A common approach to preparing for the OET speaking and writing test is just to focus on doing the OET tasks themselves. Many students start writing referral letter after referral letter based on sets of casenotes which are designed to replicate the OET writing experience.
These students also may find themselves doing regular role plays again using the OET format. This, of course, can be good practice; however, by itself, it will not be enough to enable you to pass the OET exam if your English level is not up to standard.
This is because the OET writing and speaking exams are not just a test of your familiarity with the exam format, they are designed as a test of your speaking and writing skills.
As a result, you will need to improve your speaking and writing skills as much as possible and this will involve using materials and resources which go beyond OET mock exams. But how can you do useful speaking and writing practice which goes beyond the OET? Read on to find out.
Write for a Communicative Purpose
Whenever you are engaged in a writing task it is much more motivating and meaningful when you are actually writing for a genuine communicative purpose, such as writing an email to a friend or colleague, or writing a review on a popular website or even writing a comment on a YouTube video or Facebook post.
The reason for this is that when we write in the real world, we have a genuine motivation to write well. We’ll think about the person or audience we are writing to and take efforts to ensure that our tone is appropriate and that our message is understood.
There is also a very good chance that we will receive feedback on our writing, which will involve us both reading texts written by other people and possibly writing follow-up responses, this will involve even more writing practice.
You can see already how much engagement and practice can come from this approach to writing and, also, the way in which you can get genuinely useful feedback on whether your writing has been understood in the way you intended.
So, if you have friends or colleagues who speak English to a high level, try writing them an email in English today in order to get some meaningful practice.
If you don’t have such friends or colleagues, in today’s socially-networked world, anyone can write comments and posts online which will potentially be seen by 1,000s of people. So try to leave at least a comment a day on an interesting article or video that you see online, the longer the better!
Speak for a Communicative Purpose
Just as with writing, it seems artificial and strange to speak in English without the goal of communication being at least part of the purpose.
So, if possible, the next time you come across an English speaker at work or if you have a friend or family member who speaks English at a high-level, engage in a conversation with them not just to practise your English but to actually try to achieve something.
This could involve informing colleagues of your schedule for the day or organising a day-out with a friend or family member, during which day you could continue speaking English.
If you are concerned that there may be breakdowns in communication or errors in comprehension, that’s all the more reason to find more opportunities to practice as these sorts of issues will also come up in the OET exam and you need to find ways to develop your speaking skills so that you can deal with them and resolve them in English.
Become Part of an English-Speaking Community
If you find yourself in a situation where you just don’t have access to English speakers at home or at work or indeed in your social circle more generally, then it is time to become part of an English-speaking community.
These can be found in the physical world using websites such as meetup.com, which have a range of events across the US and the UK to cater for almost every interest, whether it be socialising, going to the cinema or doing some form of dancing.
Or, if there are no such events in your country, you can find online English-speaking communities using websites such as Interpals where it is common for users to write to each other using English in order to find out about people from different cultures and to make new friends online.
There is also the possibility to get to know people even further by exchanging Skype details and having conversations in English, thereby practising your speaking as well as your writing. This has the advantage of once again involving genuine communication which is purposeful and meaningful and which, crucially, you are most likely to actually benefit and improve from.
Consider Using Spelling/Grammar Tools
Almost all writing applications, such as Microsoft Word, Libra Office and so on, contain a spelling and grammar checking function which you can use not just to adjust errors in your work but also to learn from your mistakes.
There are other tools which go even further, such as Grammarly, these tools will check your writing more thoroughly and help you become aware of the grammar, organisation and vocabulary mistakes you are making in your writing.
Seek Expert Guidance
As well as getting plenty of genuine writing and speaking practice, it is also important that you have access to a language expert who will be able to detect weaknesses in your writing and speech and who will be able to provide guidance to help you improve those weaknesses.
Swoosh English can provide you access to a range of qualified and experienced English teachers who are also familiar with the OET exam. They will be able to guide you on where you need to be focussing in order to make the necessary improvements to become an expert writer and speaker of English.
Don’t Forget to Review the Fundamentals
Although your English teacher can provide you with plenty of guidance, it is important that you do the work to follow up on the areas of weakness your teacher may identify. Becoming a better writer and speaker involves checking grammatical errors you might be making in your speech, improving your pronunciation accuracy and becoming more skillful in using linking devices while writing, just to give some examples.
Ensure that you are researching and practising the specific areas your teacher identifies, it is essential to becoming a better speaker and writer in real life and, thus, a better speaker and writer in the context of the OET.