IELTS vs OET: Which is Right For Medical Professionals?

Undeniably many medical professionals from different countries are eyeing international career opportunities. And one of the many requirements that you need to comply with within a medical profession is to take an English language proficiency assessment. 

There are two English language proficiency exams that medical professionals widely use. It includes are the IELTS which stands for the International English Langauge Testing System, and the OET or the Occupational English Test. Both of these exams assess the individual’s English language skills. 

In this article, we will briefly review what the IETLS and OET are. Then we will compare and contrast the differences between both English exams in pricing, scoring, exam format, frequency, etc.

What is IELTS?

The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is a standardized language proficiency exam and a structured certification for the English language. It is designed to evaluate the individual’s English writing, speaking, listening, and reading skills.

In addition, the IELTS is an internationally recognized English language proficiency assessment test that is specially designed for non-native English speakers. Most test takers prefer the IELTS for university and college admissions. 

And also, private companies and employers, professional institutions, and government organizations seek and accept the IELTS certification compared to other proficiency language exams. The IELTS is also one of the global migration requirements.  

What is OET?

Occupational English Test, known as the OET, is an English language proficiency assessment test, especially for professionals in the healthcare industry. 

Moreover, the OET English language test is designed and established to cover over 12 healthcare careers, including Nursing, Medicine, Dentistry, Physiotherapy, Veterinary Science, Occupational Therapy, Speech Pathology, Podiatry, Radiography,  Optometry, Pharmacy, and Dietetics. 

The OET evaluates the medical professional’s English language skills using test materials based on a real-time healthcare workplace setting. It means that the OET is grounded on regular communications used and actual scenarios in a healthcare facility. 

That is why the OET is the best and exclusive English language test for health care professionals since it is much more suitable for their type of career. It is honored in the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Dubai, and others worldwide. 


OET vs IELTS: Exam Fees Comparison

On this table, you can see the exam fees comparison of the OET and IELTS. Notice that the OET is quite expensive in comparison with the IELTS in different locations worldwide. 

Occupational English Test (OET) FeesInternational English Language Testing System (IELTS) Fees
USD 200USD 455
AUD 587 AUD 340
EUR 380 EUR 220
GBP 339 GBP 196
INR 30,481 INR 17,636
PHP 22, 774PHP 13, 211

Exam Format and Test Structure: IELTS vs OET

This table shows the comparison between the IELTS and OET exams in terms of test duration, test versions, test delivery mode, test scores validity, and test structures.

Both the IELTS and OET differ in their exam structures in assessing the different English language skills.   

For example, the writing exam in the OET assesses the individual’s ability to use the English language in a healthcare context effectively. The IELTS writing exam assesses the individual’s ability to produce a context at a university level. 

As for the speaking exam, the OET assesses the individual’s ability to communicate effectively using the English language in a healthcare setting, such as interacting with patients and other medical professionals. In contrast, the IELTS speaking exam assesses the individual’s ability to communicate clearly in an interview format. 

Exam StructureIELTS ExamOET Exam 
Test Duration2 hours and 45 minutes 3 hours and 20 minutes
Test Types
  • IELTS General Test
  • IELTS Academic Test 
None
Test Delivery Mode
  • Paper-based IELTS Test
  • Computer-based IELTS Test
English Skills Assessed / Test Structure
  • Listening
  • Writing
  • Reading
  • Speaking
  • Listening 
  • Writing
  • Reading
  • Speaking
Test Scores Validity Two years Two years

OET vs IELTS : Exam Frequency

In this table, we can see with the information provided that the IELTS exam is more accessible, with many testing centers located in different countries worldwide. Plus, the IELTS offers more test schedules in a year compared to the OET exam. 

Exam FrequencyOccupational English Test (OET)International English Language Testing System (IELTS)
Number of test days per year14 48
Number of testing centers (worldwide)110 1,200
Countries available40 140

Scoring Difference : OET vs IELTS

The OET exam uses the letter grade scoring between A to E for all of their subtests. And while the IELTS uses a band score between 9 to 0 for every subtest of the exam. 

In addition, you will have an overall score for the IELTS, while the OET does not have an overall score. The following tabulation below shows the proficiency level of the IELTS and OET exams. 

OET Exam ScoringIELTS Exam ScoringDescription 
A9.0 – 8.0Expert Level or Mastery of the English Language
B7.5 – 7.0Good English User 
C+6.5Competent User of the English Language 
C6.0 – 5.5Competent to Modest User of the English Langauge 
D5.0 – 4.0Limited User of the English Langauge 

Test Requirements: IELTS vs OET

This table shows the comparison of the IELTS and OET in terms of test requirements. 

Test RequirementsIELTS Test RequirementsOET Test Requirements
Minimum AgeMinimum age of 16 years No minimum age requirement 
ProfessionAny profession Eligible for those medical professionals who are in the following medical fields:
  • Nursing
  • Dentistry
  • Dietetics
  • Medicine
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Optometry
  • Pharmacy
  • Physiotherapy
  • Podiatry
  • Radiology
  • Speech Pathology
  • Veterinary Science 
Things needed to register
  • A valid passport
  • Active debit or credit card 
  • A valid email address
  • Valid identification document (Passport or National ID)
  • Passport-sized photo
  • Credit card
Where to RegisterYou can register for the IELTS through the IELTS Online Registration PlatformYou can register for the OET  through the myOET home page

IELTS vs. OET : Practice Tests Availability

This section shows the different practice tests offered by the IELTS and OET to its test-takers. 

Available ResourcesIELTS Practice TestsIELTS Practice Tests
Free Sample Practice Tests
  • Offers free online sample tests where you can access through their official website. 
  • IELTS free courses: IELTS Academic and General Training; Practice Zone; Sample Videos; Teacher Tutorials; Timed Practice Tests; “My Progress” Section; “Resource Bank” Section 

  • OET sample tests: Reading Sample Tests 1 to 3; Listening Sample Tests 1 to 3; Writing Sample Tests 1 to 5 (with answer booklet); Speaking Sample Tests 1 to 4 (some samples are with video inclusion); Speaking Sample Warm-up (video)
Preparation Courses, Guides, and Books
Additional Resources (Free and Paid)

Which Is Easier, the IELTS or the OET Exam?

The IELTS Academic exam, taken mainly by medical professionals, is more complicated and hard to pass than the OET. And also, most medical professionals prefer the OET because the test questions and scenarios used in the test are familiar to them compared to the IELTS, which is a more general approach. 

However, these claims about the IELTS and OET exams are not reliable since both language proficiency tests are fully standardized. The IELTS and OET exams assess the four basic English language skills: reading, listening, writing, and speaking. 

The IELTS and OET contain four sub-test for reading, listening, writing, and speaking. These subtests are also divided into other parts in both the IELTS and OET. 

The difference between the two exams is that the IELTS generally measures individual academic English skills. On the other hand,  the OET tests the individual’s English language abilities in a medical setting. 

Also, the OET test uses real-time scenarios in a medical setup like talking to patients and other medical professionals. It also has specific test materials for a particular medical profession. 

The IELTS, on the other hand, uses various academic topics that may or may not be related to any healthcare setting. Most of the questions or scenarios presented in the IELTS questions are general topics and in a corporate workplace environment. 


Test Recognition: IELTS vs OET

The IELTS is highly recognized by educational institutions such as universities and colleges, healthcare regulatory bodies, immigration authorities, and private institutions worldwide. 

In contrast, healthcare regulatory bodies recognize the OET in the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Dubai, Ukraine, and Namibia. 

And also, both the OET and IELTS are accepted and recognized by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) and General Medical Council (GMC) in the UK and Ireland. 

Additional Reading — Test Recognition: OET vs IELTS


Finally Summary Table: OET vs IELTS 

Here is a comprehensive comparison of the IELTS and OET exams. 

FeaturesIELTS ExamOET Exam 
Test UsageIt is primarily used for English exam admission in universities and colleges.It is the English language exam intended for healthcare professionals. 
Test FeeAUD 340AUD 587
Age Requirement for Test TakersMinimum of 16 years oldNone
Who can take the testAny professionEligible for those medical professionals who are in the following medical fields:
  • Nursing
  • Dentistry
  • Dietetics
  • Medicine
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Optometry
  • Pharmacy
  • Physiotherapy
  • Podiatry
  • Radiology
  • Speech Pathology
  • Veterinary Science 
Test Registration Requirements
  • A valid passport
  • Active debit or credit card 
  • A valid email address
  • Valid identification document (Passport or National ID)
  • Passport-sized photo
  • Credit card
Exam Frequency48 scheduled test days per year 14 scheduled test days per year 
Number of Testing Centers Worldwide1,200 Testing Centers 110 Testing Centers 
Number of Countries Where Both Exams are Available 140 countries40 countries
Test Scores Validity Two years Two years
Scoring It uses a band scoring that ranges from 9 as the highest proficiency level to 0 as the lowest. It uses a letter grade scoring from A as the highest proficiency level up to E as the lowest proficiency level. 
Test Delivery Mode
English Skills Assessed / Test Structure
  • Listening 
  • Writing
  • Reading
  • Speaking 
  • Listening
  • Writing
  • Reading
  • Speaking 
Test Duration2 hours and 45 minutes 3 hours and 20 minutes
Test Version 2 IELTS Versions:
  • IELTS General Test
  • IELTS Academic Test 
12 OET Versions:
  • OET for Nursing
  • OET for Doctors
  • OET for Dentists
  • OET for Pharmacists
  • OET for Optometrists
  • OET for Podiatrists
  • OET for Occupational Therapists
  • OET for Vets
  • OET for Speech Pathologists
  • OET for Dieticians
  • OET for Physiotherapists
  • OET for Radiologists
Accepted by Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) and General Medical Council (GMC)YesYes

Additional FAQs

Which is Better for Nurses, IELTS or OET?

Some professionals prefer the IELTS because it is one of the extensive English language proficiency exams available. However, it is recommended for nurses to take the OET since the test itself is made especially for medical professionals. The  OET is more inclined to the medical field, and the situations presented in the test are based on real-time happenings. Plus, the OET offers a specific test version for different medical careers. That is why most medical professionals, such as nurses, find the OET easy and relatable. 

What is the OET Score for Nurses in Canada?

The OET score requirement for nurses in Canada is on the grading scale of B. As the general rule, all nurses in Canada or those eyeing to work in Canada must obtain a general grading scale of B in the OET listening, reading, and speaking test sections. In addition, it is also required that one receive a C+ grading in the OET writing test. 

Is OET Accepted in Canada?

Yes, the OET is accepted now in Canada. In addition, the OET test is accepted globally and recognized by many medical institutions and regulatory boards. For those, international medical professionals who wish to work in Canada can now take the OET exam. The OET is specifically designed for medical professionals and covers twelve medical professions with a specific test for each career. 

Leave a Comment