Immigrant nurses need a good grasp of the medical English language. With English being the universal language, passing an internationally recognized English examination is needed before healthcare professionals can work in any English-speaking country. Aside from their licensure tests, nurses must also prepare well to get certification that their English skills are at par with the US national standard.   

Recent developments have brought great news to nurses seeking careers outside their home country. The Occupational English Test is now recognized as a viable certification for nurses pursuing a visa through the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS). This means there is now an additional option for nurses to be cleared of their English speaking, writing, reading, and listening level before becoming immigrant nurses.   

Let’s talk about the Occupational English Test and why it is appropriate to use this test to assess a nurse interested in working abroad. We will also delve into recommended preparations before taking the OET exam so that gaining this language certification will be a breeze.  

What is the Occupational English Test (OET)?   

The OET is a language proficiency test created for nurses and other healthcare workers aiming for employment within an English-speaking country. In contrast, any healthcare professional can take the IELTS exam to show general understanding and use of the English language. The OET is specifically created to aid healthcare professionals in learning the medical English language.  

The OET measures how nurses can use the language in actual healthcare-related scenarios. This is why a nurse vying to be employed in the United States should aim to pass this test.   

The OET has four parts: Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing, and we are breaking them down here;    

  • OET Reading: The test-taker is to go through health-related texts and are asked comprehension questions about them. This portion of the test usually lasts for an hour.   
  • OET Listening: The test-taker has to listen intently to a series of spoken texts. The material to be listened to may include lectures, pseudo-instructions to patients, or consultations. The listening part of the test is pegged for approximately 45 minutes.   
  • OET Speaking: The material will now differ based on who takes the test. For a nurse’s case, the speaking part of OET will be about common workplace scenarios nurses may have to intercept in daily hospital operations.   

A test facilitator will be with the test-taker in a separate room and go through scenarios involving a client, patient, or loved one. The test-taker and the facilitator will simulate a scenario that the facilitator will use to evaluate the test-taker’s use of the English language to navigate the situation. This part of the test takes approximately 20 minutes.  

  • OET Writing: The required written material will depend on who is taking the test. Professionals will be measured according to their ability to write any documents about their jobs. The OET writing test will test them to ensure their answers are up to the US medical English standard. The writing test typically lasts 45 minutes.   

For nurses wanting to acquire employment in the US, the passing score is 350 or Grade C+ for the Listening, Reading, and Speaking tests and 300 or Grade B for the Writing part of the test. You should aim to pass all tests in one take because repeat test-takers will be asked to retake all four tests, even if they had good OET results in some of them the first time.   

Why is the Occupational English Test for nurses now accepted as an immigration requirement?   

Last August 1, 2022, it was deemed by the CGFNS that the OET is sufficient enough to measure if nurses and other healthcare professionals can communicate well using English in their chosen workplaces. With over 300 venues in over 60 countries where you can take the OET, this development will aid the healthcare industry in battling the looming nursing shortage, as there is more ease in preparing for VisaScreen applications.   

Read more: What Are the Requirements to Obtain a VisaScreen Certificate for Nurses?   

Passing the International English Language Testing System, or IELTS is also an acceptable measure of your English proficiency. There are some arguments that the OET is a better option than the IELTS for prospective immigrant nurses like you because:   

  • The OET is more focused on your use of the language as a professional since OET questions are based on healthcare scenarios and are tailor-fit to healthcare professionals. Preparations for the OET align with preparing yourself to delve into the demands of being a nurse in the US, making the OET automatically the sufficient option.    

Application questions are a great way to practice how you will speak to patients and clients. This allows you to visualize what can happen in your assumed workplace.   

  • Some argue that the OET will be a lot easier. The IELTS will ask about general understanding and use of the English language, unlike the OET. IELTS questions may or may not be about a healthcare scenario, and since nurses are to prepare for licensure exams afterward, the OET is already preemptive preparation for said exams.    

What are the best practices when it comes to preparing for the OET?   

While taking sample tests and preparing for the test are already non-negotiables. It’s also recommended that you understand what will be required of you as a test-taker, so you can have an idea of how you will be graded. The following are tips on how you can best prepare for the OET:   

  • Assess your level of English proficiency. With the US becoming more dependent on immigrant nurses, you can expect a lot of them to be ESL speakers, and that could include you. Look for ways to assess your current English proficiency level and determine which areas you need to improve.    

Please approach language centers or people within your circle who can help you with this.   

  • Understand the criteria set for each section of the OET. The link above that takes you to sample tests can also show you more links describing each OET portion. Read through each sub-test description to find out how you will be evaluated. This helps in anticipating what questions will come up and how to give the correct answers.   
  • Apply for the OET only when you are ready. We recommend that you build your confidence in taking this test before applying to do so. If you are still second-guessing if you’ll do good, evaluate where this apprehension comes from and work on it. Once you’ve done enough to prepare, you make the application.   

Let PRS Global help you enter a new opportunity for career growth.   

The OET is only one of the many hurdles you’ll try to surpass to reach your goals of career possibilities in the US, and it won’t hurt to be with the right staffing partner who will guide you every step of the way.    

We at PRS Global have assisted many immigrant nurses into a new life in the United States, and we are inviting you to be part of them. We assist with financial and legal concerns when it comes to immigration, and we also tailor-fit your career needs to the right job opportunity.    

We are excited to see you and many immigrant nurses achieve their dreams. Contact PRS Global now!