IELTS vs OET: The Differences You Need To Know About

Hello! As part of your PLAB journey to the UK, you are required to take an English proficiency test as the first step. This can be either the IELTS or OET.

Today, we will be considering the differences between both of these examinations and helping you decide whether to take the IELTS or OET.

The IELTS is an English language proficiency test; it assesses your ability to communicate in English in four main ways; readingwritingspeaking and listening. It is the most popular proficiency test out there and sat by millions of candidates each year.

The OET is an English language proficiency test which assesses your ability to communicate according to healthcare specific context. It also has four main sections; reading, writing, speaking and listening. It is sat by much fewer candidates than the IELTS and is relatively new. The OET has undergone some recent changes, which come into effect from September 2018; you can read all about them by clicking here. 

So, what are the differences?




Sections Tests Academic English in a wide context Test English within the context of the medical profession only
Cost £150 to £200 587 AUD
Centres Over 140 countries Over 40 countries
Test Dates Regularly 12 times per year
Tier 2 Visa Accepted Not Accepted
Resources Many more resources out there Fewer resources out there
Score Required Average: 7.5 (Each Section: minimum of 7) At least a ‘B’ Grade in each section
Reading Section Three reading passages followed by a variety of questions which include MCQs, identifying information, matching information and headings, sentence, note and table completion. Part A: Read 3 to 4 texts rapidly and fill in the relevant information into a summary paragraph.

Part B: Read six short workplace texts on a health topic and answer a set of MCQs.

Part C: Read two long presentation passages on a health topic and answer a set of MCQs.

Writing Section Task 1: Describe, summarise or explain information displayed in a graph, table or chart.

Task 2: Write an essay in response to an argument

Letter Writing: Write a referral letter, letter of discharge, transfer or to a patient based on a set of case notes.
Listening Section Listen to four recordings on a variety of everyday, social and academic topics. You are then required to complete questions which may include a series of multiple choice, matching items, diagrams, notes, tables, charts, sentence completion or short answers.


Part A: Listen to a consultation and take notes

Part B: Listen to presentations and complete MCQs, short answers or complete sentences

Part C: Listen to a health-related presentation and complete MCQs, short answers or notes

Speaking Section  

Part 1: Examiner will ask you general questions about yourself and everyday topics.

Part 2: You will be given a specific topic to talk about.

Part 3: You are asked further questions about the topic in Part 2.

Consists of two role play scenarios; where you play the role of the doctor and speak to a simulated patient, relative or carer.

How do I make a decision?
Making a decision depends on many factors. You may decide to choose the IELTS if:

  • There are not OET centres where you live. 
  • You have a solid grasp of English already. 
  • You require a Tier 2 Visa to work in the UK (OET is not accepted for your Work Visa application). 
  • You want to sit a test that has a wide range of resources out there. 
  • You have a tighter budget and want to spend less. 

You may decide to sit the OET if:

  • You are more comfortable speaking English in a healthcare setting than everyday. 
  • You already live in the UK or do not need a Tier 2 Visa to work here.
  • You don’t mind the relatively few OET resources out there. 
  • You want to sit a test which will have practical use as a doctor. 
  • You have a more liberal budget and don’t mind paying the higher fees. 

We hope you benefited from this comparison and that it helps you make your language test decision.

To sit the IELTS, you need a plan. Hear from previous candidates in our ‘How to Create Your IELTS and OET Study Schedule’ eBook below as they give you the inside scoop on preparing for this exam.

Download for FREE below:

Download 'How To Create an IELTS and OET Study Schedule'
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By | 2018-08-26T09:15:36+00:00 August 26th, 2018|IELTS, OET|Comments Off on IELTS vs OET: The Differences You Need To Know About

About the Author:

Mary Rose
Hi! My name is Mary Rose and I am gearing up to begin life as a F1 doctor in August 2018. I just completed my electives in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand and will be starting on Gastroenterology as my first rotation. I love blogging, cats, cake and collecting stationary. I'm super excited to be blogging at Docty! I'll be posting articles, blogs, tips and interviews to help further your medical career and help with exams :)