I have never hidden my opinion that it is more useful for healthcare professionals to undertake a language test which will provide an idea of whether they can function safely in a healthcare environment. Having said that, the decision has been made that nurses must do the IELTS and pass the IELTS at a minimum of 7.0 across all subtests. This approximately equates to OET Level B.
The new regulations have caused a bit of turmoil, especially as few people seem to have kept the date of change in mind. The change was brought in last January (2016) and will really 'bite' in June this year.
What do I recommend for those attempting IELTS?
1. Find out what your current level of English is.
There are several sites where you can check this:
The Cambridge English site (pick Business English)
The Language Level website
Exam English - Listening Test
2. Make a study plan, if you need to increase your level of English. Remember that it may take several months of study to increase from 4.5 to 7.0. You can retest your level every so often, to see how you are going.
The British Council site has some free hints.
A SIMPLE HINT: Do little and often! It is more valuable to do half and hour of efficient study every day than two hours of efficient study every weekend.
Some of the areas you can improve:
Vocabulary: IELTS is a general English exam, so you need to have a wide vocabulary. Read newspaper articles and magazines and make a list of ten new words in the article. Find out how to pronounce them, if you don't already know. Write them in a note-book. Read each word, say it and cover it. Now write it down. Find out its meaning. Enlist the help of a friend or family member - say the word and explain its meaning.
Reading: Check the British Council website for useful hints. Read widely - remember that IELTS can use texts from any field. It's a good idea to read something different each day, e.g. a health article, an article about new technology, an article about the Arts, an article about culture or music.
Listening: Listen to podcasts, taking notes and summarising as you do so. Some examples are:
ESL Podcasts (American accent)
Podcasts in English
Finally, even though IELTS is different from OET, you can still use OET materials for IELTS. Check out the samples on the website - you can try sample materials for each profession.