When you go into the examination room to take your OET speaking sub-test, you will probably feel a slight sense of nervousness. This is perfectly normal, even for doctors and nurses, but nervousness can cause problems. In almost any exam, it has the ability to make people do or say the wrong thing, or to have strange misunderstandings.
For these reasons, it is important that you are able to deal with your nerves and avoid making stress-related mistakes. In this article, I will talk about the problem of nervousness and OET speaking, and what you can do to combat this problem.
What problems can nerves cause?
In an exam situation, nerves can cause a wide range of possible problems. For OET speaking, they might cause you to start doubting your own ability, which can then make you hesitate too much or over-correct. Both of these can impede your fluency and general communication ability.
In addition to this, people who are nervous often say the wrong thing or mishear what others say. Both of these could be disastrous for doctors and nurses in an exam like OET speaking. Imagine that you gave a patient some bad advice… that would be a really terrible mistake to make as a doctor or nurse, and so it is a big mistake for OET exam as well.
People who are suffering from nerves can also make some strange sounds that might also reduce the quality of their communication. For example, it is quite common for candidates to stutter or otherwise mispronounce words. If this happens, it could be hard for the examiners to hear you and understand you properly, and so your OET exam score would be reduced.
Finally, nervous people usually speak too fast. This of course increases the chance of making mistakes, and also sounds quite unnatural. One more thing is that a fast-speaking and obviously nervous doctor would definitely make a patient feel uncomfortable, and this is something the OET examiners would recognize, as you are meant to make the patient feel calm and ease their fears.
How to combat nervousness before your OET exam
There are many ways to deal with stress and anxiety. This is naturally going to be a quite personal response and every person will deal with it a little differently, but in this section I am going to give you some general advice and also some OET-specific advice.
First of all, you need to recognize that exam anxiety is perfectly normal and that you are not alone in this. Every other person who does OET will feel the same way, even if some of them look more confident. Your nervousness is not a sign of impending doom.
Preparation is that key to reducing nervousness in the first instance. The more you practice and prepare, the more you will learn to have faith in yourself. If you have spent months working on your OET exam skills, then you will undoubtedly feel less nervous prior to the exam than if you had not prepared enough. This has an extra effect once the exam actually begins. Someone who has prepared well will deal well with the exam from the offset, whereas an unprepared person will struggle and panic when the exam begins.
Next, you should try to get into a healthy and regular lifestyle in the days prior to your exam. Whilst it is important to always have a healthy lifestyle, this is doubly important when you have an impending exam. Try to cut down on caffeine, which will just add to your stress. Eat nutritious foods and avoid having too much sugar, which can also give you the pre-exam jitters. Get enough sleep and a little exercise so that your mind and body are functioning well. All of this will contribute to a more relaxed attitude, and you will not be out of sorts when you go into the exam.
Train yourself for focus. Nowadays, people are constantly distracted by phones and computers. There is always some message from a friend, an email from work, or a news update demanding our attention. You need to set aside time each day when you shut off all those distractions. Why? Well, your brain gets used to looking at different things and struggles to stay focused. When you train yourself to focus for periods from 20 minutes to 2 hours, you will obviously have a much better chance of staying focused in the OET exam. The last thing you want is your mind to wander when you are preparing for that tricky role play…
You also need to develop a more positive mental attitude. This is a hard thing to do nowadays, but you can start by visualizing success. Imagine what it will feel like once you have gotten your desired grade for OET. What will you do next? Don’t think about the negative things that could happen, but rather think about the positives. When you do this, you give yourself a “can do” attitude. Your brain starts to assume that it can do what you want it to do. This gives you a serious boost for the OET or any other exam.
Specific advice for OET speaking
Finally, here is some advice that relates specifically to OET speaking. First of all, you can prepare some opening lines to use in your speaking test. Obviously, you don’t know what the role play card will tell you to do, but you can prepare some adaptable outlines that you could use for different situations. For example, if you are going to do the OET nursing test, you might say, “Good afternoon, my name is Sarah and I’m the staff nurse here. How can I help you to day?” That second part might change a little according to the task, but you will have a basic outline for what you will say first. Remember that starting something is the hardest part. Once you begin, you are already on your way.
I mentioned above that speaking too quickly is a common side effect of nervousness. Well, you can actually combat that by speaking slower. If you don’t think about the pace of your speech, nerves will probably accelerate it, so you should mentally prepare yourself to speak slowly. Speaking quite slowly is actually good in many situations like this because it allows for a better and more accurate communication. In the first few minutes of your test, breathe deeply and remind yourself to speak at an appropriate pace.
Finally, prepare yourself in advice by doing very specific exercises such as finding a speaking partner and running through lots of role play scenarios. This will make you much more confident by the time you go into the real OET speaking sub-test. If you are totally familiar with the process and have done dozens of practice role plays, you will feel that you have nothing to worry about.