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IELTS (International English Language Testing System) is an English language exam that is required to be taken by international candidates considering studying or working in English speaking countries like Ireland, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and USA.

OET (Occupational English Test) is also an international English language test that assesses the language proficiency of healthcare professionals who seek to register and practise in an English speaking country.

Both are chosen by regulatory bodies to ensure doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other healthcare professions have sufficient language skills to communicate at a high level. Each test consists of four sub-tests that access the skills of reading, listening, writing, and speaking. 


What are the differences between IELTS and OET?


  • IELTS Academic (used by healthcare regulatory bodies) includes the ability to write essays, follow lectures, understand academic articles and discuss a wide range of topics.
  • OET tests healthcare English, including the ability to communicate effectively in medical scenarios, write a referral or discharge letter, understand a patient consultation, or follow a text taken from a medical journal.


  • IELTS has 2 versions, IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training.
  • OET has 12 versions of the test for different healthcare professions (Dentistry, Dietetics, Medicine, Nursing, Occupational Therapy, Optometry, Pharmacy, Physiotherapy, Podiatry, Radiography, Speech Pathology, Veterinary Sciences).


  • IELTS: Listening 30min, Reading 60min, Writing 60min and Speaking 10-15min.
  • OET: Listening 50 min, Reading 60min, Writing 45min and Speaking 20min.


  • IELTS is graded from 4 to 9 (best).
  • OET is graded from A (best) to E.

Health regulatory bodies generally require an advanced level of English (C1 level or higher) for healthcare professionals registration like pharmacists, nurses, doctors, etc. Most of them require a score of 7.0 or higher on IELTS or a B on OET.

Although both tests access the level of English they are quite different so the preparation courses for the two tests follow very different pathways and use very different materials. 

Learn more about the IELTS here.

Learn more about the OET here.

Posted on 14 May 2019
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