OET Writing Criteria: Genre and Style

Feb 24, 2020

GENRE AND STYLE is worth 7 POINTS. You need 5 points out of 7 to receive a B.

The tone of a professional letter should be factual, clinical and non- judgmental. Terminology should be appropriate to the reader whether technical (for doctor, nurse, therapist) or layman (for carer, family member).

Referral letters and similar written handover documents need to show awareness of genre by being written in a clinical/factual manner (e.g. not including personal feelings and judgements) and awareness of the target reader using professional tone.

The use of abbreviations should not be overdone thereby assuming common prior knowledge. If written to a medical colleague in a similar discipline, then use of abbreviations and technical terms would be appropriate features for the document’s purpose and audience.

If the target readership includes the patient, the information must be worded appropriately, e.g. minimising medical terminology, abbreviations.

Key points:

  • Your letter should not...
Read More

Speak the patient's language: The Language of Pain

Feb 19, 2020


How the patient describes the pain may help in diagnosing its cause. Myocardial pain is often described as stabbing, but biliary pain as cramping.

Open questions:

  • Which part of your (head, arm, face, chest,...) is affected?
  • Where does it hurt?
  • Where is it sore?
  • Can you describe the pain?
  • What is the pain like?
  • Is your pain severe?
  • Is there anything that makes it better?
  • Does anything make it worse?
  • Does anything relieve the pain?
  • Does lying down help the pain?


Describing the characteristics of pain:

Dull pain - pain that is not sharp "She felt a dull ache at the back of her head."

Burning pain - painful in a way that feels hot "Indigestion can produce a burning pain in the middle of the chest."

Gnawing pain - continuously uncomfortable or painful "After three days, we felt a gnawing hunger."

Sharp pain - describing a quick, strong pain that makes you feel like you have been cut. "I have this sharp pain in my chest, doctor."

Stabbing pain...

Read More

Useful Language for OET Writing | The perfect tenses for giving history

Feb 18, 2020


(Using simple present tense)

He/ She has a history of _____ (symptoms OR illness) OR has a (time adjective e.g. 5-year) history of _____.


His past medical history includes _____.


He also suffers from_____ of (time) duration

Giving important negatives
(using simple past tense)

  • She reported / has no history of_____ (symptom) (using present perfect tense)
  • There has been no history of being overweight.
  • There is a history of obesity (98kg at 170cm height).
  • He has not suffered from ______ (disorder) or other significant illness.

Read More

OET Writing Criteria: Conciseness and Clarity

Feb 17, 2020

The third assessment category for OET is CONCISENESS AND CLARITY and identifying which information is and isn’t important for your reader.

To get a grade B requires you to score 5 out of 7 in this criteria.

The Candidate considers irrelevant information. Health professionals do NOT want irrelevant information that wastes their time or distracts from what is essential.

Self assess your writing by asking these questions:

  • Is there unnecessary information from the notes included and how distracting to the reader is this.
  • Is each bit of information you have identified relevant for your reader to continue care.
  • What information doesn't affect clarity from the case notes
  • Is there any information that I could leave out
  • How well in my letter is the information summarised and clearly presented to the reader.

Summarise the information you include in concise and clear language.


Agatha Peters, 73 years old,...

Read More

25 Common phrases used by patients, and their meaning

Feb 12, 2020

Useful for:
Listening sub-test | Speaking sub-test
Listening and Understanding | Speaking the patient's language | Writing in patient records

When a patient says:

  1. "I can't breath"
    • Dyspnea 
  2. "I'm stuffed up"
    • Nasal congestion
  3. "Everything is spinning"
    • Vertigo
  4. "It itches" 
    • Pruritus 
  5. "My nose is dripping all the time."
    • Rhinorrhea
  6. "I'm having my period"
    • Menstruation
  7. "My hair is falling out"
    • Alopecia
  8. "My skin looks yellow"
    • Jaundice 
  9. "I have bad breath"
    • Halitosis
  10. "I can't swallow"
    • Dysphagia
  11. "I spit out phlegm (when I cough)"
    • Sputum
  12. "I'm coughing up blood"
    • Hemoptysis
  13. "I feel like I'm going to throw up"
    • Nausea
  14. "I'm always running to the bathroom"
    • Polyuria
  15. "I'm always thirsty"
    • Polydipsia
  16. "I have a rash"
    • Erythema
  17. "My______ (is/are) swollen"
    • Edema
  18. "I can't breath when I lie down."
    • Orthopnea
  19. "My stool is black"
    • Melena
  20. "My stool is white"
    • Acholia
  21. "I...
Read More

Describing patient complaints and symptoms in your OET letter

Feb 11, 2020


Patient name OR This patient OR He / She first attended my clinic

  • on ...(date)
  • for ... (e.g. a check-up)
  • complaining of OR suffering from ... (symptoms)
  • with symptoms of ...


On his first visit on ..., he was / had been suffering from ... (symptoms OR illness)


On ... (date), Mr. Cho presented to (clinic OR hospital ) complaining of ... (symptom) for the previous ... (time line) which was not responding to ... (treatment)


I did a home visit with Mr. Roy on ...(date) and he was complaining of / suffering from ... (symptoms)


Indicating timeline and influencing factors

His complaints had set in 10 days earlier OR 10 days previously and were / seemed to be related to ... (activity OR medication)


On ... (date), Mr. Roy presented to ... (clinic OR hospital) complaining of ... (symptoms) for the previous ... (time line e.g. two days) which was not responding to ... (medication) and which got worse when he ... (activity)


Expanding on details...

Read More

OET Writing Criteria: Content

Feb 10, 2020

The second assessment category for OET is Content and whether the required information is included in the letter and is accurate for the reader.

CONTENT (7 points) 

To get a grade B requires you to score 5 out of 7 in this criteria.

Be aware of your reader and their needs

From the case notes, identify all the necessary information the reader will need to know to continue care. It is essential that you are aware of who are you writing to and include the correct content. 

  • Relevant medical AND background information
  • Is this a new patient for the reader, or an existing patient being sent back to them?
  • Ensure the information you give the reader is accurate.

SCENARIO: Mary Brown, 46 years old, referred back to her regular GP after removal of gall stones.


Read More

Cracking the Code of Patient's Language - Communication Skills

Feb 04, 2020
Excellent communication with the patient is important to establish an accurate medical history. Let's explore some key sentences which can help you when interviewing a patient.

Greetings and Introductions
  • Good (morning/afternoon/evening), Mr Jones. Come and sit down. I'm Dr Holmes.
  • Good afternoon, Mrs Abernathy. Take a seat, please. 
Invitation to describe symptoms
  • Well now, what seems to be the problem?
  • Well, how can I help you?
  • Would you please tell me how I can help you?
  • Your (GP -general practitioner/doctor) says you've been having trouble with your right knee. Tell me about it.
  • My colleague Dr Kumar says your left wrist has been aching1 lately. Is that correct?

ache - to have a continuous pain that is unpleasant but not very strong. Example: She has a fever, muscle aches, and a cough. 

Ache is often used in combination: earache/headache/toothache

Instructions to remove clothes 
  • Would you mind taking off all your clothes except your...
Read More

OET Writing Criteria: Purpose

Feb 03, 2020

The first assessment categories that OET assesses is Purpose. Understanding what that means allows you to self assess your writing during your preparation and also on exam day.

Give purpose quickly and precisely early in the letter

  • Health professionals want to quickly understand the reason for a letter and how their specific services are needed for the patient.
  • Identify patient and give concise purpose of the letter very early.
  • This information should be easy to find and understand.
  • Elaborate on what you would like the reader to do later down in the letter, usually closer to the end.


Read More

Starting your OET Letter

Feb 03, 2020

Professional salutation:

  • Dear Doctor-in-Charge, 
  • Dear Registrar,
  • Dr. Smith,

Introducing patient:

  • Dedicated line for patient name, date of birth (DOB) OR age


Re: Mary Brown, DOB 10 August, 1970 OR 46 years old


Patient identity embedded with case summary and reason for referral opening sentence

Thank you for [urgently] seeing (the above patient OR Ms. Brown), a 66 year-old ... (worker, profession) with ...(diagnosis) OR recovering from / suffering from ... (illness) OR following ...(incident / treatment)
I am (referring / writing to refer) (this patient / name) aged 46 years old...

Giving reason for admission

This lady was admitted...

  • to this hospital / clinic on ... (date)
  • for further assessment of... (diagnosis or system) and possible treatment of... (illness OR symptom)
  • management of ... (issue OR symptom OR illness)

Read More

50% Complete

You´re Only One-Step Away