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Healthcare Professionals and Students: How to Choose an English Language Test

english test

This article is sponsored by OET

If you are a healthcare professional, graduate or student looking to work or study in Australia or another English-speaking country, you will most likely need to take an English language test. There are several tests out there that are recognised by overseas healthcare boards and councils to allow you to register to work, so choosing the best one for you can be a challenge. We’ve put together a list of five questions you should ask so that you can make the best decision.

1. Which country do you want to go to?

If you already know where you want to live, your choice is easier! Simply go to the website of the relevant healthcare board and check which English test they accept. For example, if you want to work as a nurse in Australia, visit the Medical Board of Australia website, where you’ll find you can take the IELTS, OET, PTE Academic or TOEFL iBT tests.

If you’re not sure where you want to end up, start researching your occupation in the countries that come to mind. Then, ask yourself the following questions: How easy will it be to find a job? What are you likely to earn? What hours will you need to work? Once you have a shortlist of countries, check out which English tests are accepted in all or most of them so that the one test can take you to several places.

Popular English-speaking countries with shortages of healthcare professionals (read: it’s easier to get a job!) include Australia, the UK and Ireland.

Download a free guide to living and working as a healthcare professional in Australia, the UK or Ireland.

2. What is the test format?

Do you want to sit your English test online or would you prefer a paper-based test? Some tests, like IELTS, offer both options. Others, like OET, are only paper-based, while some (PTE for example) are fully online, including the Speaking test. If you’re unsure what you prefer and which will have you performing at your best, think in particular about the Speaking test. If you will feel completely uncomfortable and unnatural speaking to a computer, then a fully online test is not for you.

3. How is the test structured?

English tests that are accepted by healthcare boards test all four language skills (Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening). However, the structure of each of these sub-tests and the tasks you will be required to complete varies widely. For example, an IELTS Listening test contains four parts divided into 40 questions, while the OET Listening test comprises three parts divided into 42 questions.

Look at the structure and question type (multiple-choice, short answer, and so on) and try to work out which may be best for you.

4. Which test do friends and colleagues recommend?

There’s nothing like an opinion from a trusted friend or colleague to help you make up your mind! Ask around as to who has taken an English test for registration with a healthcare board and what their experience was like. But remember, an opinion is just an opinion. Ultimately, you need to make the choice that best suits you.

5. How relevant is the test content to you?

English tests accepted by healthcare boards are divided into general/academic English tests and healthcare-specific English tests. The only two healthcare-specific tests in the world are CELBAN (Canada and for nurses only) and OET (global and for 12 different healthcare professions, including nurses, doctors, pharmacists, physiotherapists and more.

What’s the difference between a general/academic English test and a healthcare-specific test? General/academic English tests assess your language proficiency using general topics and scenarios. For example, an IELTS writing sample task asks you to write about radio and television audiences in the UK, based on a line graph.

A healthcare-specific test, on the other hand, assesses your English using healthcare vocabulary and scenarios – the kinds of situations you are likely to encounter at work in your new country. For example, an OET Medicine Writing sample task asks you to write a referral letter to a specialist on managing a patient’s glucose levels, using information in case notes you are given.

Similarly, OET’s Speaking sub-test simulates consultations between a healthcare professional and a patient. Because the content is profession-specific, you’ll roleplay your profession, while an interviewer will play a patient, relative or carer.

Put some thought into what you would like from the English language test you choose. Do you simply want to meet a healthcare board requirement or learn the kind of language you’ll need to succeed at work?

“Yay, I have to take an English language test,” said nobody ever! With OET, you’ll be learning the kind of language you’ll need to succeed in your work or studies, without wasting your time on irrelevant topics. We can’t make studying for a test fun but we do make it worth your while!

Click HERE to start your international healthcare career today.