The Occupational English Test includes four sub-tests, each verifying different linguistic abilities related to the healthcare field. The Writing sub-test will obviously test writing skills, being specific for each professional (medicine, physiotherapy, nursing, etc.). Most commonly, you will be required to write a referral letter, following the task instructions and using the given case notes. In order to be better prepared for this particular sub-test, we have gathered a number of useful OET referral writing tips.
#1 Use the reading time accordingly
At the beginning of the OET Writing sub-test, you will be given five minutes as reading time. Use it wisely and go through the task instructions, paying attention to essential details. In there, you should find out to whom you are writing and why; based on this information, it will be easier to select the case notes that are relevant to the reader. Small bits of information can change the way you write the letter; for example, it matters a lot if the medical professional is familiar with the patient or not.
#2 Organize the case notes in a structured manner
The first and most important thing to remember is that case notes should be organized in neat paragraphs. This will help you achieve a clear structure for the letter, with all relevant information being included. Your letter should follow this structure: introductory sentence, main and secondary issue, any other details and the request. The issues can be medical or social, additional details can refer to medication and the request is clearly for referral (to a specific medical professional).
#3 Include at least one of the following points or both for a positive impact
- main medical issue (diagnosis / surgery)
- request/purpose in the introductory sentence
The introductory sentence should refer to the obvious medical issue, which can be taken from the ‘admission diagnosis’ section. Based on the said problem, you should refer the patient to a specialist physician for examination (the request). You can then proceed to describe the issues more in detail, under the main medical issue (secondary issue to follow).
#4 Distinguish between main and secondary issues
The case notes can be useful in identifying valuable information regarding the main issue. It is important not to confuse the main issue with the secondary one; for example, if a patient suffers from headaches and dizziness, you have to determine which one follows the other. The main and secondary issues should be described in separate paragraphs, as mixing ideas in the same paragraph can result in a lower grade.
#5 Understand the task & check out samples
Read the OET writing task instructions and the Writing Task as many times as you can, with attention, so that you make sure you have understood what you have to do. The better you understand the task, the bigger your chance of successfully completing the Writing sub-test is going to be. Moreover, you should consider reading the sample writing sub-test letters, as these can provide a clear picture of how such a letter should be constructed.
#6 Write a separate paragraph for any other details
Perhaps one of the most difficult tasks is to decide which information a specialist might need to know. After you have written the main and secondary issue paragraphs, be sure to write a separate one for any other details. These should include related information worth mentioning, even though it is not directly related.
#7 Referral explicitly described in the last paragraph
Even though you have mentioned the need for referral in the introductory sentence, it is not enough. At the end of the letter, you will have to be more explicit and state the request for referral. Use the information from the OET writing task instructions, as well as from the discharge or management plan, to describe the request in a well-structured manner.
#8 Your letter should tell a story to the reader
After you have selected and organized your case notes, it is time to transform them into the actual letter. You should write the letter in a manner that it tells a story to the reader; do not copy the case notes directly, as this is not recommended. Moreover, not all the information included in the case notes is useful, some details are placed in there to distract you.
Note: The OET Writing Correction Service at Benchmark Education Solutions is the only preparation companion you will need to make ensure you go on to achieve A or B grade in the writing module. Our teachers are seasoned medical professionals with ESL teaching experience. They will point out and correct all minor issues of tenses, clauses, articles, prepositions, sentence formation, word choice, case notes interpretation and organisation of information.
In conclusion, these are some of the most important referral writing tips to consider for the OET Writing sub-test. It is always a good idea to read the sample letters, as these can help you write a better referral letter.