To get a high score in the OET speaking role play, you need to know about the two assessment criteria for OET Speaking. These criteria show how OET examiners grade your speaking role-play conversations. This video will give you a checklist that simplifies the criteria into eight easy-to-remember steps.
- Introduce yourself politely and begin building a relationship with the patient.
- Please inquire about the patient’s condition, listen to their concerns, and be responsive to their questions.
- Gather information throughout the conversation using open and closed questions.
- Give clear and concise information and advice, avoiding technical medical language.
- Use clear speech and pronunciation.
- Use smooth and fluent speech without hesitation.
- Explain technical concepts in an easy-to-understand way.
- Utilize a broad range of vocabulary and grammar.
Let us analyze a not-so-good role-play answer before reviewing a high-scoring sample answer. The first checklist item is to introduce yourself politely and in a friendly and begin building a relationship with the patient using sympathetic language and tone of voice. This is important to make the patient feel more comfortable.
The second item is to inquire about the patient’s condition, listen to their concerns, and be responsive to their questions. This helps you understand their perspective and circumstances.
The third and fourth checklist items are about gathering information throughout the conversation and giving clear, concise information and advice. It is important to ask the patient questions to elicit useful answers and to provide instructions and advice that the patient can easily understand.
The fifth item is to use clear speech and pronunciation. This ensures that the patient easily understands you.
The sixth item is to use smooth and fluent speech without hesitation. This means finding the right pace, using natural pauses, and avoiding stops and starts.
The seventh item is to explain technical concepts in a way that is easy to understand. This includes using suitable language and explaining things to patients simply and clearly.
The eighth item is to use a wide range of grammar and vocabulary. This shows your ability to use different phrases accurately and flexibly.
Now that we have analyzed the checklist, let’s examine two sample role plays. First, let’s analyze a not-so-good sample conversation between Sally and the patient John.
Role Play Card:
- Setting: General surgery ward
- Scenario: You are the nurse, and the patient is scheduled for a hernia operation.
- Tasks/Prompts: Find out about the difficulties the patient has been experiencing, explain the procedure, discuss postoperative care, and give advice.
Sample Role Play Conversation (Not So Good):
(Sally) I guess you’re the hernia guy. Your operation is tomorrow, right?
(John) Yes. Well, hernias are painful. The operation might fix that. The surgeon will use a laparoscope to push the inguinal hernia back into your stomach and put some priorities mesh to fix the hole. This is to make the weak place strong again.
(Sally) Okay, so I’m gonna have a big cut? The surgeon puts three or four holes in your groin to put the laparoscope in. It’s small. Then we put a dressing on the wounds, and you can go home.
(John) Ouch, that sounds like it will really hurt.
(Sally) Yeah, no bath, only a shower. Change the dressing after two or three days. Look for red parts, as it might be an infection. If you have pain, you might have an infection. Tell your GP immediately if this happens.
(John) Okay. What about after the operation? I can’t believe that I have an operation and go home.
(Sally) You’ll be fine. Just take painkillers and remember to eat properly.
(John) What should I eat?
(Sally) Before I talk about that, don’t lift heavy things for four weeks. Eat soft food with a lot of fiber. So, no lifting.
(John) Look, I know I can get two weeks off work, but my boss has already said that lifting is part of my job. I can’t go back to work and not stack.
Shelves, that’s for you to work out with your boss, okay? That’s about it; we’re down for now. Good luck with the operation. Now that we’ve listened to the sample let’s analyze it using our speaking criteria checklist. Let’s begin with how Sally started. Remember, checklist item number one was to introduce yourself politely and friendly and build a relationship with the patient using sympathetic language and tone of voice. Let’s listen again and hear how Sally did.
“I guess you’re the hernia guy? Yeah, he is.”
Well, Sally is not off to a good start, is she? She did not introduce herself politely, and referring to her patient as “the hernia guy” was unprofessional. Her tone is very impersonal, so she missed the opportunity to build a relationship with her patient. So, she could have done better with her introduction. Let us listen to see if she handles the second checklist item better.
Our checklist item 2 is to inquire about your patient’s condition, listen to their concerns, and respond to their questions to understand their perspective or circumstances better. Let us listen to how well Sally did with this prompt by inquiring, listening, and responding to her patient.
“Your operation is tomorrow, right?”
Yes, the prompt wanted Sally to learn more about the patient, such as how he is feeling and whether he has any concerns or worries. Sally did not do any of this, did she? We heard Sally frame the conversation more as a statement instead of using language that would prompt the patient to give information about himself. This means she wasn’t patient-centric, and she failed to adequately inquire about the patient’s condition as per checklist item 2. So, to summarize this point, Sally has missed a couple of chances to meet important speaking criteria, specifically items one (introducing herself) and two (inquiring about the patient). Let’s see how she does from here as we explain the conversation.
The explain requirement is evident in the second prompt, which asks Sally to explain the purpose of the surgery and the use of a laparoscopic surgical approach. This task aligns with items 3 and 4 on our checklist, which cover information giving and gathering. Let us listen to how Sally explained the purpose of the surgery.
“Well, hernias are painful. The operation might fix that. The surgeon will use a laparoscope to push the inguinal hernia back into your stomach and put some pyritex mesh to fix the hole. This is to make the weak place strong again.”
Keeping in mind that prompt two wanted Sally to explain the purpose of the surgery and the laparoscopic surgical procedure, there are a couple of problems with Sally’s response. First, she needed to explain the procedure’s purpose more clearly. She made it sound scary. A second thing is that she has used quite a lot of technical language. What do “inguinal” and “pyritex” mean? Our checklist items 4 and 7 remind us not to use technical language. Remember, this is not a test of your medical knowledge but your ability to communicate and speak clearly. Let’s listen to the patient’s response and how this leads Sally to address the third prompt, which is also an explain-type task.
The third prompt asks Sally to explain laparoscopic surgery and how it is quicker and less intrusive. Let’s listen closely.
“Okay, so I’m gonna have a big cut. The surgeon puts three holes or four holes in your groin to put the laparoscope in. It’s small. Then we put a dressing on the wounds, and you can go home.”
We have a few big problems here. First, Sally didn’t directly respond to the patient’s question. This is another example of her not being responsive or patient-centric in line with checklist item two. Second, she needs to explain things better and be clear. For example, are the holes small or is the laparoscope small? Per our checklist item four, her giving of information could be clearer and more complex. The third thing is that she again did not deal with the prompt task, which requires that she explain how laparoscopic surgery is quicker and less intrusive than open surgery. Finally, looking at our checklist item 6, her speech could be smoother and more fluent. She has “ums,” “uhs,” and hesitations. Given Sally’s response, notice how our patient reacts to her explanation. Let’s listen.
“Ouch! That sounds like it will hurt.”
Let’s stop right here for a second. Sally should assure him that the procedure won’t be as painful as it sounds. This would allow Sally to be sympathetic and responsive to the patient. Let’s listen to how she responds.
“The dressing, um, leave them for a few days. Take a shower, not a bath.”
We just heard Sally mention leaving the dressing on the wound for a few days without responding to her patient’s concerns about the pain. Rather than answering her patient’s questions relating to prompt three, she has moved on to a different topic entirely. The question is, which prompt? Looking again at the prompt tasks, prompt four asks Sally to explain the immediate postoperative period, emphasizing that there will be two weeks of recovery before returning to work after six weeks. Okay, so prompt four wants her to explain more about the postoperative recovery times, but instead, she is advising her patient about wound care. So, something needs to line up here. Let’s look at prompt five. It refers to advising about care after discharge and specifically mentions wound care. She has skipped prompt four entirely, hasn’t she? This means that the conversation is now out of sequence. Let’s try to keep up with Sally.
So now we know Sally has jumped ahead to the fifth and last prompt. She is addressing the advising part of the conversation, which is mostly about giving information as per checklist item four. To catch up with her, let’s go back and listen to Sally’s last statement again.
“The dressing, um, leave them for a few days. Take a shower, not a bath.”
As we already know, Sally is struggling, and she has missed talking about prompt four entirely. Working with what we have, we hear that the most obvious problem is that, looking at our checklist item five, we hear that her speech could be clearer and her pronunciation easier to understand. It could be smoother and more fluent, as per checklist item six. She is also struggling with grammar and is using overly simple vocabulary, struggling to demonstrate her ability to meet the criteria set out in our checklist item eight. Let’s keep listening.
“Okay, xiao is not a bath. Um, keep the dressing the same. Um, take it off after two or three days. You must check if it’s an infection. Look for red parts, and if you have pain, you might have an infection. Tell your GP immediately if this happens.”
Well, I won’t spend much time on this because we have seen many of the same mistakes before. Sally is struggling with her fluency in grammar and is not giving information. More important is what the patient says next.
“Okay, what about after the operation? I can’t believe that I have an operation and go home.”
What I want to point out here is that the interlocutor, even though playing the role of the patient, has tried very subtly to nudge Sally back on track by asking, “What about after the operation?” Let’s listen to see how she deals with this helpful hint.
“Um, you’ll be fine. Just take painkillers and remember to eat properly.”
“What should I eat?”
“Oh, um, before I talk about that, don’t lift heavy things for four weeks, one month. Eat soul food with a lot of fiber.”
Sally’s responses in this advising part of the conversation could be more cohesive. So, I suggest that rather than continuing with this, I want to listen and use our checklist to analyze an example of a high-scoring sample response for the same role-play card. Let’s begin by looking at item one on our checklist, the introduction. As I mentioned before, introducing yourself is like addressing an unwritten prompt that we can use as an opportunity to establish a relationship and demonstrate understanding of the patient.
Sally, a registered surgical nurse, introduces herself to Paul and establishes a friendly and patient-centric conversation. She asks open-ended questions and addresses any concerns or questions Paul may have.
Prompt 1: Inquiring about Paul’s Condition
Sally asks Paul how he is feeling before his hernia operation. Paul mentions feeling sore but coping well. Sally acknowledges his pain and asks if he understands the operation he will be having.
Prompt 2: Describing the Purpose of the Operation
Sally explains to Paul that the purpose of his operation is to push the hernia back into his stomach using a laparoscope. She uses clear and non-technical language to ensure understanding.
Prompt 3: Explaining the Surgical Procedure
Sally reassures Paul that the procedure is less intrusive than open surgery and describes how the laparoscope will be used. She mentions that no stitches will be required and that he can go home after the operation if everything goes well.
Prompt 4: Giving Recovery Information and Advice
Sally advises Paul to rest and take things slowly for about two weeks to ensure a quicker recovery. She mentions that he can start working again after two weeks but should avoid straining himself for four weeks, hefty lifting. Paul expresses concern about his job requirements, but Sally suggests speaking with his employer or getting help from a colleague.
Prompt 5: Talking about Care after Discharge
Sally briefly mentions that Paul can shower but should avoid bathing with the dressing on. She advises him not to change the dressing for a few days, to keep the wound clean and dry, and to look out for signs of infection. She also mentions that ordinary painkillers can be used for any initial pain and recommends eating fiber-rich foods to avoid constipation.
Sally concludes the conversation by asking if Paul has further questions and reminding him to be careful.
About your wound after the operation, she handled this well, didn’t she? As per checklist items four and five, she gave advice clearly, avoided using technical language, and sought confirmation from Paul that he understood. She used grammar and vocabulary as per checklist item 8 and was told by Paul that he understood and seemed comfortable.
By now, you should have a really good feel for the most important criteria in the OET speaking test.