Sheryll Vigilla Apr 20, 2022 6:14:20 AM 26 min read


Choosing OET over IELTS is better or not?

18 April 2022 | Sarah Shaikh | 5 min read

Your OET or IELTS score can define your future in the UK. But what's the difference between the two and which test should you take if you're applying as a skilled worker? Keep reading to find out more about these two internationally recognized English tests.


1. Knowledge of English 

You’ll usually need to prove your knowledge of the English language when you apply for a skilled worker visa for the UK unless you did this in a previous successful visa application. 


Who does not need to prove their knowledge of English?

You do not need to prove your knowledge of English if you’re a national of one of the following countries:

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Australia
  • the Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Canada
  • Dominica
  • Grenada
  • Guyana
  • Jamaica
  • Malta
  • New Zealand
  • St Kitts and Nevis
  • St Lucia
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • USA

2. Level of English 

You must prove you can read, write, speak and understand English to at least level B1 on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) scale.

You can prove your knowledge of English by:

  • passing a Secure English Language Test (SELT) from an

approved provider
  • having a GCSE, A level, Scottish National Qualification level 4 or 5, Scottish Higher or Advanced Higher in English, gained through study at a UK school that you began when you were under 18

  • having a degree-level academic qualification that was taught in English - if you studied abroad, you’ll need to apply through Ecctis (formerly UK NARIC) for confirmation that your qualification is equivalent to a UK bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, or PhD

Read more here:

3. What is IELTS?  

The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is designed to help you work, study or migrate to a country where English is the native language. This includes countries such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK, and the USA. There are 4 exams that test your ability to listen, read, write and speak in English. IELTS is graded on a scale of 1-9—9 is the perfect score. A high score in IELTS reflects a better understanding and ability to communicate in English. Each immigration body, university, workplace, or institution will have specific IELTS score requirements. The score you need will depend on what you are looking to do in the country, i.e work or study. 

The score requirements for the skilled worker visa route in the UK:

Skilled worker visa for senior carers and other skilled workers: the minimum overall IELTS band score requirement is 4.0, equivalent to CEFR level B1. 

For nurses: applicants must achieve a 7.0 IELTS score in the reading, listening, and speaking sections, 6.5 in writing, and 7.0 overall.

Type of IELTS exam type applicants need to take:

When applying to the UK, you are required to sit for the IELTS for UKVI, which is approved by the UK Home Office for school or work migration purposes. The module type for senior carers and skilled workers is General Training. Nurses aspiring to be UKRN, on the other hand, are required to sit for the Academic Module. The IELTS Writing and Reading tests are different from the Academic and General Training tests. The Academic test will contain topics suitable for anyone entering university or professional institutions. The General Training test will contain topics based on general interest. 

You can choose to take IELTS on a computer or on paper for both the General Training and Academic tests.

The test format, question types, time allocated to each test part, and content is the same for both IELTS on computer and IELTS on the paper test. The only difference is in your test day experience.

If you choose to complete your IELTS test on a computer, you will do the Reading, Listening, and Writing parts of the test using a computer. The IELTS Speaking test remains the same, with a face-to-face interview with an examiner. The Speaking test will be completed either just before, or just after the Reading, Listening, and Writing test.

If you take IELTS on paper, you will complete the Reading, Listening, and Writing parts on paper. The Speaking test is completed in a face-to-face interview with an IELTS examiner, and this can be done one week before or after your test date. In the IELTS on the paper test, the Writing, Reading, and Listening tests are all completed on the same day with no breaks between each test.

4. What is OET?

The Occupational English Test (OET) is an English Language Test for healthcare professionals. It is recognized by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) and the General Medical Council (GMC) in the UK and Ireland. The IELTS exam generally tests academic English whereas the OET tests your knowledge of medical English. This includes your ability to understand patients, conduct medical consultations and write discharge and referral letters. 

While there are two versions of the IELTS exam (Academic & General Training) there are 12 versions of the OET for different healthcare professions including nurses, doctors, dentists, pharmacists, optometrists, podiatrists, occupational therapists, vets, speech pathologists, dieticians, physiotherapists, and radiographers. Every part of the exam is related to real workplace scenarios for healthcare professionals. 

The writing exam assesses your ability to communicate effectively when writing in a healthcare context (e.g. a letter of referral). 

The speaking exam assesses your ability to communicate effectively in the workplace (e.g. building relationships with your patients) in the format of role plays. 

IELTS is marked out of 9 with a separate score for each test. OET is marked from A to E with an accompanying numerical score to show your precise grade. OET is recognized by healthcare regulatory bodies in the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Dubai, Ukraine, and Namibia. Meanwhile, IELTS is recognized by universities, healthcare regulatory bodies, immigration authorities, and companies across the world. 

The nursing & midwifery council (NMC) accepts an OET examination certificate that confirms you achieved: at least a grade C+ in the writing section, and at least a grade B in the reading, listening, and speaking sections. A grade of B on the OET exam is the equivalent of an IELTS band score of 7.0. 

OET vs IELTS: Differences 





International English Language Testing System 

Occupational English Test 


Tests academic English 

Tests knowledge of medical/occupational English 

Who is it for? 

For students and skilled workers 

For healthcare professionals 


2 versions:  


1) academic and  

2) general training 

12 versions for different healthcare professions:  


Nurses, doctors, dentists, pharmacists, optometrists, podiatrists, occupational therapists, vets, speech pathologists, dieticians, physiotherapists, and radiographers 


1 – 9 band scale 

A – E marking scale 

Exam Fee 

Around £185 

Around £329 


Passing rate for nurses 

7.0 IELTS score in the reading, listening and speaking sections, 6.5 in writing and 7.0 overall 

At least a grade C+ in the writing section, and at least a grade B in the reading, listening and speaking sections 

Passing rate for senior carers 

Minimum 4.0 overall band score 

Not applicable 



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Sheryll Vigilla

Head Instructor OSCE Training