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IELTS and OET are language proficiency tests for non-native English speakers. IELTS offers more test formats being Academic and General Training, each with four components, while OET has only one format specifically for healthcare professionals. IELTS is more versatile as it caters to a wider range of purposes, making it a better option for those seeking academic or general employment opportunities.

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IELTS or OET: Understand the difference

The OET test assesses the language skills of candidates in listening, reading, writing, and speaking, with content and scenarios specifically related to the healthcare industry.

With IELTS every part of the test can be on a different topic which may or may not be related to healthcare, allowing test takers to gain a better understanding of the English language outside of the healthcare environment as well.

Advantages and disadvantages of taking OET



OET is tailored specifically to the healthcare industry with content and scenarios relevant only if you are a healthcare professional.

OET is designed only for healthcare professionals, limiting its usefulness for individuals outside of the healthcare industry.

OET is recognised and accepted by regulatory healthcare bodies.

OET is more expensive than IELTS.

OET is administered in fewer test centres than other general language proficiency tests.

OET does not have a dedicated test targeting academic testing for general education acceptance outside of healthcare.

Canada does not recognise OET for general migration

OET is not accepted by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) as proof of English language proficiency for immigration purposes, except for healthcare professionals seeking to work in Canada. This means that if you are not a healthcare professional, you cannot use OET as proof of language proficiency to immigrate to Canada.

OET and IELTS test format comparison

OET is available on three test types. OET on Paper, OET on Computer and OET @ Home. The duration of the test is around 3 hours and 30 minutes. Like IELTS, it measures a test taker's proficiency in reading, listening, writing and speaking but particularly in a healthcare context.

IELTS in contrast has a much more flexible test format that caters to a wide range of test takers, including those who are studying, working, or migrating. It has two versions: the Academic and General Training. The test consists of four sections: Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking, and takes around 2 hours and 45 minutes to complete. Unlike OET, IELTS is not specific to healthcare professionals and can be used for a variety of purposes. It is accepted by over 11,500 organisations worldwide - including Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship (IRCC Canada) - making it widely recognised and versatile language proficiency test.

IELTS is trusted worldwide

IELTS remains to be the more widely recognised English language proficiency test globally, with over 11,500 organizations in more than 140 countries accepting it as proof of English language proficiency. In comparison, OET is only accepted in 18 countries by over 200 universities, colleges and departments.

IELTS or OET: Which test is more reliable?

In contrast to OET, IELTS has been around longer, and there has been extensive research and continuous improvement around the test's validity and reliability, which are essential factors in determining the fairness of any assessment. Over the years, transparent systems and standards for test administration, scoring, and reporting have been developed which ensure greater reliability and accuracy of results.

"The study materials and mock tests available on the IELTS website were quite useful. With their help, I achieved a band score of 7.5, which brought me closer to fulfilling my dream of migration." Nikhil from Jaipur, India.

Even for studying in Canada, IELTS is the obvious choice

Recently, the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) announced changes to the English test requirements for the Student Direct Stream (SDS) study permit. Under the new changes that go live on 10 August 2023, IELTS Academic test takers no longer need a 6.0 score on all individual skills. Instead, only a 6.0 overall score is sufficient to help them meet the English proficiency requirement for SDS.

Alternatives to OET on paper, OET on computer and OET@Home

While OET Is healthcare specific, if you’re looking for an alternative to improve your understanding of the English language overall, IELTS is a great option for several reasons.

IELTS offers both Academic and General Training are both already accepted by the Canadian Government for immigration, unlike OET. Only healthcare departments of Canada accept OET for migration, which can limit you if you are not in the healthcare sector.

IELTS is also recognised by more than 11,500 organizations worldwide, including universities, immigration departments, and professional bodies. This means that by taking IELTS, you’ll have access to a wider range of opportunities, both domestically and internationally.

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