It was interesting for me to be on the 'teacher' side of the desk, rather than the 'writer of materials' side of the desk. It gave me the chance to make a few observations. These are:
1) The subtests in general
It is very important to understand the structure of the tests, so you can practise and become familiar with the form your answers will take. Take the writing subtest - You need to be able to write a letter which can be clearly understood and one which makes sense. Your ideas should 'flow' in a logical way. For example:
Paragraph 1: Should state why you are writing
* to refer for ongoing care and support (community nurses)
* to refer for a review of the case and advice on further management (doctor to a specialist)
* to refer for a specialist programme after discharge, e.g. rehab ( nurse/ doctor to physio/ OT)
* to refer (or transfer) to a nursing home / hospice for care after discharge
In paragraph 1, you should also introduce the patient, giving relevant medical and social background information as well as medication information, if needed.
Paragraph 2: Explain recent treatment/ surgery in hospital. Outline any complications that occurred or reasons why the patient may need assistance or further management after discharge.
Paragraph 3: Usually the time that you ask for the help for an issue which has triggered the need for referral. For example, the patient may not be well enough after surgry to manage personal care and not have family close by to help. The patient may have a dressing to be done after discharge. The patient may need blood tests and review by the GP after discharge.
So, paragraph 3 is often the 'request' paragraph. What you are saying is 'I've explained about the patient and why s/he needs your help. Now, could you please ......?
2) The role plays in the speaking subtest.
These also follow a format, always with the awareness that the interlocutor (playing the part of the patient/carer/relative) will try to take you off track.
Read the tasks carefully and plan your dialogue, so that you can cover all the tasks.
Identify the language functions you are going to display - explaining something, giving gentle advice/ suggesting, giving strong advice/ warning about serious consequences.
Finally, never forget that your 'patient' is supposed to be someone with no medical knowledge or limited knowledge. You need to be able to talk in terms that your 'patient' will understand. Think of some of the procedures/ blood tests/ operations, you may have to explain during the role play. Write down 3 or 4 points which you will use in your explanation and practise with a friend.
For example, a podiatrist explaining to a patient how s/he will treat an ingrown toenail which has become very painful.
You will notice, that I gave an example for a podiatrist. This is because each of the 12 professions uses the same language functions in order to communicate well. Everyone has to explain something, speak empathetically, persuade patients to do something they don't want to do, give advice, make suggestions about lifestyle changes, respond to complaints, talk about embarrassing or sensative topics etc.
This means that you can look at any role play examples and 'rewrite' them for your profession, especially if there are few resources for your profesion, e.g. optometry, radiography or podiatry.
The heading of the blog today refers to the benefit of class-room teaching. Whilst I am a great fan of Blended Learning and online courses ( I write them after all!), I think f2f teaching and learning has an important place in OET preparation. Many candidates I speak to or receive comments from, access materials which are outdated or incorrect, when they practise OET skills. Some try to learn role plays off by heart - a disaster! A good preparation class gives you and your teacher the opportunity of pinpointing where the issues are - where you are going wrong, in effect.