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IELTS Exam, OET, and PTE for Nurses in the USA

When considering living and working abroad as a nursing professional, how to start your journey can be overwhelming. One of the most challenging and misunderstood pieces of this process is taking and passing an English language exam. Let us take you through some of the English language exam options you will need to consider in order to start your US visa application process. In this article, we will look at the IELTS, OET and PTE exams and what an international healthcare worker will need to in order to work in the USA as a nurse.

What is the IELTS exam? 

The IELTS (International English Language Testing System) is an exam which tests your ability to read, write, listen and speak in English. It consists of four subtests, one for each skill, which are scored on a scale of 1 (non-user) to 9 (expert user) and contribute to an overall grade out of 9. There are two different types of IELTS test - General and Academic - which test your use of English in everyday life as well as in more formal or academic situations. The total test time is 2 hours 45 minutes, and the Speaking test can be completed on a different day to the other subtests. Universities and other organizations in the USA accept the IELTS exam as an indicator of your English language capabilities, as do healthcare employers. In order to work as a nurse in the USA, you will need an overall IELTS band score of 6.5, with a 7 in Speaking. 

In the Reading and Listening tests, candidates read or listen to short extracts and answer questions. There are a range of question types, such as multiple choice, short answer and information matching. The Reading texts are taken from authentic material, such as articles, magazines and newspapers, while the listening audios range from everyday conversations to formal monologues. In the Writing test, there are two tasks to complete. Task 1 is to describe and summarize a graph, chart, diagram or table for the IELTS Academic test, or to write a letter for the IELTS General test. Task 2 requires you to write an essay. The Speaking test consists of three parts, which is conducted as an interview with an examiner.

Why should I choose the IELTS exam as a Nurse in the USA?

The IELTS is the most popular test for people who want to work, live or study in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada and is also widely accepted by institutions in the USA. Because of its popularity, there are over 1200 test centers in more than 140 countries around the world, making it easily accessible for most candidates. Each country and institution has its own entry requirements in terms of grade, which candidates should check before taking the test. The IELTS can be taken either on paper or on a computer, which offers the flexibility to choose the preferred method of delivery. The IELTS exam date should be booked in advance to give you as much time as possible to prepare successfully.

Many people choose IELTS because it is considered to be a proven, comprehensive test of your English, and is widely recognized by thousands of institutions throughout the world.

What is OET? 

OET (Occupational English Test) is a test for healthcare professionals who need to demonstrate a certain level of English in order to work in English-speaking countries and medical institutions. Like the IELTS, the OET tests a candidate’s reading, writing, listening and speaking, however, the key difference is that the entire exam is based on situations in a medical context. Each OET subtest is scored out of 500, with your score being mapped to a letter grade (A being the highest, E being the lowest). There is no overall score like in IELTS, and candidates need to be aware of the specific requirements that their destination country or institution has for each subtest. The total test time is approximately 3 hours and, like IELTS, the Speaking test can be taken on a different day. OET tests for nurses and doctors is the most common route for finding jobs in the healthcare sector in the UK and now in the USA.

The Reading and Listening tests are the same for all professions, and require candidates to answer questions based on extracts from a range of situations that may be encountered in a medical environment. The Speaking test is specific to your profession. It consists of two role plays with a patient or caregiver, and tests your ability to communicate in spoken English and use appropriate language to support and empathize with the interlocutor. The Writing test is also profession-specific, and requires you to write a letter to a patient, caregiver or other health professional, providing information for continued care. 

Why should I choose the OET exam? 

One of the main advantages of taking the OET exam is that it is designed for medical language proficiency. This does not necessarily mean that the test is easier, but it does help equip you with the skills you need in order to do your job in English to the best of your ability. The fact that the exam tests your use of English in real-life, healthcare situations may also help you to feel more confident on test day. OET is accepted by healthcare regulators in many countries such as Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Ireland, Canada, Singapore and more recently in the USA. You can now apply to the USA as a nurse using your OET score. This makes it a good option for anyone wanting to live and work in these countries. The OET can be taken on paper or on a computer at over 160 test centers around the world. In countries which do not have a test center, OET is now offering an option to take the test on your computer at home, which gives flexibility to candidates who are unable to get to a test venue. To give yourself the best chance of success, you need to ensure that you have prepared adequately with as much advance notice of your test date as possible.

Many people choose OET because they prefer the medical content of the exam. It is also becoming more widely recognized, making it a good option for many healthcare professionals who want to work in an English-speaking country.

To set you up for OET exam success, we recommend you take an online preparation course that works for you with the international nursing agency's OET Premium Preparation Providers.

What is PTE? 

PTE (Pearson Test of English) tests your reading, writing, listening and speaking in an entirely computer-based test. Your use of English is tested in real-life, academic situations, and your results can be used by universities and government institutions to demonstrate your ability to live or study in an English-speaking country. Candidates are scored against the Global Scale of English, which uses a scale of 10-90 for each skill and gives an overall score based on performance across the entire test. The total exam time is 2 hours and all the tests are taken in one session on a computer. The PTE academic test is quick and easily accessible that makes it an appropriate option for many candidates.

The test is divided into three parts. The longest section of the test is Speaking and Writing, and contains seven different question types which test your ability to speak and write in an academic context. The Reading section includes questions such as multiple choice, reorder paragraphs and fill in the blanks. In the Listening section, you will answer different types of questions based on audio and video clips. Since the PTE is an integrated skills test, some questions may test more than one skill, for example, listening and speaking. Passing the PTE test can be made easy with the right kind of training and preparation. 

Why should I choose the PTE exam? 

PTE is a convenient option for those who prefer a computer-based test which is taken in one sitting. There are no human examiners in PTE as all scoring is done using artificial intelligence, which some candidates may prefer. Results are also delivered relatively quickly, usually within 48 hours of sitting the test, which is faster than many other exams. PTE is accepted by over 3000 institutions worldwide, as well as the UK, New Zealand and Australian governments for visa purposes, making it a good option for people who wish to live or study in those countries. PTE also offers an at-home test for those who cannot reach a test centre. However, this version of the test is currently not available for visa purposes, so it is recommended to check which institutions accept this version of the test. 

Candidates usually choose PTE because they prefer the experience of a computer-based test which doesn’t require human interaction. It is also widely accepted as proof of English ability, particularly by universities and educational institutions.

How long will it take to get the score I need?

To answer this question, you need to know where you currently are with your English and where you need to be. First, you should decide which exam you are going to take and what score you need. Then, you should take a mock exam in order to find out your current score. Once you have this information you need to think about how much time per week you can realistically spend on exam preparation. Once you have all of this information, you will be able to get an idea of how long it will take. For example, to improve your IELTS band score by 1, you will need around 200 hours of study. 

How do I prepare for the exam?

Once you have taken a mock exam and worked out which areas you need to improve, you should make a study schedule which includes time for independent study, such as writing practice, as well as study with a teacher, such as live classes. It is important to do plenty of exam practice and receive regular feedback from a qualified teacher so that you can progress more quickly. You should also try to incorporate English into as much of your life as possible, such as spending time listening to podcasts and reading the news, as this will help you to feel more confident and familiar with the language. Remember to also make time for relaxing and keep your study goals achievable and realistic. 

To sum up, there are a few things to consider when selecting between IELTS for nurses, OET and PTE. Firstly, you should check which tests are accepted by the country or institution you are applying to. Secondly, you should consider whether you have a preference for a paper or computer-based test, as PTE does not offer a paper-based version. It is also worth considering the content of each test. Some healthcare professionals prefer the familiarity of the medical content of OET, but it is worth noting that this does not necessarily mean the test is easier. Arguably, it is worth considering that OET will also set you up for greater job competence in English, given that it is designed for nurses and other medical professionals. While each test has its own benefits, your choice should be made based on your individual circumstances, taking into account your destination and preferences when it comes to all of the above information. Having an expert teacher-led course with quality materials and feedback is proven to get you the results you need as quickly as possible.

If you would like to live and work as a nurse or allied healthcare professional in the USA, Connetics USA will match you with a direct hire position in a US Healthcare facility. Apply now to start your American Dream!