There are so many aspects to speaking English that you need to consider when preparing for an exam like OET speaking, as well as very specific aspects of the OET exam itself. But what are the important ones? And what are the things you can practice right now to give you a good chance of scoring highly in your next test?
In this article, I will give you some essential tips to help you improve your OET speaking score.
1. Use Positive Language
When you are doing the OET speaking sub-test, you should use positive language and avoid negative language. This is because your job as a healthcare professional is partly to make the patient feel comfortable and relaxed. When you are talking with the interlocutor, who is acting as a patient, you should be careful in your choice of words. Whilst it is important to convey the correct information, the words you use are also important for calming the patient and making them feel positive. You must avoid frightening them, seeming impatient around them, or acting in any way rude towards them.
You might, for example, as a nurse, be required to prepare a patient for a surgical procedure. Rather than just telling them, “You’re going to undergo surgery,” which is factually correct, you can use some language and details to give them a sense of confidence:
- The surgeons at this hospital are incredibly experienced at this sort of procedure, and you will be in the best of hands.
Here, you have given them something positive to think about, which will make them feel more at ease. Such approach will ensure good OET exam result.
2. Explain Procedures in Detail
In the OET speaking role play, you may be required to give the patient some instructions, or to tell them about something that is going to happen. As well as following the first piece of advice about being positive, you must also give the necessary information. There are two things to consider here: 1) Tell them everything that they need to know, and 2) Tell them the information is a logical manner.
Let’s say that you need to tell a patient how to administer an injection. Naturally, you will demonstrate this partly with gestures and other body language. However, the interlocutor is not your assessor, and the people assigning your grade will simply be listening to a recording. They cannot see you, so you need to state everything clearly and with descriptive language.
You might tell the patient:
- Right, so firstly you are going to choose the place where the injection will go. Now, remember that you cannot choose the same place twice, so you must find a new location. You could use the thigh muscle here… Once you’ve picked the place, then you need to sterilize the area…
It is useful to use words like “firstly” and “then” to demonstrate the order of ideas. If for some reason you do skip one idea, you must explain clearly that you have done so and then fix the order. It is very important that the information is sequenced carefully in order to ensure that it is accurate.
3. Listen and Respond
When you look at your role play card, it can be tempting to make a plan of action for the dialog. This is good, but you must not overlook the fact that it is a conversation. You need to ask questions and then listen to the replies. Sometimes it is important that you respond directly to those replies.
There are various things you can do here. For one thing, you can confirm that you are listening by saying, “Right, ok, I understand,” or something similar. You can also ask follow-up questions that directly lead on from what the patient has said, such as, “I see, well, when did that first happen?” This shows that you were listening and also provides you with more information.
One of the problems that can occur in OET speaking is that the candidate only pretends to listen and is really too focused on completely the tasks assigned. You must listen to the patient as though this were a real life situation. Sometimes you will be required to change the direction of the conversation according to something that you have heard. In many cases, you will need to give advice based upon a problem that is given to you. Before giving the advice, it is often useful to confirm with them that you have listened to them by summarizing what they have said:
- Ok, Mr. Jones, you’ve told me that you are suffering from fatigue and yet also unable to get to sleep easily in the evenings. I think that we might need to conduct a few tests, so I’m going to pencil you in for a blood test this afternoon…
Here, the candidate has repeated the patient’s worries and then made a statement about what should happen next. The patient will feel as though he has been understood and will have more trust in the doctor’s suggestion.
4. Learn How to Offer Advice
One of the important parts of learning English for OET is being able to give advice and suggestions in appropriate language. This is harder than it sounds. At the most basic level, you might to say, “You should…” or “You need to…” but in fact both of these phrases sound a little too forceful to a native speaker of the language. In OET speaking, you need to be more careful in your word choice and use language that is delicate enough to give a suggestion without sounding like a demand.
Here are some ways that you can introduce an idea to a patient without sounding like you are trying to force them into doing something:
- I highly recommend that…
- It’s important that…
- It would be a good idea to…
- I strongly suggest that…
- My advice is for you to…
All of these are quite soft phrases that a patient would know mean the same as “You should…” but they are phrased in a way that is easier to accept. Remember that a patient is often in a state of worry or stress. They are particularly sensitive and they don’t want to feel bullied by anyone, especially their doctor or nurse. They are open to suggestions, but they don’t want to feel as though they have no choice.
5. Finish by Summarizing
It can often seem difficult to end the role play, particularly as this is not a real consultation. The interlocutor is sitting across from you and will not be going anywhere when the conversation finishes, so it seems strange to bring it to a close. However, this is a role play and you have to pretend it is real for the duration of the exam. Therefore, you should treat the end of the conversation as you would with a real patient. This means drawing it to its natural conclusion.
One way to do this is to summarize what has been said once there is nothing more to say. Rather than letting the conversation just finish and then saying “goodbye,” you can go over the highlights of the role play as such:
- Ok, Mrs. James, let me just review what we have discussed today. Firstly, you told me that you were feeling a lot of pain in your right shoulder. I could not see anything wrong myself so I’m referring you to the X-ray department, and they will be able to tell if there is a fracture. Once that’s been done, they’ll send you right back to me and we can discuss the next steps.
In this case, the conversation has been reviewed, with key ideas repeated to ensure that the patient understands everything fully. The candidate can then end the conversation with a friendly “goodbye,” or some similar phrase