Occupational English Test (OET) test development and validation research

The Occupational English Test is a test to evaluate the English-language competency of qualified medical and health professionals who wish to practise in an English-language context.

The Language Testing Research Centre (LTRC) has been engaged in research on the OET for over three decades. The LTRC has completed the following projects:

Scoping study of professional to professional communication across health professions

This two-phase study investigated the types of professional to professional oral communication engaged in by healthcare professionals across a range of professions with a view to informing revisions to the existing speaking section of the OET to ensure the test is well-aligned with current workplace communication practices. In the first phase of the study, interviews were conducted with a range of health professionals and health professional educators to gain insights into the nature of current inter- and intra-professional communication practices.

Based on the interview data, the LTRC designed an online survey to gather insights from a larger number of health professionals. Findings showed that oral communication practices amongst professionals are diverse and, in some aspects, profession-specific, and that there was support for revising the existing OET speaking section to better reflect the communication demands of these practices. Study outcomes have formed the basis of profession-specific recommendations in relation to OET speaking task development.

Verification of checklist indicators in OET speaking test data

This study aimed to establish, through detailed discourse analyses, the extent to which criteria specified in a revised checklist of indicators of effective oral communication were elicited by the current OET speaking tasks. The data set consisted of 160 audio recorded role play performances across eight health professions (medicine, dentistry, nursing, physiotherapy, dietetics, radiography, vet science, and pharmacy) from live OET administrations.

Findings showed that existing role play tasks elicit some, but not all aspects of behaviours described in the revised checklist, with considerable variation across professions. The range of behaviours elicited were found to be contingent, at least in part, on the nature of role play scenarios and instructions, which in some tasks appeared to constrain interactions more than required. Study outcomes led to recommendations to develop rating scale criteria to incorporate behaviours in the checklist that were elicited across professions, and to revise task design to enable a broadening of the construct.

Trialling of new OET listening and reading tests

As part of continued test validation efforts, the LTRC conducted trials of newly developed versions of the OET listening and reading tests on behalf of Cambridge English and the Occupation English Test Centre.

Scoping study project details


Cambridge Boxhill Language Assessment

Project team members

Associate Professor Ute Knoch
Associate Professor Cathie Elder


Associate Professor Ute Knoch

Further information

Occupational English Test