs IELTS in 2022: Similarities & Differences between OET and IELTS

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OET vs IELTS in 2022: Similarities & Differences between OET and IELTS

Differences between OET and IELTS

Although both OET and IELTS are English proficiency tests, there are several differences between them. For candidates confused between these tests, the below table provides the difference between IELTS and OET.

Full formOccupational English TestInternational English Language Testing System
Conducting bodyCambridge Boxhill Language Assessment Trust (CBLA)IDP Education Ltd and British Council
Accepting countriesIreland, United Kingdom, Ukraine, New Zealand, Singapore, UAE, Namibia, Canada, Philippines, Maldives, Malta, Qatar, and Spain.New Zealand, United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia.
Suitable forHealthcare professionals wanting to work in the medical sector.Candidates wanting to study, work, and migrate to English-speaking countries.
Exam duration2 hours 55 minutes2 hours 45 minutes
Score rangeEvaluated between A and EEvaluated between 1 and 9
Test datesTwice a monthEvery week
Declaration of resultsWithin 16 business daysWithin two weeks
ContentIncludes the ability of individuals to communicate efficiently in medical scenarios. Candidates are required to write a discharge or referral letter, recognize a patient’s consultation, and follow the next steps.Includes the individual’s ability to follow lectures, write essays, and take up a wide range of topic discussion.
VersionsOffers 12 versions. The listening and reading tests are the same for all these versions, whereas the speaking and writing sections are modified according to specific scenarios.Offers two versions – academic and general training. Listening and speaking sections are the same for both these modules. On the other hand, reading and writing modules are crafted in a different way to suit both the modules.

Difference in format of OET and IELTS

There is a substantial difference in format between IELTS and OET. While the former covers a wide range of topics, the latter is specifically designed for healthcare professionals. Here is a detailed outlay of difference between IELTS and OET as per the exam format.

Format of IELTS

IELTS sectionsContentSignificance
Reading (60 minutes)3 long texts from journals, newspapers, magazines, and books. These texts can be discursive to descriptive and factual to analytical. Understanding logical argument, purpose and attitude, reading for details, gist, and ideas.
Listening (30 minutes)Four recordings in various accents comprising a total of 40 questions. Out of the four recordings, two are based in everyday context and two in academic context.Understanding opinions, major ideas and detailed factual information, and following the development ideas.
Speaking (11-14 minutes)Contains three parts:
  • Part 1 – answer basic questions about general topics about work, family, etc.
  • Part 2 – presentation without using the prompt cards.
  • Part 3 – talk about abstract issues and ideas related to the topics presented in part 2.
Communicating ideas and opinions in an everyday scenario, speaking at length on a provided topic, justifying and expressing opinions, discussing, speculating, and analyzing various issues.
Writing (60 minutes)The writing section contains two tasks:
  • Task 1 – write a report on data or/and information given in a graph, diagram, or chart. Candidates should write this within 150 words.
  • Task 2 – essay writing responding to an opinion, or argument on a given problem. This should be written within 250 words.
Summarizing and describing opinions, ideas, and information in a precise way, writing a well-organized review, giving examples and evidence, and writing in a formal style.

Format of OET

SectionsContent Significance 
Reading (60 minutes)The reading section contains three parts:
  • Part A – four related but different short texts on a single topic.
  • Part B – six workplace texts, short in length.
  • Part C – two long texts based on general healthcare topics.
Reading for gist and main ideas, understanding different texts on health and healthcare sector related topics.
Listening (50 minutes)Contains three parts:
  • Part A – excerpts from two consultations between a patient and a doctor.
  • Part B – six workplace excerpts, like handovers and team briefings.
  • Part C – two healthcare professionals’ presentations. All these are set in a general context of the medical sector.
Understanding and following a range of various healthcare-related materials.
Speaking (20 minutes)Contains two parts:
  • Part 1 – interview process on the professional background.
  • Part 2 – two role plays conducted in profession related scenarios. Candidates get 2-3 minutes to prepare for the role play. The role play further lasts for around 5 minutes.
Explaining, describing, and discussing real-life matters, providing conversation structure, and communicating effectively and efficiently.
Writing (45 minutes)Read case notes and then write a letter. Topic can be related to any profession, like doctor, nurse, etc.Expanding notes into descriptive sentences, writing effectively and clearly on health-related subjects.

Similarities between IELTS and OET

Apart from the differences, there are certain similarities between IELTS and OET. Find them below:

  • Both these tests contain four sections – reading, writing, speaking, and listening.
  • Tests are not graded with a pass or fail remark. Instead, the assessment is done with points and bands. 

The scoring system of these exams will help individuals confused about OET vs IELTS get a better grasp.

Grade A (450-500 points)8-9 band
Grade B (350-440 points)7-7.5 band
Grade C/C+ (200-340 points)5.5-6.5 band
Grade D (100-190 points)4.4-5.5 band
Grade E (0-90 points)4 band
  • The scores in these tests are similar to the language skills measured under the Common European Framework of Reference. This is specifically a C1 or an even more advanced level.
  • Both IELTS and OET were founded in the 1980s. They are also partly-owned by Cambridge Assessment English. OET shares ownership with Boxhill Assessment, and IELTS shares its ownership with the British Council and IDP.

Tips to prepare for IELTS and OET

IELTS preparation requires knowing a huge amount of new words on a wide range of subjects related to academics. Test takers also need to learn the proper way to write reports on a range of essay topics. On the other hand, OET preparation requires knowing a wide range of healthcare-related languages. This is done to determine whether the candidates are knowledgeable enough to understand medical talks and tasks. So, to overcome the confusion of OET vs IELTS, candidates can follow these tips and strategies and root for a better score.

Tips for OET preparation

Reading module 

  • Practice reading in detail and play word searches to improve word skills
  • Practice model tests while reading the questions carefully while focusing on time management.
  • Read section by section and practice reading for gist
  • Read long texts and develop ideas related to unfamiliar words
  • Practice reading according to the perspective of the writer

Writing module

  • While writing the letter, keep the imaginary reader in mind and then write the letter as per the reader’s perspective.
  • Use the right language. For instance, in the medical scenario, using passive voice can be of much help. In addition, use the correct verb tense in sentences so that the grammar remains on point.
  • Practice a lot of OET practice papers and take feedback from someone informed.

Speaking module

  • For the role play section, candidates must check the setting where the conversation is happening and then check the purpose and condition of the role play.
  • Imagine a real patient and then frame the dialogues.
  • Understand the perspective of the patient, explain the information, and then structure the communication.
  • The candidate must also listen carefully to build good communication.

Listening module

  • Gain familiarity with different aspects of medicine and the healthcare sector
  • Read the questions before listening to the audio
  • Be verbal if there is any hindrance in hearing
  • Familiarize with common abbreviations
  • Listen to health videos and podcasts

Tips for IELTS preparationWriting module

  • Thoroughly read the questions and outline the format before writing
  • Avoid repentance and practice paraphrasing magazine and newspaper articles
  • Keep track of time by practising writing the writing task 1 in 20 minutes and the task 2 in 40 minutes.
  • Keep track of the word limit
  • Write on point and relevant answers
  • Write short sentences focusing on active voice

Reading module

  • The reading section in IELTS contains 14 types of questions. Candidates must learn to handle each type of question.
  • Candidates get only two minutes to read the passage. Hence, they should practice reading at home frequently.
  • Try to find the answer without trying to recognize the entire passage
  • Practice paraphrasing and learn new phrases and words

Speaking module

  • Practice speaking in English every day for a few minutes
  • Practice tests can be very much helpful
  • Do not hurry and correct the mistakes rather than panicking
  • Use easy and informal language while speaking

Listening module

  • Brush up concentration skills since the listening module requires extreme patience and concentration.
  • The recording is played only once, and candidates should remember the necessary questions to answer precisely.
  • Solve IELTS listening practice sets online

OET vs IELTS: Which is Easier?

Candidates wondering about isOET easier than IELTS should know that no test is easier than the other. The required level from both these exams by Regulatory Authorities in a country is the same. However, healthcare professionals may find OET a bit more familiar because they have been attached to the healthcare field for a long time. On the other hand, the IELTS test analyzes different topics, which may not contain questions about healthcare topics. So, OET is a growing preference among healthcare professionals.While both the exams measure the English language expertise in individuals, it is crucial for candidates to be well-versed about OET vs IELTS before applying for the test. It is also important to understand the admission requirement of a particular university because, at most times, universities prefer one exam over the other. Candidates must remember that while the OET exam evaluates healthcare professionals, the IELTS covers a wide range of topics and entails a more generic student base.Furthermore, immigrating candidates may face some unfamiliar circumstances related to finances. At such times, Leap Finance can be of major help. We provide no collateral education loans with a 10-minute online process. Our education loans are designed to save you dollars with no hidden charges and minimal fees. Moreover, we are determined to support fellow students with counselling and a widened student community, so they don’t have to let the cost factor affect their dreams. 

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Which section should I prepare the most to get a good rank in IELTS?

Ans: All four sections of the test – reading, writing, speaking, and listening contain an equal weightage of 25%. Hence, you must give equal importance to all the four sections.

2. How will I receive the OET result?

Ans: OET publishes the results on their official website 17 days after the date of the test. Healthcare professionals can visit the website and visit their profile to download the report.

3. As a healthcare professional, which test should I choose?

Ans: This depends upon what topics seem simple to you. For instance, if you are well-versed with healthcare topics, you may find OET simpler. On the other hand, if you are proficient in English and find general topics simple, IELTS is the perfect test for you.

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Manisha Angre

Experienced IELTS prep trainer and education management industry veteran. Specializes in public speaking, international education, market research, mentoring, and management.

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