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English Language Skills - IELTS

All doctors who practise medicine in the UK must have the necessary knowledge of English to communicate effectively so they do not put the safety of their patients at risk.

There are two ways you can prove your English Language Abilities

IETLS (International English Language Testing System)

IELTS is an English Language test which provides proof of English proficiency for those wishing to live, work and study in the UK.

You will be tested in the four main areas of communication: speaking, reading, writing and listening.

You must pass with the following:
A score of at least 7.0 in each of the four areas tested (speaking, listening, reading and writing)
An overall score of at least 7.5
OET (Occupational English Test)

The OET is an English language test specifically for medical professionals. Like IELTS, the test consists of four modules:
  1. Reading: 60 minute test split into two parts. The first is to fill in the missing words from a passage of medical text and the second is multiple choice questions.
  2. Listening: Split into two parts and last approx. 50 minutes. You will take notes whilst listening to a conversation between a patient and healthcare professional, plus a lecture from a professional speaker.
  3. Speaking: A role-play based test which lasts around 20 minutes. You will take your professional role (e.g. as a doctor) and have a conversation with a patient / client / carer etc.
  4. Writing: Lasts 45 minutes and is profession-specific. If you are a doctor, you will usually be asked to write a referral letter.
You must pass with a grade B (equivalent to 7.0-7.5 in the IELTS)

What are the main differences between IELTS and OET?


The main difference between the two tests in the content you will need to learn.

The IELTS focuses on a wide range of topics, and could test your English on any number of subjects
The OET tests your English ability in relation to the medical profession, therefore as a nurse or doctor you will be tested on topics that relate to your job and subjects that you will likely come across day-to-day working in the NHS.

Preparation for the test

Both are English language tests, so a good level of overall English is required. However, as the content is so different, the preparation you will need to do for each test is different.

Each year, 3 million people take the IELTS test, compared to 25,000 who take the OET.

This means there are far more preparations option for the IELTS, ranging from free online options to private tutors. The range for OET is rather limited in comparison.

Taking the test

OET has test dates once a month, at 80 test centres in 40 countries.

IELTS is available much more frequently, at 1100 test centres in 140 countries. IELTS also comes in cheaper than OET, at £160 for the IELTS compared to £325 for the OET.

For full information on IELTS and to locate your closest test centre, please go to:

For full information on OET and to locate your closest test centre, please go to:
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