top of page





International English Language Testing System

What is the IELTS exam?

IELTS is an English Language test required for overseas doctors to study work or practice in the UK, who cannot evidence their English proficiency by any other means.

To practice as a doctor, you need to take IELTS Academic.

What does the IELTS exam entail?

There are four sections to the IELTS exam:

1. Listening

2. Speaking

3. Reading 

4. Writing


This section takes 30 minutes to complete.

You will listen to four recordings of native English speakers and then write your answers to a series of questions.

  • Recording 1 – a conversation between two people set in an everyday social context.

  • Recording 2 - a monologue set in an everyday social context, e.g. a speech about local facilities.

  • Recording 3 – a conversation between up to four people set in an educational or training context, e.g. a university tutor and a student discussing an assignment.

  • Recording 4 - a monologue on an academic subject, e.g. a university lecture.


The section takes 11–14 minutes to complete.

The speaking section assesses your use of spoken English. Every test is recorded.

  • Part 1 - the examiner will ask you general questions about yourself and a range of familiar topics, such as home, family, work, studies and interests. This part lasts between four and five minutes.

  • Part 2  - you will be given a card which asks you to talk about a particular topic. You will have one minute to prepare before speaking for up to two minutes. The examiner will then ask one or two questions on the same topic.

  • Part 3 - you will be asked further questions about the topic in Part 2. These will give you the opportunity to discuss more abstract ideas and issues. This part of the test lasts between four and five minutes.


This sections takes 60 minutes to complete.

The Reading section consists of 40 questions, designed to test a wide range of reading skills. These include reading for gist, reading for main ideas, reading for detail, skimming, understanding logical argument and recognising writers' opinions, attitudes and purpose.

IELTS Academic test - this includes three long texts which range from the descriptive and factual to the discursive and analytical. These are taken from books, journals, magazines and newspapers.  They have been selected for a non-specialist audience but are appropriate for people entering university courses or seeking professional registration.


This section takes 60 minutes to complete.

Topics are of general interest to, and suitable for, test takers entering undergraduate and postgraduate studies or seeking professional registration. There are two tasks:

  • Task 1 - you will be presented with a graph, table, chart or diagram and asked to describe, summarise or explain the information in your own words. You may be asked to describe and explain data, describe the stages of a process, how something works or describe an object or event.

  • Task 2 - you will be asked to write an essay in response to a point of view, argument or problem. Responses to both tasks must be in a formal style. 

How is the IELTS exam scored?

IELTS score scale

Band 9 Expert User

The test taker has fully operational command of the language. Their use of English is appropriate, accurate and fluent, and shows complete understanding.

Band 8 Very Good User

The test taker has fully operational command of the language with only occasional unsystematic inaccuracies and inappropriate usage. They may misunderstand some things in unfamiliar situations. They handle complex and detailed argumentation well.

Band 7 Good User

The test taker has operational command of the language, though with occasional inaccuracies, inappropriate usage and misunderstandings in some situations. They generally handle complex language well and understand detailed reasoning.

Band 6 Competent User

The test taker has an effective command of the language despite some inaccuracies, inappropriate usage and misunderstandings. They can use and understand fairly complex language, particularly in familiar situations.

Band 5 Modest User

The test taker has a partial command of the language and copes with overall meaning in most situations, although they are likely to make many mistakes. They should be able to handle basic communication in their own field.

Band 4 Limited User

The test taker's basic competence is limited to familiar situations. They frequently show problems in understanding and expression. They are not able to use complex language.

Band 3 Extremely Limited User

The test taker conveys and understands only general meaning in very familiar situations. There are frequent breakdowns in communication.

Band 2 Intermittent User

The test taker has great difficulty understanding spoken and written English.

Band 1 Non-User

The test taker has no ability to use the language except a few isolated words.

Band 0 Did not attempt the Test

The test taker did not answer the questions.

What score do I need?

Based on the GMC requirements for doctors:

Academic test only – overall score of at least 7.5 and at least 7.0 in each of the four areas tested

What is the expiry date of the exam?

The exam certificate expires after 2 years of sitting the exam.

Where can I take the IELTS exam?

- Australia

- Canada

- New Zealand

- United Kingdom

- United States

What resources are there to help me?

Official IELTS website - IELTS Home of the IELTS English Language Test

GMC - Evidence of your knowledge of English - Evidence of your knowledge of English - GMC (



Occupational English Test

What is the OET?

The Occupational English Test is an English exam designed for health care professionals.

The test involves specialized sections for doctorsnurses, physiotherapists, and other areas of medicine and healthcare provision.

The OET is accepted as proof of English ability in places like the UK, the UAE, New Zealand, Australia, and Singapore.

What does the OET exam entail?

There are four sections to the OET exam:

1. Listening (approx 45 mins)

2. Reading (60 mins)

3. Writing (45 mins)

4. Speaking (approx 20 mins)


Part A – consultation extracts (about 5 minutes each)

Part A assesses your ability to identify specific information during a consultation. You will listen to two recorded health professional-patient consultations and you will complete the health professional’s notes using the information you hear. Note: the health professionals may be any one of the 12 professions who can take OET.

Part B – short workplace extracts (about 1 minute each)

Part B assesses your ability to identify the detail, gist, opinion or purpose of short extracts from the healthcare workplace. You will listen to six recorded extracts (e.g. team briefings, handovers, or health professional-patient dialogues) and you will answer one multiple-choice question for each extract.

Part C – presentation extracts (about 5 minutes each)

Part C assesses your ability to follow a recorded presentation or interview on a range of accessible healthcare topics. You will listen to two different extracts and you will answer six multiple-choice questions for each extract.


Part A – expeditious reading task (15 minutes)

Part A assesses your ability to locate specific information from four short texts in a quick and efficient manner. The four short texts relate to a single healthcare topic, and you must answer 20 questions in the allocated time period. The 20 questions consist of matching, sentence completion and short answer questions.

Part B and Part C – careful reading tasks (45 minutes)

Part B assesses your ability to identify the detail, gist or main point of six short texts sourced from the healthcare workplace (100-150 words each). The texts might consist of extracts from policy documents, hospital guidelines, manuals or internal communications, such as emails or memos. For each text, there is one three-option multiple-choice question.

Part C assesses your ability to identify detailed meaning and opinion in two texts on topics of interest to healthcare professionals (800 words each). For each text, you must answer eight four-option multiple choice questions.


  • The task is to write a letter, usually a referral letter. Some alternative letter types are a letter of transfer and a letter of discharge. A letter to advise or inform a patient, carer or group is sometimes used in Pharmacy, Veterinary Science and occasionally for Speech Pathology and Occupational Therapy. Another task variation, with a different focus, is a written response to a complaint (for Radiography).

  • Along with the task instructions, you will receive stimulus material (case notes and/or other related documentation) which includes information to use in your response.


In each Speaking test, your identity and profession are checked by the interlocutor and there is a short warm-up conversation about your professional background. Then the role-plays are introduced one by one and you have three minutes to prepare for each. The role-plays take about five minutes each.

How is the OET exam scored?

The exam is scored by 0-500, with 500 being the highest possible grade.

What is the expiry date of the exam?

The exam certificate expires after 2 years of sitting the exam.

What resources are there to help me?

Official OET website - OET - English language test for healthcare professionals (



If so,

You may not need to take IELTS or OET.

The GMC accepts a recent primary medical qualification that has been taught and examined in English.

At least 75% of clinical interactions must have been conducted in English, including personal contact with patients, relatives and other health care professionals.

If your degree was over two years ago, the GMC asks for experience of practising for the preceding two years in a country where English is the first and native language.

A deans statement is usually required to evidence that your degree was taught and assessed in English and 75% of clinical interaction is in English.

bottom of page