Taking an exam like the OET or IELTS can be stressful and many candidates prepare for months or even years in order to get ready for it. They often spend lots of time preparing the basic skills required for the test and looking at the criteria requirements for exam success, but many people overlook what actually happens on the big day, and this can cause unforeseen problems. Being shocked or unprepared can cause even a high-level candidate to perform poorly and get a lower grade than they deserved.
For these reasons, in today’s article, I am going to outline some facts about the OET test day that should help any candidate to prepare better and feel less nervous upon arriving at the test centre. I will break this down into a series of 11 steps in chronological order so that it can be more useful as a time map of the test process.
Step One: Double-check the time and location
Long before you actually sit for your OET exam, you should book the test at a time and location that is suitable for you. Once you have paid for the test and it has been confirmed, you will receive an e-mail with the details. You should double-check that this is all accurate and that you are completely free on this date and able to reach this test location. Then you must save these details so that you do not forget them.
This may seem obvious, but it is easy to make small errors that can lead to later disaster, so take that little bit of time to double-check the details well in advance.
Step Two: Bring everything you will need
There are several items that you must bring with you to the OET exam, and you should make a list of them in advance of test day and then make sure that you have everything you need so that there is no last minute panic.
First of all, you need to bring your ID with you so that your identity can be verified. Importantly, this must be the same ID that you used when booking the OET exam. If you bring another form of ID, even if this one is a valid and real ID, you will not be allowed to sit for the test.
You should also bring stationery, but please be aware that there are some restrictions in place by the OET organisers. You can bring pens or pencils, as well as erasers and sharpeners. However, you cannot bring mechanical pencils, correction fluid, or highlighters. You also may not bring a pencil case. Instead, candidates should keep any stationery in a clear plastic bag like the ones you use to carry liquids onto planes nowadays.
Obviously, to reduce the likelihood of anyone cheating, you are not allowed to bring any books or notes with you, nor can you bring any electronic devices. It is permitted to bring water in a clear plastic bottle, but no other kinds of food or drink.
Step Three: Arriving at the test centre
When you arrive at the test centre on the date that was given in your e-mail, you will be greeted by the OET staff and shown to the cloak room where you may deposit your coat and any electronic items such as mobile phones or tablets. Do not leave your stationery in this room as you will need it during the test.
Step Four: Your ID will be checked
In step two, I mentioned that you need to bring an ID with you, and that ID must be the same one that you used to book the test. The ID will be checked soon after you have put your coat and mobile phone into the cloak room. As part of the registration process, you will also have your photo taken by the OET staff member who is in charge of this step.
Following this, you will be taken to a waiting room where you will remain prior to the beginning of the actual test. This is your final chance to visit the bathroom, as you will not be allowed to leave the testing room during the first part of the test, which is the listening sub-test.
Step Five: Entering the test room
Each candidate will be given a desk, so once you enter the test room you should find it and sit down as quickly as possible. This will give you more time to get comfortable and relax once you are seated. The invigilator (that is the person who is in charge of running the exam) will read aloud a series of instructions that you must listen to and carefully follow. These will relate to the exam rules and details about the exam paper. This is critical information that you must follow exactly.
Next, each candidate will receive his or her exam paper. This will be personalised according to the details that you have previously submitted. You should check this carefully before signing the candidate declaration on the front page.
You must check all of this carefully before signing, and if there is anything wrong, you must inform the invigilator, who will make sure that any mistake is quickly rectified. You may also ask questions about anything uncertain in the instructions, and the staff will help you. However, they obviously cannot answer any questions about the information contained within the paper that may give you an unfair advantage over other candidates.
Step Six: The listening sub-test
The first of the four sub-tests that you will sit for on exam day is the OET listening one. After all the candidates have signed their declarations and are ready to sit for the sub-test, the invigilator will conduct a sound check to make sure that the audio equipment is working fine and that everyone can hear it. If you have trouble hearing the words that are spoken, you should inform the invigilator at this point. Also make sure that you have read all of the instructions written on the front of the test paper.
This sub-test will last for a total of 50 minutes and will comprise 42 questions. There are three sections, and all the materials included will be general healthcare material, meaning that candidates of all medical backgrounds will be sitting for the same sub-test because there is no specialist area included.
Note carefully: Part A of the listening sub-test can be completed with either a pen or pencil, but parts B and C must be completed with a 2B pencil.
When you have finished part C, you will have 2 minutes to check your answers and make changes. After this, the invigilator will tell everyone to put their pencils down and the test papers will be collected.
Step Seven: The reading sub-test
Prior to the reading sub-test, candidates must again listen to a set of instructions that will be read out by the invigilator. As with the listening sub-test, these instructions contain vital information so you should listen to carefully and ask any questions if you are uncertain about what was said.
The reading sub-test lasts for 60 minutes and also comprises 42 questions, just like the listening one. There are also three sections: Part A will take 15 minutes, and the other 45 minutes should be spent on Parts B and C.
You may not leave the testing room during Part A or the first and last 10 minutes of Parts B and C. Should any candidate need to visit the restroom, he or she will be accompanied by the invigilator. However, they must raise their hand first and request permission.
Please note that the paper for Part A will be taken away when parts B and C are handed out, meaning that you will not have the chance to go back and change any answers once you begin Parts B and C. You should consider this while doing part A.
The same rule about stationery applies for the listening and reading sub-tests: You can use either pen or pencil for Part A, but only a 2B pencil for parts B and C.
Step Eight: The writing sub-test
Following the reading sub-test, candidates will next do the writing sub-test. This is profession-specific, meaning that it is not going to be the same for all candidates. You will be given a test that is tailored to your own professional background. The test will take 45 minutes.
Although the paper is different for each profession, the candidates will stay in the same room and the papers will be handed out according to the different professions of the candidates. During these first 5 minutes, no one is allowed to write anything. You may read the front pages of the test, but you cannot write a single word until permission is given by the invigilator.
During the remaining 40 minutes, you must write the letter that is required by the instructions on the paper you have been given. When there are 10 minutes remaining, the invigilator will give a reminder to the group. This will happen again at 5 minutes.
Step Nine: Moving to a new room
After the writing test, all candidates will be required to leave the testing room. The next test is the speaking sub-test, and what happens next depends on the time of your speaking test. If it is soon after the writing sub-test, you should return to the waiting room and get ready for the final part. However, if your test is much later in the day, you may want to get your things from the cloak room and go somewhere else. Some candidates go for some food or fresh air. However, you must remember that the ID check will take place again if you have left the facility, and so you should ensure that you have plenty of time for that.
Step Ten: The Speaking sub-test
When it is time, you will be invited into the speaking test room and shown to the table where the test will occur. You should sit down and greet your interlocutor. He or she will ask you a few questions to help you relax and get used to the process, but these first questions will not be assessed.
The speaking sub-test will take about 20 minutes and will comprise 2 role plays. As with the writing sub-test, it is profession-specific, meaning that each of the different professions will have a different test.
The first thing that will happen is that you will be given a role play card to read for 3 minutes prior to the start of the test. This will contain information about what you should say in the role play. If you have any questions about definitions or pronunciations, you may ask the interlocutor.
Once you have read the information and once the 3 minutes are up, you will start talking. The role play will last for 5 minutes. You will not be able to see the time so you must continue talking to the examiner until he or she tells you to stop. After the first role play is completed, the process will start over for the second one.
It is worth noting that you are speaking to an interlocutor during this process, and not an examiner. The difference is that the interlocutor is not assessing your speaking abilities. He or she is simply talking to you, and the recording will be assessed by an examiner later.
Step Eleven: It’s done!
Once you have completed the speaking sub-test, you may take your coat and mobile phone from the cloak room and leave the test building. You may not remove any papers from the premises, nor should you speak with any other candidates on the way out of the building.
It is now time to go home and relax. You have finished the OET and you will now wait to hear back about your results.