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Choosing the Right Test Between IELTS and OET in Nursing


If you want to become a registered nurse in the United States, the UK, or other English-speaking countries, you already understand that you need to prove your English proficiency. The National Medical Commission (NMC) accepts the International English Language Testing System and the Occupational English Test.

However, the former usually contains additional information that is not necessarily helpful for healthcare professionals. The latter is specially designed for healthcare professionals, including doctors and nurses since it narrows down to one’s ability to communicate English in healthcare settings.

Since both tests are recognized by the NMC and GMC, you can choose either. Choosing the right one depends on different factors, including the country in which you will practice your profession. For example, IELTS may be the right option for nurses looking to work in the UK since it is considered the gold standard, meaning you get priority to those with OET.

The following information may help you decide whether to sit for the International Language Testing System or the Occupational English Test.

Why do I need an English test?

OET and IELTS build your language skills and help you effectively communicate with patients in your workplace. The OET helps you become familiar with the English medical terms you are bound to use daily in a healthcare facility. Professionals who have a good mastery of the language tend to be more confident than those with poor English. They have better and meaningful interactions with patients because of their ability to speak, listen, and write.

Confidence is often a downplayed component of communication, but it plays an important role in the quality of professionals’ services. OET and IELTS also allow you to practice in English-speaking countries.

Which one is the most challenging between the OET and IELTS?

There is no easier test than the other; only that one favors a particular group. Health professionals like nurses may feel confident taking the OET because it focuses on healthcare. They are familiar with most of the terms used and can easily apply them in writing. For example, a written test for OET may require you to write a referral letter to a patient, unlike IELTS, in which you may need to write an academic English essay.

On the other hand, IELTS tests your overall English knowledge and is not limited to the people in the healthcare industry. The tested areas are diverse and derived from different sources, making the test challenging. The difference in grading also sets a disparity between the two tests.

For instance, IELTS requires you to score 7 out of 9 while OET’s grading system ranges from A to E, and you need a B to get a recommendation. Such differences may make people prefer one test over the other. Below are the differences between IELTS and OET.

What are the similarities and differences between IELTS and OET?


  • Both tests assess students or professionals in four areas: reading, listening, writing, and speaking.
  • They give a graded score – not a pass or fail. For example, seven and above means you have passed the IELTS, and you need to get a B for the OET recommendation.
  •  Two weeks is needed before you get the results.
  • The results of the IELTS and OET are valid for two years.
  • They are both recognized by the General Medical Council.


  • Content. IELTS content is generalized and tests students and professionals on academic English. It covers various topics including cultural, environmental, educational, and technological trends. However, OET mainly contains medical information and tests healthcare English, including writing, reading, speaking and listening skills.
  • Preparation specifications. Not to say that one test needs less preparation than the other, but the study areas may vary. For example, IELTS needs you to cover different academic topics, while OET needs you to familiarize yourself with healthcare-related language.
  • Grading. IELTS consists of an average grade of different papers, and a seven is considered a pass. OET is graded from A to E, and to pass; you need to attain a B.

It is important to assess your strengths by taking on the free sample materials for both the IELTS and OET instead of inclining to the stereotypes. Remember that each person has unique needs and what works for your cousin’s friend may not necessarily work for you.

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