OET Corner – Soft Skills for Speaking

Doctors and Nurses celebrating OET Reading Part A

OET Speaking

If you ever thought that soft skills were unnecessary for OET speaking then you were, and are, very much mistaken! The updated OET speaking sub-test has a greater focus on how healthcare professionals appear to patients. Attitude and approach are taken into consideration when marking candidates’ role plays.

Where do soft skills fit in?

As you know, the nine point speaking criteria covers:

    • intelligibility
    • fluency
    • appropriateness of language
    • resources of grammar and expression
    • relationship building
    • understanding and incorporating the patient’s perspective
    • providing structure
    • information gathering
    • information giving

Although soft skills (personal qualities that enable you to communicate well with others) are a component of many criteria, I feel that they are most present in ‘appropriateness of language’. This is defined by OET as how well a candidate uses language, register and tone that are appropriate to the situation and patient. To me, this means using a combination of empathy and lay language, with some technical language where suitable.

sign encouraging language for empathy

Empathy and Active Listening

Active listening is one of the most important skills a healthcare professional has. Paying attention and showing through body language that their doctor or nurse is listening immediately builds a relationship with the patient and establishes a rapport. Asking meaningful questions in response to a patient’s statement shows that you have heard their concerns.

A large part of active listening is allowing the patient to finish speaking before you ask your question or state your opinion. When a patient feels interrupted, the rapport is broken and they may feel their healthcare professional has, at best ignored them or at worst been arrogant. Not the ideal impression to make.

body diagram and labels

Plain English please

Deciding on what kind of language to use can be challenging. Technical or plain English? A mixture of both is fine as long as you make sure that you always give an explanation with any technical term you use. If possible though, avoid technical language when you can.

Showing empathy with active listening and using understandable English when speaking with patients is the basis of achieving the ‘appropriateness of language’ criteria. To point you in the right direction, I’ve put together a short infographic. If you have any questions or want to talk about the speaking sub-test, get in touch!

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