IELTS vs. OET – Which test is best for nursing graduates?

The OET and IELTS test English language skills very differently. It is important to note that OET is not any easier than IELTS, but it requires a different knowledge of English. The OET tries to imitate the target workplace and was designed by both health professionals and language experts together. In comparison, IELTS was developed at Cambridge University as a tool for testing English language proficiency for a wide range of purposes (i.e. entry to universities and various professions). It requires a very high level of English and has been termed as the "gold standard" because those who pass must be extremely proficient. However, there is an argument that this type of proficiency is not necessarily relevant to nursing.

Patsy Deverall, an examiner for both OET and IELTS, states, "There is a huge intersection between language, culture and communication. IELTS is measure of English proficiency but doesn't have a cultural component that can assess relationships between people or the cultural mores at play in particular situations with patients.”

On the other hand, the OET tests English in a medical context, so it can be said to be of greater benefit to the candidate in their future employment. It is important to remember however, that regardless of whether a candidate sits the OET or IELTS, the Nursing Council may also require a Competency Assessment Programme to be undertaken so that overseas nurses are fully prepared to work.

There are other small differences between the two tests: 

IELTS is substantially cheaper than the OET and is offered more often. This, combined with its established reputation, makes IELTS the more popular choice for most candidates.

The OET also has its benefits - if a candidate does not gain a ‘B’ pass in one or more skill areas, they are only required to re-sit those areas (at a lower price depending on how many skill areas need to be tested). Whereas students sitting IELTS must re-sit the entire test if any section is failed.

Both tests have their various strong points - IELTS is instantly recognisable worldwide, and the OET can be helpful due to its healthcare context - and passing either of these leads on to medical registration in Australia. Sydney College of English offers preparation courses for both tests and is able to support students in whichever path they choose to gain medical registration in Australia.

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Want to know more about the OET for Healthcare Professionals? Click here.

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