Guide to the OET Writing sub-test: Writing with Purpose


13 Jan, 2020


Purpose is the first of six assessment categories that OET Assessors use to score your Writing sub-test performance. Understanding what we mean by purpose and what is expected of you can go a long way to helping you get the score you want.   

In this article, we will explain: 

  • The two parts of Purpose you need to include 
  • How to identify and understand purpose 
  • What you need to do to show purpose in your writing. 

If you need more information about the Writing sub-test, including how long it will take and the kinds of letters you might need to writelook at our Test Information page 

What are the two parts Purpose?  

The first part of Purpose is ensuring the reason for the letter is “immediately apparent”. In other words, making it clear why you’re writing the letter and why the reader should read it.  

As you are aware, healthcare professionals are well-known for being time-poorBy starting your letter with a clear explanation of its purpose, the reader doesn’t have to spend time searching for what’s important. 

The second part of Purpose is “sufficiently expanding” the reason for your letter. What we mean by this is that the letter should build on what is initially outlined as the reason for writing by adding relevant details 

“Immediately Apparent”“Sufficiently Expanding”
Why are you writing the letter?Will the reader understand the situation
Why should the letter be read?Are your requests obvious to find?
Does the letter start with a clear explanation?Does the letter provide more detail than your opening explanation?

To effectively give the right kind of care to patients, healthcare professionals need more information than just the highlevel overview outlined in the first part. Expanding on your opening, later in your letter, with the relevant information is essential to a strong score in Purpose 

It’s important to remember that OET uses a range of letter types to assess writing skills, including referral, discharge, transfer etc. You will also be writing about a unique patient who will have a unique set of healthcare needs. 

Together this means that the purpose of your next letter will be markedly different to others you have read or written yourself. A unique purpose for your unique letter.  

Part one: What needs to be made clear? 

You can think of Purpose as the reason for writing or why you are writing. Importantly, it must be clear to the reader and personalised to the situation. 

In most cases, the Writing task is the best way to understand the purpose of your letter. However, if the Writing task doesn’t have all the information you need, don’t panic. You should be able to find the rest of the information in the final section of the case notes. 

Let’s take a look at some examples that walk you through finding the purpose in either the Writing task or the Case Notes 

1. Finding Purpose in the Writing task  

The Writing task is located at the end of the case notes and will often include the type of letter you need to write as well as the letter’s main topic. 

Here’s our first example: 

Writing Task:

Using the information in the case notes, write a letter of referral to Dr Smith, an endocrinologist at City Hospital, for further management of Mrs Sharma’s sugar levels. Address the letter to Dr Lisa Smith, Endocrinologist, City Hospital, Newtown. 

In the above example, you can see that this is a referral letter about further management of Mrs Sharma’s sugar levels. 

Here is a second example: 

Writing Task:
Using the information given in the case notes, write a letter to the Occupational Therapist at the Oldmeadows Extended Care Centre, 13 River Street, Oldmeadows, where Mr Spencer is to be discharged, detailing his treatment to date and other information the therapist may need. Date your letter 10 February 2019.

In this example, the Writing task tells you that this is a discharge letter about Mr Spencer’s recent treatment history. 

2. Finding purpose in the case notes 

If the Writing task hasn’t given you all the information you need to understand the type of letter or the main topic, you can usually find it in the final section of the case notes (just above the Writing task) 

Take a look at our third example below: