If you’re moving to the UK to study medicine or to seek a doctors job, you will be required to take an English language exam which will enable you to register with the GMC (General Medical Council) and take the PLAB tests.

There are two exam options and medical professionals are often unsure whether they should take; IELTS (International English Language Testing System) or OET (Occupational English Test). Both tests assess for reading, listening, writing and speaking and are marked on a grading system.

To pass the IELTS exam, an overall score of 7.5 must be achieved, with a minimum of 7.0 in each of the test areas. You’ll need to achieve a minimum of a 350 across all test areas to pass the OET exam.

From September 2018, the scoring system for the IELTS and OET is as follows:

IELTS OET
8 – 9 450-500
7 – 7.5 350-440
5.5 – 6.5 200-340
4.5 – 5.5 100-190
4 0-90

What’s the difference between IELTS and OET?

There are two versions of IELTS – the ‘Academic’ version is required for medical professionals wanting to practice in the UK, but the content of the exam is not medical specific. In contrast to this, the OET has 12 different versions that have been designed for different medical professions, including nursing, medicine, radiography and optometry.

The more specific content of the OET means that the exam assesses your ability to communicate in a medical scenario such as identifying specific medical information during a consultation and writing a referral letter. Whereas IELTS has a more general and academic focus on a variety of topics, but is more widely accepted around the world.

The new version of OET: What’s going to change?

From 9th September 2018, OET 2.0 will come into effect. As mentioned above, the grading system has changed and will now be scored on a points system opposed to letter grades, with the aim to give a more precise insight into your mark.

The level of difficulty has not changed, but the structure of the reading and listening sections have changed and now both feature three parts. Read more on the changes to these sections of the OET exam here.

What’s better IELTS or OET?

Neither exam is easier than the other, but you may find OET simpler to understand as it is more healthcare specific. The GMC accepts both qualifications but it’s worth checking the government website for approved English language tests if you’re relying on the exam to help with your visa application.

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