Preparing for an English Language Test (IELTS & OET) - a helpful guide for IMGs

  • July 19, 2020
 

Overseas doctors hoping to register with the GMC & find a job in the NHS will have to pass an English language test. 

This will demonstrate that they have the right level of English to practice safely in the NHS, and in this article we will look at how to prepare for both IELTS and OET examinations.

To help you decide the best way to prepare, we have included the following topics: 

The first thing to say – it isn’t easy! 

Preparing for any English Language Test, whether you have chosen IELTS or OET, requires you to learn a huge amount of vocabulary, write specific reports or essays, use a high level of grammar and structure, learn how to engage with a range of scenarios and acquire a set of key exam techniques. 

What should I expect?

Preparing for and sitting the exams is difficult, not least because of the overload of information that is out there, for example which sources do you trust? What is the best way to find information? 

Passing the exams can take months, and in some cases years of hard work. And don’t forget that each exam costs money, with many also choosing private tuition – the money and time can soon add up. 

Can I just take the exam? 

The exams costs money each time and are very specific in format, with the answers requiring certain structures and techniques. A lot of IMGs don’t get the required marks at first attempt and as such, we don’t advise taking the exam without sound preparation. 

Remember… failing to prepare, is preparing to fail.

In general, there are a few things that most IMGs tell us that they have improved on through preparing well: 

  • Overall general level of English – this takes time

IMGs who passed have told us that this takes the longest, but it is time well spent…

Overall improvements in general English skills, including broadening your vocabulary, grammar and punctuation, will help you to achieve the best score possible. Try to make a little progress every day.

  • Refining your test skills – this takes practice 

Each sub-test (reading, writing, speaking and listening) has a different style of question and answer, so each of them has a specific skill that you need to learn. 

  • Knowing how the tests are marked – this takes guidance 

To gain those valuable extra scores, get to know what the examiner wants and give it to them! 

Remember, this skill alone won’t get you a pass, but combined with the above it will be a huge help to getting the score you want.

 

How can I prepare? Can I do all of this at home? 

IMGs have shared many ways to practice for a pass and this doesn’t mean just repeating exam questions. 

Here are a few of our favourite examples that you can do every day, for free!  

  • Find a colleague at work, friend or family member, who you enjoy speaking English with and speak to them every day! 
  • Read a wider range of topics online, both medical and general. 
  • Find a regular news source you enjoy reading in English. 
  • Tune into UK radio stations, available online, or, on your mobile phone. Put the radio on before and after work, rather than your usual local station. 
  • Listen to Podcasts in English, there are thousands of topics to choose from. 
  • Watch YouTube channels about medicine and life in the UK. 
  • Watch movies and TV shows in English, both with and without subtitles. 
  • Start writing, it is key that you practice, but this can sometimes be the hardest to practice in natural contexts. IMGs have suggested writing a blog or writing letters and emails (in English) to friends and family
  • Watch Ted Talks, that both do and don’t interest you!
  • Take practice tests at home, mark your answers and check how you improve. 

Basically, find your passion and go for it! 

Where can I find training? 

There are excellent training sessions available, including face-face and online courses to help you to prepare. They can help you to build the skills you need to succeed in your exam. 

It is always good to tailor your learning to your own needs, so whether you are new to the tests, or looking for support to help you to study or retake the exams, find a training programme that suits you. 

Whilst not necessary, taking up an exam preparation course led by an experienced teacher or tutor who is knowledgeable on the test and the skills – is highly recommended

Knowing your level

Knowing your level is an essential part of the preparation for both IELTS and OET. Whether you decide to sign up for a course, or tutor, getting assessed and knowing your current level will help you identify your areas of weakness to focus on. 

We would recommend getting your speaking and writing assessed by a qualified teacher. They can tell you what level you are at and areas for improvement. 


Identify weaknesses, focus on these and get reassessed to check if you have improved. 


You can find courses or individual teachers online who have been trained directly by the examining body, which can give you the boost you need. But, speak to colleagues and see if they can recommend a trusted course or teacher.

What resources are available online to help with my preparation? 

The following sites will give you all the general information you need for your IELTS or OET exam preparation:

You can find video tutorials and support on YouTube, including official channels from both IELTS and OET:

You can find online practice papers at the following trusted sites: 

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

So, broken down, here are our steps to success in the English Language Tests:

  • Understand the test structure and format
  • Set yourself achievable learning goals
  • Get to know the marking criteria 
  • Understand the various question types
  • Polish your exam skills
  • Improve your vocabulary
  • Take practice tests
  • Practice every day, and we mean every day! 
  • Not essential depending on your level of English, but you can also find a tutor or online course. 
  • Get assessed, identify weaknesses, work on these, get reassessed.

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Get in Touch

Don’t hesitate to get in touch using the buttons above (and below) to discuss doctor job options in the NHS, including discussions regarding a typical doctor salary in the UK and the most suitable hospital locations for you.

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Relevant Jobs

110,257 - 164,372

An exciting opportunity has arisen within the Acute Medicine Department. They are looking to appoint an Acute & General Internal Medicine Consultant, a great opportunity to further your medical career in the UK. This NHS job offers CESR Portfolio Pathway support, and international applications from IMGs are welcome.

The successful candidate will be the clinical lead and will drive the development and transformation of acute medicine, where patient-centered care is at the heart of the services. The role involves working within the Acute Assessment Unit, which consists of a 25-bed inpatient area including a 5-bed enhanced care area and an adjacent 6-space Ambulatory Emergency Care Unit.

Health Service

Working for this health service is professionally rewarding, offering high-quality, patient-centered care. Their clinicians lead in developing and managing services, supported by strong links with UK specialists. With a generous study leave budget, doctors are encouraged to pursue further education. Exciting developments include a new general hospital and a new mental health inpatient unit. They foster strong relationships between mental health, primary, and secondary care, promoting joint learning and teaching in their modern education center.

The health service, separate from the NHS, is an integrated, taxation-funded system, free at the point of delivery, managed by the Health and Community Services Department. This is a unique opportunity to help shape an integrated care system with closer political engagement than in the UK.

Department & Team

Medicine in this health service is fully integrated by age and specialty, with three medical wards: . The EAU has a 5-bedded Enhanced Care Area and a separate intensive care unit led by intensivists. The AEC Unit is supported by a SAS doctor and consultants. The department comprises a 16-bed EAU, staffed by 11 consultants, 8 SAS doctors, 7 FY1 doctors, 2 FY2 doctors, and 6 Clinical Fellows, organized into 8 medical teams and the EAU team.

The specialty of Acute Medicine is based within the Emergency Assessment Unit (EAU). The service includes a 25-bed Acute Assessment Unit (AAU) featuring 5 enhanced care beds and an Ambulatory Emergency Care (AEC) Unit. The post holder will work across both the AAU and the AEC.

Continued Professional Development

The health service offers further training & accreditation within psychiatry, including CESR Portfolio Pathway Support, access to specialty training, and the opportunity to develop sub-specialist interest. The post holder will have ample opportunities to develop knowledge, skills, and experience through attendance at relevant courses, conferences, and locally organized CME events. Health & Community Services supports Continuing Medical Education with time and financial support, offering study leave of 30 days in 3 years, and an annual study leave allowance. 

Life in the area

Living in the area presents significant financial benefits. The flat income tax rate is notably advantageous compared to the U.K., and they provide a generous public sector pension scheme that isn\'t constrained by U.K. lifetime or annual contribution limits. The Consultant Contract closely mirrors the U.K. model but offers higher incremental levels. Incremental progression is automatic from points 1 to 17 on the pay scale based on satisfactory performance, while formal applications are necessary for points 18 to 20.

Am I eligible for this role?

UK based candidates:

•    Experience in Acute & General Internal Medicine

EEA candidates: 
•    Experience in Acute & General Internal Medicine
•    European Specialist Qualification

Non-EEA candidates:
•    MRCP
•    Experience in Acute & General Internal Medicine

99,532 - 131,964

A Northern English NHS Trust is looking for a Consultant Histopathologist to join their team at. They are considering either UK or overseas-trained doctors for a permanent contract type. The trust will support with CESR support for those who are looking to attain CESR and Specialist Registration. This is a high performing and friendly department for overseas doctors new to the NHS, or UK-based doctors looking to further careers in the UK.

This is a great job for any overseas Pathologists looking for CESR-support and great career development in a beautiful part of England.

What is the NHS Foundation Trust like?

The NHS Foundation Trust offers top-notch hospital and community healthcare services to a population exceeding 400,000 individuals across several areas/ With two primary hospital locations boasting a combined total of 553 beds, and their hospitals situated approximately 15 miles apart - along with a community hospital, the Trust ensures comprehensive care coverage. Its extensive range of services and specialties includes Bariatric Services, Orthopaedics, Urology, Cardiology, Diabetes Care, Elderly Care, Emergency Care, Gastroenterology, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Radiology, Respiratory Medicine, Rheumatology, Stroke Care, Critical Care, Neonatology, Pain Services, and Pathology.

What is the department & team like? 

The Histopathology Department is staffed by a dedicated team of consultants and junior doctors committed to delivering outstanding patient care. The team comprises experienced consultants and supportive junior doctors, ensuring comprehensive coverage and expertise in diagnosing a wide array of cases. The department is actively involved in the diagnosis and management of diverse histopathology and cytology cases, encompassing oncological, gastrointestinal, dermatological, and respiratory conditions, among others.

They offer a range of treatments tailored to meet the specific needs of each patient, with a focus on delivering timely and accurate diagnoses to support effective treatment plans. Equipped with advanced facilities and state-of-the-art technology, the department boasts modern laboratory equipment and diagnostic tools. These resources enable them to efficiently process and analyze histopathological specimens, facilitating prompt and precise diagnoses.

On average, the histopathology department handles a substantial volume of cases each year, covering a broad spectrum of pathology types. Through the collaborative approach and commitment to excellence, they strive to uphold the highest standards of patient care and contribute to advancements in diagnostic medicine.

Career Development & Opportunities Available

The Trust and Histopathology team are dedicated to supporting their doctors career development through. For example, the new appointee will have the opportunity for the development of teaching experience as they would be expected to undertake formal and informal teaching of trainees within the department, and participate with other consultants in teaching/lectures as part of the Trust’s postgraduate education program. There will also be the opportunity for the development of personal research interests through the Research and Development Department. Research is highly encouraged at this trust and is undertaken during SPA sessions. The new consultant will also be able to increase their experience in MDTs, as these are regularly held within the department. 

Life in North East

The North East of the UK offers a diverse blend of rural and urban settings, providing both tranquility and vibrant city life. Residents can explore scenic landscapes such as the Northumberland Coast or enjoy cultural attractions in cities like Newcastle upon Tyne. The region boasts esteemed universities like Durham and Newcastle, along with quality schools. Transportation links are well-established, connecting the area to major cities and airports. Housing options vary from historic properties in market towns to modern developments in bustling urban centers, catering to diverse preferences and lifestyles.

AM I ELIGIBLE FOR THIS ROLE?

EEA Candidates:

  • Experience of working in Histopathology
  • Specialist European Qualification in Anatomic Pathology
  • Full and Specialist registration (and with a licence to practise) with the General Medical Council (GMC), or be eligible for registration within six months of interview.
  • An understanding of Clinical Governance

Non-EEA Candidates:

  • FRCPath
  • Full and Specialist registration (and with a licence to practise) with the General Medical Council (GMC), or be eligible for registration within six months of interview.
  • An understanding of Clinical Governance

UK based applicants

  • Full GMC registration
  • Within 6 - 12 months of completing CCT
  • An understanding of Clinical Governance
110,257 - 164,372

We are looking to recruit a Consultant Psychiatrist to a Crisis & Assessment Team role in the Channel Islands, a UK territory sitting off the coast of France and just a 1 hour flight from London. This job presents a great opportunity to advance your medical career in the UK.

The health service, separate from the NHS, is an integrated, taxation-funded system, free at the point of delivery, managed by the Health and Community Services Department on the island. Key benefits of working there are higher salaries than the NHS, lower taxes and sunnier weather.

Consultant Pay range - £110,257 to £164,372
Single rate of tax - 20%.

The Department & Team

The Crisis and Assessment Team (CAT) serves as the primary gateway to adult and older people\'s mental health services, conducting assessments in the community and emergency settings, alongside medical reviews. They collaborate closely with law enforcement, responding to Adult Protection Notices and coordinating mental health law assessments. This role within the CAT focuses on streamlining referrals, providing short-term crisis interventions, and ensuring individuals receive appropriate ongoing care. You\'ll engage with both working-age adults and older adults, with responsibilities extending to police referrals and mental health law assessments during standard working hours, with on-call commitments.

Continued Professional Development

Professional development is integral to their ethos, offering CESR Portfolio Pathway support, access to specialty training, and opportunities for sub-specialist development. They prioritize ongoing learning through conferences, local CME events, and a generous study leave allowance.

Life in the area

Living in this location offers significant financial benefits. The flat income tax rate of 20% is notably advantageous compared to the UK, and a generous public sector pension scheme is provided, not constrained by UK lifetime or annual contribution limits. The consultant contract closely mirrors the UK model but offers higher incremental levels starting at £110,257 and with a top basic salary of £164,372.


Am I eligible for this role?

UK based candidates:

  • Experience in General Adult Psychiatry
  • Specialist Registration or locum consultant experience

EEA candidates: 

  • Experience in General Adult Psychiatry
  • European Specialist Qualification


Non-EEA candidates:

  • MRCPsych
  • Experience in General Adult Psychiatry
110,257 - 164,372

We are looking to recruit a Consultant Psychiatrist to an Old Age role in the Channel Islands, a UK territory sitting off the coast of France and just a 1 hour flight from London. This job presents a great opportunity to advance your medical career in the UK.

The health service, separate from the NHS, is an integrated, taxation-funded system, free at the point of delivery, managed by the Health and Community Services Department on the island. Key benefits of working there are higher salaries than the NHS, lower taxes and sunnier weather.

Consultant Pay range - £110,257 to £164,372
Single rate of tax - 20%.

 

What is the health & community service like?

Working in this location is professionally rewarding, offering high-quality, patient-centered care. Clinicians lead in developing and managing services, supported by strong links with UK specialists. With a generous study leave budget, doctors are encouraged to pursue further education. Exciting developments include a new general hospital and a new mental health inpatient unit. The service fosters strong relationships between mental health, primary, and secondary care, promoting joint learning and teaching in a modern education center.

What is the department & team like?

The inpatient services are currently undergoing extensive refurbishment, including two wards for older adults. One ward offers 14 assessment beds for individuals over 65 experiencing functional mental health issues, with some flexibility for those under 65. The other ward provides 10 assessment beds for patients with dementia. Following the refurbishment, the latter ward will feature 8 acute assessment beds and 8 transitional/step-down beds for those with dementia or enduring mental health problems who cannot be supported in local nursing or residential homes.

The Older Adults Community Mental Health Team (OACMHT) manages a caseload of about 300 patients, including new referrals triaged by the Crisis and Assessment team, providing both short-term treatment and long-term care coordination. The role involves providing medical support to the OACMHT alongside two other consultants and a staff grade doctor.

The post holder will join an established team, comprising 2 WTE older adult consultants, 1.0 WTE Associate Specialist (Memory Assessment Service), 2.0 WTE staff grades (inpatient and community), and 1.0 WTE F1 doctor (inpatients and community). Dedicated administrative support includes a 0.5 WTE medical secretary and ward and team secretarial support.

Continued Professional Development

This position offers further training and accreditation within psychiatry, including CESR Portfolio Pathway support, access to specialty training, and the opportunity to develop sub-specialist interests. The post holder will have ample opportunities to develop knowledge, skills, and experience through attendance at relevant courses, conferences, and locally organized CME events. The organization supports Continuing Medical Education with time and financial support, offering study leave of 30 days in 3 years and an annual study leave allowance. Regular case discussions, teaching sessions, and MDT supervision ensure ongoing professional development, meeting the Royal College of Psychiatrists\' CPD requirements.

Living in the Area

Living in this location offers significant financial benefits. The flat income tax rate of 20% is notably advantageous compared to the UK, and a generous public sector pension scheme is provided, not constrained by UK lifetime or annual contribution limits. The consultant contract closely mirrors the UK model but offers higher incremental levels starting at £110,257 and with a top basic salary of £164,372.

Am I eligible for this role?Am I eligible for this role?

UK based candidates:

  • Experience in Old Age Psychiatry
  • Specialist Registration or locum Consultant Experience
EEA candidates: 
  • Experience in Old Age Psychiatry
  • European Specialist Qualification
Non-EEA candidates:
  • MRCPsych
  • Consultant experience in Old Age Psychiatry
110,257 - 164,372

We are looking to recruit a Consultant Psychiatrist to a General Adult role in the Channel Islands, a UK territory sitting off the coast of France and just a 1 hour flight from London. This job presents a great opportunity to advance your medical career in the UK.

The health service, separate from the NHS, is an integrated, taxation-funded system, free at the point of delivery, managed by the Health and Community Services Department on the island. Key benefits of working there are higher salaries than the NHS, lower taxes and sunnier weather. 

Consultant Pay range - £110,257 to £164,372
Single rate of tax - 20%

General Adult Psychiatry Department & Team

The inpatient service features 17 adult acute beds, including an extra-care area, for individuals aged 18 to 65 with severe mental illness requiring admission. The goal is to promote recovery and well-being, helping service users achieve their potential. The service caters to a diverse population with complex needs. The multidisciplinary inpatient team includes doctors (two part-time consultants, staff grade/clinical fellow, and F2), a clinical psychologist, nurses, a social worker, occupational therapists, an art therapist, healthcare assistants, and administrative staff.

The Home Treatment Team functions as a step-up, step-down service to prevent unnecessary hospital admissions and facilitate early discharge. They attend ward reviews, support patients on leave, and assist with discharge planning, also gatekeeping inpatient beds. The team includes two part-time consultants, a 0.5 FTE team manager, two FTE senior practitioners, 5.5 FTE nurse practitioners, one FTE social worker, three FTE senior HCAs, and one FTE occupational therapist. Covering all adult ages, there is an arrangement with an Older Adult Consultant for additional support if needed.

Continued Professional Development

This position offers further training and accreditation within psychiatry, including CESR Portfolio Pathway support, access to specialty training, and the opportunity to develop sub-specialist interests. The post holder will have ample opportunities to develop knowledge, skills, and experience through attendance at relevant courses, conferences, and locally organized CME events. The organization supports Continuing Medical Education with time and financial support, offering study leave of 30 days in three years and an annual study leave allowance. Regular case discussions, teaching sessions, and MDT supervision ensure ongoing professional development, meeting the Royal College of Psychiatrists\' CPD requirements.

Living in the Area

Living in this location offers significant financial benefits. The flat income tax rate of 20% is notably advantageous compared to the UK, and a generous public sector pension scheme is provided, not constrained by UK lifetime or annual contribution limits. The consultant contract closely mirrors the UK model but offers higher incremental levels starting at £110,257 and with a top basic salary of £164,372.

Am I eligible for this role?

UK based candidates:

  • Experience in Adult Psychiatry
  • Specialist Registration or locum Consultant Experience

EEA candidates: 

  • Experience in Adult Psychiatry
  • European Specialist Qualification

Non-EEA candidates:

  • MRCPsych
  • Consultant experience in Adult Psychiatry

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