• November 14, 2023

Doctors looking to register with the GMC and find a job in the NHS will be required to take either the OET or IELTS exam. Here we answer some FAQs about the OET exam.

OET can be challenging and, without proper preparation, it is not uncommon for doctors to fail at their first attempt.

So, to help make sure you are as prepared as possible before sitting the exam, we have answered the most common FAQs asked by an overseas doctor: 

What is the OET? 

OET stands for Occupational English Test. The OET is an English Language Test created specifically for healthcare professionals. 

The OET exam assesses the language communication skills of healthcare professionals who wish to register and practice in the UK, or other English-speaking countries. 

It tests your English levels in four subtests: Reading, Writing, Speaking & Listening

How is the OET different from IELTS? 

OET is a language assessment designed for healthcare professionals, testing your English Language skills in a medical context.  

IELTS is not specific to the healthcare profession, it is taken by professionals from all industries. So, the topics covered are more general. 

Both test four areas of English Language skills: reading, writing, speaking and listening.

What regulatory bodies accept OET? 

The good news is that if you choose the OET exam, recent changes to the rules as of the 1st October 2019, means that only one test now required for both UK registration and visa purposes. The OET exam is now accepted by both the GMC and the UK Home Office.  

What test should I take? 

Neither exam is easier than the other. Both IELTS and OET Medicine show you have an advanced level in English. It really is up to you! 

You may find OET simpler to understand as it is healthcare related and tests the language you use in daily practice. 

The same can be said about IELTS, you may find the general nature of the topics more suited to you. 

Is OET a better option than IELTS? 

There is no one option better than the other, both are recognised qualifications by the GMC. The most important thing to decide is which suits your needs the most. 

Your decision may be based on factors such as:

  • the format and content of the different tests
  • regularity with which test sessions are held
  • locations of test centres
  • test fees
  • regulatory bodies that accept the test for applications

Is the OET recognised by the General Medical Council (GMC)?

Yes, the GMC recognises OET for overseas-trained doctors for registration purposes. For the GMC to accept your OET certificate it must show that you took the medicine sub-tests.

What results do I need for GMC registration? 

For the GMC to accept your OET certificate it must show: 

  • You took the medicine version of the test. 
  • You attained at least a grade 'B' in each testing area (speaking, listening, reading and writing) or 350 points in total. 

What is the test format? 

OET has four parts:

  • Listening (45 minutes)

  • Reading (60 minutes)
  • Writing (45 minutes) 
  • Speaking (20 minutes)

The total test time is approximately 3 hours.

How much does it cost? 

Test fees are AUD $587 (approx. £329 based on November 2023 exchange rate). 

Should I prepare for the exam? 

Yes, exam preparation is crucial to scoring highly in the test. You might feel like you already have a good level of English, good enough to pass the tests. 

But IMGs keep telling us that no matter what level of English they have, it is always better to prepare. The test consists of very specific content, so specific test skills are required. 

Should I spend money on preparing? 

Whilst not essential, we recommend that you seek further support. This could be via online tutorials, 1 - 1 teaching, or longer course-based learning. There are lots of OET tutors available online. 

That said, there are also loads of ways that you can improve your English for free, at home and in your own time. 


Where can I find online study materials?

With thousands of useful websites available, it can be tricky to decide where to start. We recommend the OET Preparation Portal. Here you will discover official resources, some for free! 

For example, you can expect to find: 

  • sample practice tests
  • masterclass videos with an OET preparation expert
  • tips to improve your test performance
  • online preparation Course
  • practice books

How do I register? 

Register online here

The OET have a portal for all applicants, called myOET. This lets you apply for tests, view your results, and create a profile.

Where can I take the test? 

OET is available at more than 115 locations in 40 countries, with 14 test dates per year.

Be sure to choose the correct date and location when you apply.

You can find a test date and venue here

Can I change my test date? 

Yes, you can change the test date any day prior to the original test date booked. Please note, no refund is available, and an administration fee will apply to book a new date. The cost of deferring depends on when you decide to defer:

  • Administration cost before application closing date is $120 (approx. £67 at the point of writing) 
  • Administration cost after applications closing date passes is $200 (approx. £110 at the point of writing) 

No refund is available for cancellations. 

Can I take a re-sit? 

Yes, you can book a new test at any time, however this will be at further personal cost. 

Consider working with an accredited tutor

As an International Brand dedicated to helping international doctors to register with the GMC and find work in the NHS - we have lots of partnerships in place with trusted companies in many areas. One of these key areas is English Language Testing and IMG Connect works closely with a company called Specialist Language Courses. You can take a look at their website here.

Specialist Language courses work very professionally and are the UK's leading provider of online courses and tutoring. They are also one of the few accredited providers of OET and have provided consultation and guidance to the GMC on English language testing. 

Success rates are 70% + for those who sign for their tutoring and you can receive a discount if introduced by IMG Connect.

Register with IMG Connect to request your discount on English Language Courses or get in touch with one of our IMG Consultants to discuss.

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