Overseas doctors applying for registration must be able to demonstrate to the General Medical Council (GMC) that they have the necessary knowledge of English. This may be demonstrated through either the International Language Test System (IELTS) or the Occupational English Test (OET).
These tests do not apply if you are a national of a country where English is the first and native language and you were awarded your primary medical degree from a country where English is the first and native language.
What is the difference between OET and IELTS?
Both the IELTS and the OET exams are accepted by the GMC, however, the OET tests your ability to communicate in a healthcare setting specifically, and IELTS tests your overall ability to communicate in English. Here’s some more information on OET.
You can learn more about IELTS here.
Healthcare professionals choose the OET because it helps them prove they have the right level of English for work or study, while also learning the kind of language they will need every day at work. It is used by overseas doctors to demonstrate their ability to communicate effectively in English and support their application to register with the GMC and subsequently a licence to practise medicine in the UK.
What are the GMC’s requirements?
For your OET certificate to be accepted by the GMC, it must meet the following criteria:
- You took the medicine version of the test
- You scored at least in B in speaking, listening, reading, and writing (all four testing areas)
- You scored those grades in the same test sitting
- Your candidate number is displayed
- You scored those grades in your most recent sitting of the test
Please make sure you select the General Medical Council as your “recognising organisation" on the OET portal so they can verify your scores without any delays.
How do I register for OET?
To book onto an OET you will need a digital passport photo, identification documents such as a passport or national government-issued ID, and a credit card to pay for the course. The link to book your course is here.
Step one: Choose your location from the dropdown menu, there are locations available worldwide.
Step two: Choose your test date from those available. The closing dates listed next to the courses refer to the OET on paper. Bookings for OET on a computer at a test venue close 10 days before the test date. Please check that the date you choose has “medicine” as a profession available.
Step three: Register on the OET portal if you haven’t already, otherwise log in and proceed to follow the instructions to book onto and pay for your course.
What does the test look like?
The OET covers all four language skills with an emphasis on the healthcare setting. These four areas are listening, reading, writing, and speaking.
The listening and reading modules are the same for all healthcare professions and the material is around health-related subjects. The listening module will take 45 minutes and the reading module 60 minutes.
The writing and speaking modules are specific to the profession and based on typical workplace scenarios and situations. The writing module will take 45 minutes and the speaking approximately 20 minutes.
What sort of questions will I be asked?
You can prepare for your OET test with free sample questions available here.
When will I get my results?
Approximately 16 working days after your exam, your test results will be available via your online profile on the OET website. Official copies of the statement of results can be downloaded from the online profile.
What do my results mean?
You can view the OET scoring here
How long is my score valid for?
OET certificates are valid for two years. If you are taking the PLAB test, your certificate must be valid on the day you sit PLAB part 1. If you are applying for registration with a licence to practise, it must be valid when the GMC approves your application.
What do I need to do next?
If you wish to submit acceptable OET scores to book PLAB part 1, please log in to your GMC online account and go to the My Tests section to enter them. Your scores will then be sent for verification, which could take up to two working days to complete.
Find out all you need to know about PLAB 1 here.
Gmc-uk.org. 2021. Using your OET certificate. [online] Available at: <https://www.gmc-uk.org/registration-and-licensing/join-the-register/before-you-apply/evidence-of-your-knowledge-of-english/using-your-oet-certificate> [Accessed 2 October 2021].
OET - Occupational English Test. 2021. OET - The English Language Test for Healthcare Professionals. [online] Available at: <https://www.occupationalenglishtest.org/> [Accessed 28 October 2021].