Why do People not Pass their OET Exam?

Why do People not Pass their OET Exam?

 Like all exams, the Occupational English Test has many challenges.

Some of them are personal, some are strategic and some of them are skill-based.

In this blog, we can look at the most common reasons SET English have found for why test takers fail OET. The reasons have come from teacher experience and also from student feedback.

The key things to learn from this process are:

  • Most students don’t practise enough
  • A lot of students practise in the wrong way
  • A lot of students take the test before they are ready
  • Guidance from experts helps a lot
  • Feedback from experts is essential when choosing the correct test date


Here is a breakdown of the main issues:


Lack of Awareness

There are three main things that students are unaware of when taking the OET test:

Exam Format: Basic Structure

·       Reading – Part A, B,  C

·       Listening – Part A, B,  C

·       Writing – 1 task

·       Speaking – 2 tasks

Exam format 2: Question types

·       multiple choice

·       short answers

·       gap fill

·       matching

·       letter

·       speaking tasks

Criteria in Writing & Speaking

·       Understand what the examiners want!  Get to know the criteria!

Advice: OET Premium Providers can provide all of the basic information you need about the exam.





It can be difficult to manage confidence & stress

Students often say they panic, or feel stressed in the exam. Sometimes we cannot control these feelings but generally, these feelings are reduced when our confidence improves.

It’s important to have a realistic idea of your level before you go into OET. If you know that you can do the tasks to the correct level then you will feel more controlled and ready on the day of the test.

Additionally, when you practise at home, try doing it under timed conditions – like in the test.

Advice: Get feedback from a Premium Provider on your skills and performance.



Lack of Experience

How do we get experience?

1) Do mock tests: Be aware of the (limited) value of mock tests

·       1st mock test – format / question types

·       2nd mock test – continue learning about format  / question types

·       3rd mock test – how many right / how many wrong


2) Gain general experience of English:

·       Watch TV: GPs Behind Closed Doors / Surgeons on the Edge / 24 Hours in A&E / House / ER

·       Read: journals / magazines / newspapers

·       Websites: Breaking News English / Ted Talks

3) Gain experience of analysing your work: 

·       Ask yourself:  Why is option C correct? Why did you choose A? Why is my Content score low? Why was my Information Giving score 3?


There is no substitute for experience in understanding the exam or the English language. Don’t just do a couple of hours of exam prep and expect to be fully experienced. You need to immerse yourself in the exam and the language.

Premium Providers will provide personal analysis of performance, and review questions, texts, audio and tasks in classes. It’s important to understand how questions/answers work.



Lack of Practice / Incorrect Practice

A lot of students don’t practise enough and when they do, they don’t always practise the right things


1) Practise with colleagues: Find tasks you can make for each other

For example, you can take an article like the one above and do scanning exercises:

1) direct scanning: look for the word ‘ invitations’

2) indirect scanning: look for a word that means ’made for specifically one person’


2) Perfect Practice makes Perfect: 

Use official materials, with guidance from experts. Practising with unofficial Youtube or internet materials has very limited value and, in some cases, can mislead students.


Practise more! Practise with colleagues, and practise in the correct ways. if you need advice in this respect, speak to a Premium Provider.



Lack of Comprehension

Many students neglect their language studies and focus only on strategy. 

In Reading and Listening people often do not understand / do not understand quickly enough. This affects answer accuracy and time management. In Writing, if you have great sentence structure you can easily create the sentences and paragraphs you need.

Grammar: sentence structure, linkers, passive, tense

Put in 30 minutes a day on the basics

Vocabulary: make note of all vocabulary and check with colleagues

Always improve! Every day – read / watch, add to your vocab lists



Language is an ongoing aspect of the Occupational English Test. Don’t forget it – improvement will help with every aspect of the exam.


Lack of Strategy

Lots of students don’t think closely about how they do specific tasks

Not all strategies fit for everybody. So find strategies that fit you.

Have a strategy for every aspect of the exam, for example:

·       Technique for how to answer questions

·       Planning techniques in writing and speaking

·       Planning techniques in Listening Part B and C

·       Preparation techniques for Reading Part A and Listening Part A

·       Elimination

·       Time Management


Premium Providers can help you with these strategies. Sign up and learn how to approach all areas of the exam confidently.


Study Path

A lot of students ask SET how they should start their studies.   


Study Path for OET:

1) Learn about the exam

2) Learn strategies & techniques

3) Practise with strategies & techniques

4) Always be developing your language

5) Get feedback on your performance

6) Make an informed decision about your test date


Be realistic: Study takes time. Study requires planning. Understand what the next few months will involve and don’t take the test until you know you are ready.


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