You’re all geared up to sit for that OET test and you’re going to go for it. There will be four components of the test which you will need to ace – listening, reading, writing and speaking. This article will give you a step-by-step guide on how to approach one of those components – the speaking section.

You will have to perform 2 role play tasks in the OET Speaking sub-test. They are both administered the same way. First, you will be given a role play card with the situation. You will be given 3 minutes to prepare your responses and 5 minutes to do the role play with the interlocutor.

Once you are ready, you will need to speak! Don’t know how to do it? Here is a step-by-step guide to help you.

Step 1: Enter the OET Speaking exam room and greet the interlocutor

It is always a good idea to be polite to the interlocutor. Enter the OET Speaking exam room calmly and greet the interlocutor. You do not need to be overly enthusiastic, but a smile and a simple

‘Good afternoon, how are you?’

would be received well. That should get you started on the right footing.

Step 2: Relax and answer the warm-up questions by the interlocutor

The interlocutor will ask to see your identification and may ask you some general warm-up questions to help put you at ease. Answer these questions properly and in a relaxed manner even though they will not be contributing to your OET Speaking score.

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Step 3: Read the role play card carefully

You will then be given the first role play card by the interlocutor. You have 3 minutes to read the role play card and prepare to speak. Do not waste these 3 precious minutes. If there is something you do not understand about the role play card, you can ask the interlocutor about it politely. If the interlocutor feels that it would not amount to an unfair advantage for you, he/she may answer your question. Even if the interlocutor tells you that he/she is not able to give you an answer, you will lose nothing by asking. You will not have any marks deducted for it. Just take it in stride and thank the interlocutor politely. You can say, ‘I understand. Thank you’.

Step 4: Prepare for your task

Preparation time is included in the reading time, so in total, you will only have 3 minutes to read and prepare. Prepare for your responses by writing short notes on the role play card. Do not worry that you are messing up the role play card. If you have any common phrases which you have memorized, write these down quickly but do not waste too much time with it. You should structure your response and write down what you want to say first, second, and so on. Write down key points for each of the bullet points given in the role play card. Remember, you will need to talk about each bullet point given if you want to get a good score.

Tip! If you suddenly experience a mental block and your mind goes blank (it can happen to anyone!), ask yourself these 6 leading words – What, Who, Why, Where, When and How (or what is called the 5 W’s and 1 H). For every situation or bullet point, you will surely be able to provide at least 2 points if you use the 5 W’s and 1H. For instance, if the bullet point is says ‘explain to the patient the need to dispose of the needles used for insulin injections properly’. Ask yourself ‘how’? That should give you some points as you can tell the patient how to dispose of the needles (e.g., put the needles in a container that is strong enough to prevent needles from sticking out the sides and make sure the container has a lid on it). On the same point, you can ask yourself ‘why’? You should be able to come up with a good reason as to why needles should be disposed of properly (e.g., it can cause injury to other people or pets and even spread diseases).

Step 5: Start speaking!

When the interlocutor indicates to you that your preparation time is up, you will need to start speaking. If you are ready before the three minutes are up, you can actually start speaking earlier. Just indicate to the interlocutor that you are ready and ask if you can start. Whichever way it is, remember, it is important that you start the conversation, and not the interlocutor. This is because you are the healthcare professional in this role play and you should be the one guiding the conversation, not the other way around.

Things you need to remember:

    • Greet your patient (or the patient’s next-of-kin) and introduce yourself
    • Listen carefully to the response given. This is a very important feature of OET Speaking because it is supposed to be a 2-way communication and not just you alone speaking.
    • Elicit information from the patient. Don’t assume everything based on the role play card. Ask questions in order to get the patient to provide you with the information. You will gain extra marks for this, based on the marking scheme for OET Speaking (you can read about OET Speaking rubrics and how it is marked in another article on our blog).
  • Respond appropriately to everything the interlocutor has said. For instance, if your situation is in a hospital ward and you start by saying,

‘Good morning, Bruce. I can see that your surgery yesterday was successful. How are     you feeling this morning?’. If the interlocutor responds by saying, ‘I feel horrible’. You    should respond to that statement instead of just jumping into your first point of the day.

Some candidates will ignore what the interlocutor has said because they are so engrossed in trying to finish all the bullet points given in the role play card. So, you should not jump in and say,

‘So, today I will be explaining to you how you can clean and dress your wound at home’. Instead, you should respond appropriately to the patient first by saying, ‘I’m sorry to hear that you are not feeling too good. Can you tell me more about that?’

  • Move the conversation along. After responding appropriately to what the interlocutor has said, remember to guide the conversation along the right track. Do not dwell too long on one point. You need to take charge. Five minutes is not a very long time for you to complete the role play. A good way to do this is by providing a structure of what you want to say. You can say,

 ‘Ok, Bruce. Today, I will explain (content) to you, and then I will tell you (content) and    finally, I will brief you on (content). If you have any questions, feel free to ask me as we    go along’.

  • Check that the patient has understood what you have said. Pause once or twice and ask,

‘Are you following me? Do you need to me to repeat anything?’ or ‘Do you understand what I am saying?’, or ‘Are you alright so far?’, or ‘Do you have any questions so far?’

Remember to use the right tone of voice. Soften your tone and ask gently. Remember that you are supposed to be talking to someone who may not be in the best of health or a worried next-of-kin. Learn to inject some kindness into your voice.

  • Summarize what you have said. If you think that you have run out of things to say and that you still have a lot of time left, you can summarize what you have said. For instance, you can say, ‘Now, let’s go through what I have explained to you today about wound care. First, ….,        next, …., then, …’

Step 6: Remember to end well

Remember to end your interaction well. If you are running out of time, you can just say,

‘Is there anything else I can help you with today?’, or

if you need to do a follow-up, just mention this to the patient, for instance, by saying,

‘I will be back here again this afternoon to check on you again.Meanwhile, if you need any  assistance, you can call for a nurse by pressing this red button’.

That should do it. Remember that the 5 minutes you have for each role play includes the time for the patient to give you his/her responses, so you will not need to talk overly much. The key is to communicate well and also give the other person a chance to speak.

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