OET Writing Tips Using Present Tenses
OET Grammar, OET For Doctors, OET, OET Writing, OET For Nurses

Naturally, the present tenses are extremely common in daily life and are also frequently used in the OET writing sub-test. Knowing how to use them is very useful for general English and in your OET exam. The past simple and present simple make up most of our daily English use, but other tenses, such as present perfect, are also incredibly important for being more specific about issues of time. In this article, we will review the various present tenses and then look at how they could apply to the OET writing sub-test.

Using the present tenses accurately
If you are preparing for the OET, then you should be confident in your use of the present tenses. Each of them can be stated in positive, negative, or interrogative form. Of course, the latter is not likely to occur in the writing test, but it’s worth knowing nonetheless.

The present tenses, like the past, are comprised of four aspects: simple, perfect, continuous, and perfect continuous. They look like this:

Tense Positive Negative Question
Present simple: Sarah speaks. Sarah doesn’t speak. Does Sarah speak?
Present continuous: Sarah is speaking. Sarah isn’t speaking. Is Sarah speaking?
Present perfect: Sarah has spoken. Sarah hasn’t spoken. Has Sarah spoken?
Present perfect continuous: Sarah has been speaking. Sarah hasn’t been speaking. Has Sarah been speaking?

OET Writing

When to use the different present tenses

The present simple used for:

  1. regular actions:
    • She goes to the supermarket every weekend.
    • They walk to school (everyday).
  2. truths and permanent situations
    • The sun is
    • Spiders eat
  3. giving directions or instructions
    • Turn left at the post office and walk for twenty meters.
    • Open the package and then remove the toy.

The present continuous is used for:

  1. actions that happen as we speak
    1. He is sweeping the floor.
    2. He is talking with that woman.
  2. something that is ongoing (but not right now)
    1. I am reading a book called Catcher in the Rye.
    2. They are studying
  3. describing a developing situation
    1. It is getting cold outside.
    2. The leaves are turning
  4. a regular action
    1. She is exercising at the gym about now.
    2. We are normally walking home by now.

The present perfect is used for:

  1. finished actions or states that occurred at some time in the past
    1. I have been to Egypt.
    2. She has eaten roast duck.
  2. something that happened in the past and may happen again (or which hasn’t happened but may still happen)
    1. It hasn’t rained
    2. They have been to the city center three times this morning.

The present perfect continuous is used for:

  1. describing an ongoing activity and the length of time that it has continued.
  2. We have been learning Danish for six months.
  3. They have been dating for four years.
  4. explaining the current situation in conjunction with the present simple.
    • I’m tired because I have been running all morning.
    • She is hungry because she has been fasting this week.

Using the present tenses in OET letters
The OET writing sub-test contains many possible instances when a candidate could use the present tenses, and thus every student should be familiar with the situations above in order to employ this area of grammar correctly. One of the best OET writing tips is to prepare for the exam by becoming familiar with all these tenses.

Let’s take an example situation. Imagine you are sitting the writing test for pharmacists or nurses and you have information about the patient’s current status. You are asked to review the notes and then write a letter of referral to a doctor. Clearly, this is the perfect example to show off your mastery of these present tenses. The case notes will include information such as the person’s height, weight, and medical condition. It may include any conditions they currently suffer from or any medications that they are currently taking.

In this case, you might see the following:
• Age: 43 Height: 168cm; Weight: 82kg
• Does not engage in regular exercise, drives to work
• Depression, overweight

These notes could be included in a letter in the following way:

• Mrs. Robinson is forty-three years old. She is 168cm tall and weighs 82kg. She does not engage in regular exercise and instead drives to work. She has been suffering from depression for six months, and is currently suffering from obesity.
OET Writing
As you can see, in that short passage it has been possible to include the present simple several times, including in its negative form, as well as the present continuous and present perfect continuous. Each of these is used to convey meaning from the case notes to the reader with regard to the time when events happened or are happening.

In the OET writing test, you will often find these tenses to be useful. This is because you will frequently need to give information about patients’ histories and present status. Present perfect and present perfect continuous can be used to talk about problems that started in the past or medications that patients have been on, while the present continuous tense can describe ongoing situations.

Let’s look at another possible example. This is an excerpt from a letter in the physiotherapy writing test. It is from a letter to a doctor about a patient’s progress:
• While I was reassessing Ms. Johnson today, I noted that her symptoms have greatly reduced. Nonetheless, it is my opinion that she should be given a further extension of her time off work. She is improving daily and will continue to benefit from slight increases in workload. I am referring Ms. Johnson back to you for your assessment of her situation.

Here we can see three instances of the present continuous tense being used, which highlights its importance for describing situations that are going on at the time of writing. The present simple and present perfect have also been employed appropriately.

All of the present tenses have some potential use in the OET writing sub-test, and it is imperative that any candidate is familiar with all of them before attempting this section of the exam.

9 thoughts on “OET Writing Tips: Using Present Tenses”

  1. Hi,
    In the above mentioned example it is mentioned that the patient is suffering from obesity. Is obesity a suffering or a state? Could the statement be written as ‘The patient is obese.’

    1. Right:

      RE: Mr. Bob Dawson, 65 years old
      RE: Mr. Bob Dawson, a 65-year-old pensioner


      RE: Mr. Bob Dawson, 65-year-old
      RE: Mr. Bob Dawson, 65-years-old
      RE: Mr. Bob Dawson, a 65-years-old pensioner
      RE: Mr. Bob Dawson, 65-year-old pensioner

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