21 Jan, 2020
magine it’s OET test day, and you’re doing the OET listening sub-test. Of course, you start with OET Listening Part A. What you hear over the speaker system is this:
“In this part of the test, you’ll hear two different extracts. In each extract, a health professional is talking to a patient.
For questions 1-24, complete the notes with information you hear. Now look at the notes for extract one.”
So what’s in Listening Part A? Well, as the voice over the PA said, you are going to hear TWO – not one, but two – extracts, or audio files. The first extract will relate to a set of case notes with 12 gaps. The second extract you hear will also be a set of case notes with 12 more gaps. In each extract, as the instruction said, you will hear a health professional — think doctor, nurse, physio etc. — talking to a patient.
This is what the case notes, or exam paper, looks like on test day:
Then you will see and hear a second set of instructions relating to the particular Listening Part A extract. It might say something like:
“Extract 1: Questions 1 to 12
You hear an otolaryngologist talking to a patient named Steven Duran. For questions 1-12, complete the notes with a word or short phrase.”
Let’s break down these instructions because they’re important…
The first thing you want to know is that the doctor and the patient are having a conversation. And unlike real life, the patient does most of the talking (joke!). It’s true though. In these OET Listening Part A sub-tests, the patient speaks almost entirely apart from the infrequent question from the doctor or health professional. What you want to keep in mind is that it is the patient that gives the answers that you need to write down, not the health professional (I’m 99.99% confident that this is the case.)
The third important thing to know is that the word or phrase that you write into the gap will not change from the audio; that is, you will write exactly what you hear, not a synonym and the word does not need to be translated. For example, imagine the gap-filled case note looks like this: felt (1) ______ especially in the morning. And let’s imagine that the patient says: “Well Doc, I haven’t been feeling too well these days. And in particular I’m finding the mornings pretty dreadful. For about two weeks now I’ve been waking up feeling really dizzy…”
So what’s the answer? The answer is DIZZY, and that’s what you should write directly into the gap, and did you notice that you didn’t have to transform the word to make it fit the gap? For example, you didn’t have to change it from DIZZY to DIZZINESS. Keep that in mind.
The fourth important thing you need to be aware of is that the case note in front of you will differ in the way its written from the way the patient/doctor says it. That is, the written and the aural differ from each other. Let’s take our example from above. I want you to look at the case note and then think about how the transcript relates to the case note but does not say the exact same thing:
felt (1) ______ especially in the morning.
“Well Doc, I haven’t been feeling too well these days. And in particular I’m finding the mornings pretty dreadful. For about two weeks now I’ve been waking up feeling really dizzy…”
The fifth thing you need to be conscious of is how the conversation progresses and how you can keep up with the talk. If you look closely at the OET Listening Part A exam paper again you’ll see ‘signpost’ words; these are the sub-headings on exam paper in bold: PATIENT/REASON FOR REFERRAL/BACKGROUND/OCCUPATION/TREATMENT HISTORY
These are the keywords that will guide you through the discussion. And it will usually be the health professional who says these words. But again, the health professional won’t use the exact same language. Instead, the health professional will use a synonym. If you see the word OCCUPATION, for example, what synonym do you think the health professional will use to signal that this is where you are up to? Perhaps WORK?
Okay, so that’s what is in OET Listening Part A. It seems like a simple activity. Listen to a discussion and write down the missing words. But it’s not. It’s tricky. It’s complicated. It’s fast. And if you want to succeed in the OET Listening test then you need to try to get 100% right for this part, because Listening Part B and Listening Part C are much more challenging.
If you want to know some really good strategies and methods to acing this part of the test, then check out the methods lessons on