News - Specialist Language Courses

The OET Writing Criteria are Changing

The way OET mark the Writing tests is changing.

This will be of great interest to any healthcare employer or recruitment company whose nurses and doctors achieve the score required by the NMC or GMC in the Reading, Listening and Speaking papers, but fail to do so in the Writing.

Background to the changes

The Writing paper has proved the most challenging of the OET sub-tests, so we are delighted that OET have reviewed the criteria that markers use to score candidate submissions.

We should emphasise that the test itself is not changing – candidates will continue to write a letter, usually a referral letter, based on a set of case notes. The content is workplace-focused and profession-specific, so a doctor will write a letter as a doctor (rather than another profession), a nurse as a nurse and so on.

The updates are part of OET’s ongoing commitment to keeping the test up-to-date. This particular update has the intended effect of ensuring the focus of the Writing task remains fully on what the reader wants and needs from the letter that candidates write.


How are the criteria changing?

Currently, the Writing test is marked out of 30. There are five criteria used by the markers:

  1. Overall task fulfillment
  2. Appropriateness of language
  3. Comprehension of stimulus
  4. Linguistic features (grammar and cohesion)
  5. Presentation features (spelling, punctuation, layout)

Each criterion receives a mark out of 6. These are then totalled up and a grade assigned.

Download the current OET Writing score criteria  


From August 31st, the Writing test will be marked out of 38 and there will be six criteria:

  1. Purpose – is the purpose of the letter immediately apparent to the reader and sufficiently expanded in the course of the letter?
  2. Content - is all the necessary information included and accurate for the reader?
  3. Conciseness & clarity - has unnecessary information from the case notes been omitted so that the letter is an effective summary for the reader?
  4. Genre and style – are the register, tone and use of abbreviations appropriate for the reader?
  5. Organisation and layout – is the letter organised and well laid out for the reader?
  6. Language - does the accuracy of the grammar, vocabulary, spelling and punctuation communicate the necessary information to the reader?

Purpose is marked out of 3, while the other five criteria are marked out of 7.

Download the new OET Writing score criteria



What is the effect of this?

The updated marking does not apply until the September tests, so we won’t see any impact until then. However, as an OET training company, we feel that the updates will enable us to target the preparation programmes we deliver more precisely.

The additional criteria and assessment bands makes it clearer to understand what the task demands and what OET markers are looking for. The greater range of marks also means each grade will be a little wider and if a candidate scores poorly on one criterion this won’t impact as negatively as at present. The greater range of marks available also means that the target range of grade B may be more clearly identifiable. We will continue to measure the results of the hundreds of candidates taking OET after our preparation programmes and adjusting our training accordingly.

As the UK’s leading OET preparation organisation, SLC works closely with the OET education department to ensure we are up-to-date at all times with any changes being made at OET to review and improve the test.


 OET Preparation Programmes


Download the SLC OET Preparation brochure to find out more about SLC’s OET preparation options – tutored, self-study, blended – or just drop us an email on or give us a call on 01273 900213.


Written by Chris Moore

Chris works on SLC’s strategic direction, product development, course design and key partnerships with organisations including Health Education England, NHS Trusts and medical universities worldwide. He ensures that the work SLC does with healthcare professionals and students has a significant and lasting impact on patient care, medical research and international projects. Chris has worked in specialist English language training since graduating from Cambridge University in 1989 in teaching, academic management and commercial roles. In 2012, he founded SLC to provide training and resources to those who need to communicate in English in critical environments, using technology to reach learners around the world. Chris is also Trustee for Eaquals, the world’s leading international accreditation body for language teaching.

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