Your basic guide of OET!

As you all are well aware, OET has become mandatory for all IMGs (irrespective of which certification pathway you go for) who have not passed/taken Step 2 CS and are wishing to pursue a residency in the US.

OET stands for Occupational English Test and is considered by many as an easier and medical version of IELTS. There are 4 components of OET:

1. Reading

2. Listening

3. Writing

4. Speaking

You require 350 or above in every individual component to score a grade B, which is required by ECFMG.

Booking for the exam

Unlike the USMLE exams, OET has fixed dates that you can take it on, in a month (mostly 2 dates in 1 month). Slots fill up fast, so make sure you book in time to get your preferred examination center.

Preparing for the exam

The best piece of advice I can give you for mastering OET is to practice as much as possible. Practice makes perfect!

There is a link attached below that has sample papers of every individual component.

Preparation time typically ranges from 5 days to even one month depending on your command of the English language. I prepared for 2 weeks with one test for every component daily gradually increased it to two tests per component, I was also extremely drained as I had just taken my USMLE Step 1. If I can do it, you all can definitely ace it.

Writing is a 45-minute section where you have to write a letter to a doctor or other health care professional. More often than not, it's a referral letter, but you can also get a discharge or transfer letter. This is the hardest section of this exam. You must practice as many letters as you can and get them checked by an online service (EduBenchmark is a commonly used one) so that you understand what aspect you need to work on. Candidates typically get 3-5 of their letters checked. This is very crucial as we often over or underestimate our writing skills and tend to fail in this component. You can also compare your letters with the sample letters given in the link below.

Speaking is approximately 20 minutes in total and consists of two role-play cards, with 3 minutes of reading time and 5 minutes of speaking time for each. Most candidates practice online or with a friend/family member by using the sample topic cards given in the link at the bottom. The official OET samples are the most reliable, and closest to the ones in the exam. I cannot emphasize how important it is to practice the speaking prompts that are included in the practice material. The interlocutor will have a corresponding "patient" card to your "candidate" card. Remember that your interlocutor is not the one who's grading you. Your conversation will be recorded and an OET examiner in a different country will score you. During the exam, you want to use full sentences, eliminate the use of mnemonics or variations of terms that might not be universally known. Make sure your sentences are simple enough for a layman to understand and do not contain any medical jargon. If you do, however, have to use a medical term to inform the patient of the diagnosis, follow it up by asking how much the patient knows about it and explain it in simple terms.

This component tests your ability to communicate efficiently using the English language, and not your medical knowledge.

Listening and Reading, on the other hand, have three parts, A, B, and C.


The most tricky yet high-scoring part of both listening and reading components of OET is part A. The Reading component of A comprises 20 questions from 4 paragraphs linked to each other which you have to answer within 15 minutes. B part consists of 6 individual paragraphs asking one question each. C is a bit complex consisting of 2 long paragraphs with 8 questions each.

Moving on to the listening component:

-Part A has two patient histories that are incomplete and you have to fill in the blanks from what you listen to on the audio about the conversation between the patient and doctor. In this part, the answer to your blank will always be spoken by the patient. So listen to him/her more attentively.

-Part B consists of 6 individual questions from each short conversation between healthcare personnel.

-Part C has two audios consisting of 6 questions each which you have to answer as you listen to the audio. It's critical to keep your focus as the audio plays only once and you can easily miss out on many answers by even a small lapse in concentration.


The overall exam is not difficult but do practice at least 5-10 times before examination for every individual component to acclimatize yourself. You need 30 correct out of 42 questions for both listening and reading components so make sure you take your exam when you're constantly scoring in that range. Writing and Speaking are more complex and you may require assistance from online services or friends who have taken them to make sure you're good to go for the exam.

Releasing your scores to the ECFMG:

After the exam, you get an email informing you that your results are published on the website portal. To make sure that your results are sent to the ECFMG, there are 2 steps:

1. Fill this form. Your official email from OET will contain this link as well.

2. On your OET Dashboard, find the option to "manage verifier access" in the drop-down menu next to "Display invoice". Add ECFMG as a verification institution.

Nelson Mandela once said, "I never lose. I either win or learn".

You got this!


Good luck!


Written & edited from IMGs to IMGs

-Dr. Khizer Shamim

-Michael Fahmy, MS3

-Dr. Shreya Arora

-Zaynab, Final Year Medical Student

Link to practice materials


We are also working on a free OET course that will be available on www.projectimg.org

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