Many healthcare students (nurses, doctors, dentists etc) are confused when it comes to IELTS or OET for Medical professionals to aid their dream of higher studies in Canada or UK or Australia etc. We at Sahasriya provide the right set of counselling for students in pursuing the right course for their ambitions. So is it IELTS or OET for Medical professionals? A detailed whitepaper on these exams for medical professionals is presented as a two-part Series. Here is Series-1

This article will show you the similarities and differences between the two English tests and also show you which one is easier and/or more suitable for you.


At the end of the day, they are both English tests. That might seem obvious but it’s also very important because it directly affects the advice we are going to give you.

They both test four English skills, namely reading, listening, speaking, and writing.

For both tests, you will be given a score that will determine your current level of English.

Your decision will depend on the main differences between the two tests, therefore, we will focus mostly on the key differences: 

Difference # 1- Context

The main difference is the context within which each test is taken.

The IELTS test will test your English within the context of a wide variety of topics. The OET will test your ability within the context of your medical profession. Therefore, if you are a nurse or a doctor, you will be tested on things related to your job.

Many see this as the main reason to take OET instead of IELTS. However, this is not as big a consideration as you might think, as we detail the procedure for each of these tests.

Difference # 2- Cost & Availability

IELTS is much cheaper than OET and is available in more places. In India, presently preparation for IELTS with Sahasriya has benefited thousands of students which can be leveraged by IELTS aspirants

There are also more IELTS test dates available than OET.

Difference # 3- Preparation

They are both English tests, so a good level of general English is required, but there are also key differences in ‘test skills’. Therefore, the preparation for each test will be different.

You will have to invest a significant amount of time and effort into preparing for each of them. If you have already invested a large amount of time in one, it may be a bad idea to throw that away and switch to the other.

There are also 3 million IELTS test takers every year and only 25,000 OET takers. This means that there are far more preparation options for IELTS, ranging from a huge number of free options to online courses and private tuition. The range for OET is rather limited.

IELTS or OET for medical professionals
IELTS or OET for Medical Professionals

Difference # 4- Acceptance

IELTS is viewed as the ‘gold standard’ and is accepted everywhere. OET is accepted by a smaller number of bodies and institutions.

IELTS may be a better choice if you are unsure of where you might work or study in the future.

Difference # 5- Retaking the test

One of the most frustrating things about IELTS is that if you fail one of the four skills, you have to take all four again. This is very disappointing for students who struggle with only writing.

An OET candidate can ‘bank’ the higher scores and focus only on the skills they ‘failed’. For us, this is the biggest benefit of OET and one that IELTS should consider introducing.

EDIT: Few updates on OET – certain boards/institutions require you to take all four modules at the same time, even for OET. We do not want this white-paper article to mislead anyone, so please double check with the body you are applying to before making any final decisions

About Govind Desikan

AvatarGovind, a master of English language has taken to sharing his experience on English language and focus specifically on finer inputs on English language, IELTS and PTE exams through his posts here.

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