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what is OET

What is OET?

What is OET? 

OET stands for the Occupational English Test and is an internationally-recognised English language test. The OET has been designed specifically for healthcare professionals who require a recognised English test to be able to work in the UK (and elsewhere).

OET is suitable for 12 healthcare professions:

  • Medicine
  • Nursing
  • Dentistry
  • Dietetics
  • Occupational Therapy
  •  Optometry
  • Pharmacy
  • Physiotherapy
  • Podiatry
  • Radiography
  • Speech Pathology
  • Veterinary Science

Why take OET?

OET is internationally recognised by healthcare regulators around the world. 

It can be used to register with health organisations in the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, the US and several other countries. 

In addition to registration, OET is accepted by UKVI for Tier 2 (employment visa) for healthcare professionals.

OET Test Format

The OET exam assesses four main skills: Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking.

  • Listening (approx. 45 minutes)
  • Reading (60 minutes)
  • Writing (45 minutes)
  • Speaking (approx. 20 minutes)

Nurses who want to work in the UK require will require overall OET Grade B (Grade B in Reading, Listening and Speaking, and min. C+ in Writing) to register with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). Doctors will need Grade B (or a points score of 350) in all areas for registration with the General Medical Council (GMC). 

Preparing for OET

If you are planning to take the OET exam, the best way to ensure your chances of success is by studying an OET preparation course with an official OET preparation provider.

Foyle International is both an official OET preparation provider AND OET test venue. Meaning students can both study OET with our expert tutors and take the OET exam in the one location – Foyle International.

Read: Foyle International becomes Northern Ireland's first OET Test Venue 

oet test venue

IELTS or OET? What’s the difference?

Academic IELTS is also accepted by UK healthcare bodies and usually require either IELTS 7.0 or 7.5 in all areas, depending on profession.

IELTS is not specific to health or medical care, and the IELTS exam can cover a very wide variety of topics. For example, you could be writing about climate change and then reading a comprehension about technology.

In contrast to this, OET is specific to healthcare professionals and the content is directly related to every day work environment.

OET sub-tests are profession-specific

The OET Reading and Listening papers are suitable for all 12 professions, whereas the Writing and Speaking are profession-specific.

For nurses, that means OET Writing sub-test will involve writing a referral letter to a doctor.

For the OET Speaking sub-test, nurses will demonstrate how well they can communicate with patients and other healthcare staff. The examiner will take the role of a patient or a colleague  and the nurse will play the real role of a nurse. It is not about testing the nurses medical knowledge, but rather their English language and communication skills.

OET for nurses

For more information about OET preparation courses or the OET exam at Foyle International, please get in touch at 

how to get a work permit in UK

How to get a work permit in the UK: A guide for overseas nurses

To get a work permit in the UK and work as a nurse or midwife, you must obtain registration with the NMC (Nursing and Midwifery Council). Registration with the NMC will enable you to secure long term employment under a Tier 2 work visa (UK work permit). Why come to the UK? The UK offers an excellent standard of living with world-renowned school system, free healthcare for UK citizens and many career opportunities. It is a great place to settle permenetly and to have a family.  The UK are currently experiencing a huge shortage of nurses across the public (NHS) and private healthcare systems. The demand for nurses is so large that the UK now rely more than ever, on overseas nurses to help fill the gaps.  How to work in the UK as an overseas nurse: All UK nurses must be registered on the Nursing and Midwifery Council registrar. Below, we've outlined the steps to achieve NMC registration and a job in the UK. 1. Be a qualified nurse in your home country  Specific qualifications can vary from country to country, but generally it involves being qualified to bachelor degree level in Nursing. You should be able to practise legally in your home country with your current qualifications.  2. Get recognised English Test
  • OET:  Grade B (Reading, Listening, Speaking Grade B, Writing C+). Read more about OET requirements here.
  • IELTS: Overall 7.0 (7.0 in call components)
Both of these courses can be taken at Foyle International. In addition, Foyle is an official OET exam test centre, so nurses can take the test at the school at the end of their course.  OET is preferred by healthcare professionals as the language is directly related to their job experience. For nurses who wish to study an OET course or IELTS course at Foyle International (or anywhere in the UK), they must apply for a UK Study Visa. 

Read: Why the OET is your best route to UK employment 

3. Complete the CBT (Computer Based Test)  This can actually be done before, during or after securing a recognised English test, but it must be achieved before preparing for the OSCE 2. 4. Interviews with employer  At the end of the OET exam course, Foyle International will prepare nurses for interviews with employers, and arrange interviews with potential employers at private care homes in Northern Ireland.   Nurses on the programme will benefit from this as they will actually see their new place of work, and meet their employer face-to-face. Most importantly, this will strengthen their Tier 2 Employment Visa application. 5. Apply for Tier 2 Employment Visa  This is a work permit issued by the new employer, and will need to be applied for from the nurses home country, outside of the UK. 6. Take work experience and pass the OSCE 2  Foyle’s International Nursing Programme provides nurses with an 8 month PAID placement - during which they will prepare for and take the OSCE 2 practical examination. 
  • OSCE 2 can be taken in Derry, at Ulster University (one of three UK locations)
  • Nurses have 3 attempts over 8 months to pass the OSCE 2
  • Nurses who are enrolled on Foyle’s International Nursing Programme can visit the OSCE 2 centre in Derry, and will get a 15 hour OSCE 2 preparation module.
7. Register with the NMC Nurses will then have the following qualifications to achieve registration with the NMC: 
  • Qualified nurse in home country
  • Recognised English Test (OET Grade B)
  • CBT
  • OSCE 2
8. Obtain a 2-3 year employment contract in the UK (private healthcare)  Foyle International will ensure each nurse who completes the International Nursing Programme and obtains NMC registration will receive a long term employment contract in private healthcare in Northern Ireland or across the UK.

Our International Nursing Programme equips nurses with all 3 qualifications that they need for NMC registration, and helps them every step of the way. From achieving OET Grade B, to preparing for and arranging interviews with employers, to OSCE 2 preparation modules. 

For more information on this programme, click here. 

OSCE 2 exam centre

Advice for Overseas Nurses who want to work in the UK

The UK has been experiencing a huge nursing staffing crisis over the past number of years. A majority of these vacancies are from the NHS but the private healthcare system is also experiencing a shortage. 

Research shows that in recent years - particularly since 2016 Brexit vote, the UK have been relying on recruitment from outside the EU to plug the gaps in nursing shortages.

So, for overseas nurses, the UK is a great career opportunity for those who wish to work as a nurse, as the demand is so large.

Facts about the UK nursing sector

  • There has been an 85% fall in the number of EU nurses coming to the UK since the Brexit vote in 2016 – this can also be attributed to changes in English language testing, which have now been loosened to encourage overseas recruitment
  • In December 2019, it was reported that the number of staff vacancies in Northern Ireland's nursing and midwifery sector has increased by 80% since early 2017.
  • The Department of Health's latest workforce bulletin shows that there are 7,203 vacancies across the Northern Irish health system. 
  • In Northern Ireland, the number of nursing vacancies as of September 30th 2019 was 2,269, while there are 122 midwifery vacancies. A further 521 nurses support posts are vacant, with three support midwives wanted.

This shortage of nurses is not unique to Northern Ireland - there are shortages in nurses across all of the UK and Republic of Ireland.

I'm a nurse from outside the EU/EEA. How can I work in the UK?

All UK nurses must be registered on the Nursing and Midwifery Council registrar. They require the following qualifications for nurses from outside the EU/EEA. 

Firstly, you must be qualified to work and practice as a nurse in your home country. Specific qualifications can vary from country to country, but generally it involves being qualified to bachelor degree level in Nursing. 

Next, the following 3 qualifications are required.

  1. A recognised English test (i.e. OET Grade B or IELTS 7.0)
  2. Computer Based Test (CBT) 
  3. OSCE 2 examination - a practical exam. 

I’m a qualified nurse. Where do I start with getting my additional qualifications?

  1. OET: First, it is recommended that you achieve your OET Grade B (or IELTS 7.0 across all components.) You can do this by enrolling at an official OET exam preparation centre. At Foyle International, our English tutors are specially trained in the delivery of OET preparation courses, and in addition, we are an OET exam test centre- so nurses can prepare for your OET exam and take the test with us! 
  2. CBT: This is a multiple choice test, and a lot more flexible - as it can be taken from anywhere in the world via computer. It can be taken before, during or after you achieve OET Grade B. However, If you require additional English language preparation, it is advised you take this test when you have improved your level of English. 
  3. OSCE 2: Having completed the CBT and achieved OET Grade B, you can now begin preparing for your OSCE 2 practical examination. Nurses have 3 attempts within 8 months to complete this exam.

The best way to prepare for this exam, is by gaining real, hands-on work experience here in the UK. Again, this is where Foyle International can help. We provide overseas nurses with an 8 month PAID work placement here in Northern Ireland as part of our International Nursing Programme. 

FUN FACT There are only THREE locations where you can take the OSCE 2 exam in the UK, and Ulster University in our hometown, Derry, is one of them! This is a huge benefit for nurses, meaning they can take the OET, work experience and OSCE 2 examination all in the one location! 
OSCE 2 exam centre
OSCE 2 exam centre at Ulster University, Derry. Photo credit: Ulster University

What about visas? 

For nurses who wish to study OET, and take work placement here in the UK ahead of achieving NMC registration, they will require two different UK visas. 

OET course
  1. UK Study Visa: This is for the OET preparation course and exam part of the course. During this time nurses can not undertake any work, nor bring dependants. The course ranges from 12 weeks to 1 year depending on the nurses’s level of English. 
  2. UK Tier 2 Employment Visa:  This is issued by the employer of the paid work placement and enables nurses to bring their dependants/family members with them. 

Note: You cannot change a UK Study Visa to a UK Tier 2 Employment visa in-country, so nurses must return to their home country to apply for their Tier 2 visa. 

Our International Nursing Programme equips nurses with all 3 qualifications that they need for NMC registration, and helps them every step of the way. From achieving OET Grade B, to preparing for and arranging interviews with employers, to OSCE 2 preparation modules. 

For more information on this programme, click here. 

Photo credit: Ulster University 

CELTA TEFL which is better

What’s the difference between CELTA and TEFL?

When embarking on a career in teaching English abroad, the first thing you will probably realize is there are so many different options out there! Therefore, it can be difficult to know what to  look for when choosing a qualification in teaching English as a Foreign Language (EFL). So, what's the difference between CELTA and TEFL, and which will get you a better job?  What is CELTA? The CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults), is an internationally recognised qualification in teaching English as a foreign language. It is usually regarded as the most prestigious TEFL-related qualification to have because it requires in-class learning and teaching practise and takes one month to complete. In addition, it is accredited by Ofqual (UK exam regulator). A key factor of the CELTA is you undertake hands-on teaching experience – something which can only be taught by those who are CELTA-certified. If you are after a high quality course, the CELTA might be the course for you. Overview
  • Hours: 120 hours
  • Duration: 4 weeks, Monday – Friday (full time, classroom based)
  • Delivery: Face-to-face/classroom based. However, some providers do offer online and combination courses, although these are less popular options.
  • Cost: Varies from provider, on average it costs around £1,400 (£1250 at Foyle International)
The CELTA course covers 5 main areas:
  1. Teaching Practice: CELTA trainees spend time each day on the course teaching real students over the period of 4 weeks – (2 weeks teaching one level i.e. Beginner and another 2 weeks teaching another level of English i.e. Advanced). Therefore, you get experience in teaching different levels of English.
  2. Classroom observation: 6 hours of the course is when you observe other teachers – giving you the chance to gain notable skills from others.
  3. Written Assignments: Throughout the course there are 4 written assessments, as well as on-going homework.
  4. Methodology of Language, Teaching and Learning: A key part of teaching English as a second language – how to implement classroom management techniques and effectively communicate and convey meaning to students
  5. Language Awareness: CELTA ensures teachers will have a strong foundation in grammar, structure and content.
What is TEFL? When we refer to a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate, the terminology is quite broad. Unlike CELTA, there is no central authority which offers TEFL courses. There are literally hundreds of providers in the marketplace, and in addition, many of the TEFL courses you find online are not actually accredited by any notable institutions. Because of this, it can be confusing, and somewhat problematic) to know where to start when looking for a course! ..There are so many TEFL courses out there!  There are some key providers out there who are more recognized than overs, and unlike CELTA, TEFL courses can be taken online, in-class or a combination of both. Each TEFL course varies in length, but most commonly either a 120 hour or 150 hour course. The course varies widely depending on the number of hours, method of teaching (online/classroom based/combination) and which country it is offered in. CELTA vs TEFL: Which will get me a better job? In a nutshell, there is no denying that the CELTA qualification offers significantly more opportunities in comparison to generic TEFL certificate. It is internationally recognised and schools all over the globe appreciate how intense the course actually is. The English Language teaching space covers a wide range of education levels, from Kindergarten to University level, across private and public institutions. The most prestigious jobs – in bilingual schools, private international academies, universities or within business organizations, generally require the CELTA as a benchmark to get a job. FACT 3 out of 4 English teaching jobs require a CELTA.* With CELTA you are much more likely to get teaching jobs that offer better salaries at the top of the pay-scale. Even if you have your heart set on a less competitive job at a public school, your application will stand out from the crowd with a CELTA certificate. Time Time is a big factor to consider when deciding which certificate is right for you. A CELTA course will require a full month out of your schedule, as you need to complete it in class. A TEFL is much more flexible as it has several modes of delivery, with variable durations in length. FACT Some providers offer CELTA part time (over the course of a few months) and some also offer a blended/ combination delivery. However, face-to-face 4 week course is the most popular. Costs Cost is of course an important factor to consider. The CELTA costs on average, £1400, as well as 4 week commitment to the course. As the course is most commonly delivered full time, Monday – Friday, with evenings usually taken up with homework and assignments, full time and even part time work may not be possible. On the other hand, TEFL courses vary widely in cost, with some costings as little as £100, and are flexible in how much time you can spend completing. So, CELTA or TEFL? Whats the verdict? To conclude, both CELTA and TEFL will kickstart your English language teaching journey, both have their own advantages and disadvantages. CELTA PROS 
  • Internationally recognised
  • Prestigious reputation
  • Hands on teaching experience
  • Access to better and higher paid jobs
  • Access to jobs worldwide
  • Intense course, equips you with all you need to excel in EFL teaching
  • More expensive than TEFL
  • Time commitment – 4 weeks Monday – Friday, full time most popular form of delivery) is not accessible to everyone
  • Usually need to take work sacrifices to complete the course as full (and usually part-time work) is not possible
  • A lot cheaper in cost
  • Still job opportunities with a less recognized qualification
  • Flexible methods of delivery
  • Variable duration of courses
  • Less recognized internationally/by academic community – less access to jobs and countries in comparison to the opportunities with CELTA
  • Although there are some TEFL certificates available that cost £100 or less, it is worth remembering that a course at that price is unlikely to be accredited by a notable institution and may be of lower quality – for example, you may be viewing pre-recorded videos.
  • So many different courses in the market place – varying prices, durations, methods and locations – meaning it can be difficult to find the best course for you
Ultimately, it is recommended that you research the type of jobs and countries you want to work in. A specific country or school may have such high demand for teachers they don’t even require teachers to hold a certification. But for those who would like to keep their options option to be able to work across different schools and education levels, anywhere in the world, the CELTA really is your passport to the world. *Read more