On July 15th, Occupational English Test (OET) announced that candidates would now be able to take the exam from home using an online portal called OET at home also known as at-home OET. This long-awaited development came thanks to confirmation by the UK General Medical Council (GMC) that the results of the test would be accepted as proof of English proficiency for doctors aiming to work in the UK.
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OET at home is the latest test platform from OET and was long-rumoured to provide candidates with the ability to take the exam from home. The concept was to take the function of the OET and bring it entirely online, a similar concept to the IELTS Indicator exam and other online tests.
However, until just a few days ago, this was merely an idea. There were numerous challenges to be overcome, but now these have been surmounted and OET at home has been given the go-ahead by the GMC. Richard Hawkins, the GMC’s head of Assessment, explained that they “are confident that [OET at home] provides a sufficient level of security at this time.” He continued, saying, “We will, therefore, accept remotely proctored OET results for both PLAB and registration.”
In June of this year, OET conducted trials with OET at home and, with the acceptance of its efficacy by the GMC, the validity of the test has been confirmed and it will be made available from September. This provides an exciting new option for doctors with their sights on the UK.
1. What is OET at home?
OET at home is simply the usual OET but transferred onto a digital platform that allows candidates to take the exam from the privacy and security of their home. It is still conducted under very strict exam conditions, but it can be done from a person’s home computer. This is particularly useful during a global pandemic, when many testing centres have faced temporary closure.
First of all, it is important to note that at-home OET will follow the same format as the regular OET test. In fact, it is exactly the same exam – just conducted via the internet instead of in-person. This naturally raises some serious security concerns, but these have been addressed by the makers of the test, who have implemented some protocols, through a technology called Prometric, to ensure the exam’s security.
Security measures include monitoring by real invigilators, as well as biometric facial and audio detection, which ensures that only the real candidate can participate in the test. The computer used for the test will also be unable to run any other programmes during the exam, so that no cheating can take place.
All of this means that it is now possible to do the regular OET test but from a candidate’s home or work computer. The reading, listening, and writing sub-tests will all be conducted in much the same way that computer-based tests at an OET centre would be conducted, but the speaking section will be different. This will occur through a Zoom conversation with an OET interlocutor.
2. What is new and what has changed?
The most fundamental change is that you can now take the OET from home. This is a massive new development that could be considered a real game-changer for this English test. However, much remains the same, including the general format of the test and even its contents.
You will still sit the same test with the same questions and you will even talk face-to-face with a real human being for the speaking sub-test. The only difference will be the distance and the fact that you are looking at a computer screen.
Importantly, OET candidates should understand that the new test is just an alternative option. It is still possible to take the traditional paper-based and computer-based OET tests at a testing centre. (This, of course, depends on whether the testing centre is open or whether it is closed due to the current coronavirus situation.)
3. How can candidates prepare for OET at home?
Because the content of at-home OET is the same as the regular OET test, the work that candidates should do to prepare for it is basically the same. However, it is worth preparing for certain elements. For example, test candidates should practice using Zoom to speak with people as this can feel somewhat different to having a real face-to-face conversation. To practice this under realistic test conditions, you can try Benchmark’s mock speaking test service. This will help you become accustomed to the peculiar feeling of speaking through a webcam.
You may also want to work on your typing speed and accuracy so that you can complete the writing test within the allotted time. Obviously, it is impossible to do the writing sub-test using a pencil, so making sure that your typing is up to par is necessary. You may want to practice this with our OET writing correction service.
Candidates should also make sure that their computer conforms to the specifications required by OET. This is very important as strict criteria must be met in order to ensure the authenticity of the test results. You are not expected to be a computer specialist to do this test but you should have a basic IT competency that would preclude any issues on the day of the test.
Your computer must, of course, have a webcam, a reliable internet connection, and it must run a recent version of Windows. You must also be able to run Zoom. You can read more about the security issues relating to this new OET test method here. If you lack any of these facilities, you should book the test at an OET testing centre instead.
If you want to prepare for OET at home, you should contact Benchmark Education. We offer a range of services for people who wish to sit OET and our preparation materials take into consideration the latest developments. You can view the details of our OET course.
4. Who will be affected?
The results of the OET at home test will be accepted by the GMC of the United Kingdom, and so currently this test will be of use to those intending to work as a doctor in the UK. There is still no update on at-home OET for nurses. They will have to either take paper-based OET testor else wait until OET at home is accepted.
If you are unsure whether this is the option for you, you can read this Benchmark article OET at home, which explains the matter in greater detail.
OET has said that they are currently discussion with other healthcare regulators around the world to expand the reach of OET at home. We will k