GMC accepts new English language test

OVERSEAS doctors who want to work in the UK can now sit an alternative, more practical English language test.

The General Medical Council will now accept the Occupational English Test (OET), as an alternative to the International English Language Test System (IELTS) it already accepts, as proof of a doctor’s language competency.

The IELTS has faced criticism for being overly academic and irrelevant to day-to-day healthcare. Example writing tests have included the history of elephants and how to make jam.

In contrast, the OET is designed specifically for healthcare professionals and includes real scenarios similar to those they would be likely to encounter in typical workplace situations. The test is already accepted by the UK’s Nursing and Midwifery Council, the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland, and authorities in Australia and New Zealand.

GMC chief executive Charlie Massey said: “We have reviewed the OET thoroughly and are confident that, as well as giving more flexibility for doctors keen to work in the UK, it will continue to ensure that only those with a high level of English will reach the required standard.

“We are giving overseas doctors an alternative way of demonstrating their English skills, but without reducing the high standards we require and that patients would expect.”

The OET assesses reading, writing, listening and speaking skills with an emphasis on communication in a healthcare environment. Doctors need to achieve grade B in each of the four domains tested in the OET to meet the GMC’s requirements.

The OET is more expensive and has fewer test locations than the IELTS, although OET pass rates are marginally higher.