This is really the point of the OET. You are not expected to rote learn dialogues or learn chunks of text by heart. You are being tested on your ability to understand the language in both forms (spoken and written) and respond appropriately. Despite this, you need to start somewhere so, here are some ideas for you to use as you prepare for the test.
Before I list the ideas, I would like to stress an important aspect of your preparation. That is, it takes time! The length of time it will take depends on several points:
1. What is your starting level of English? - don't try to deal with complex language if you are still at Pre-Intermediate Level (B1-B2). Sometimes, students look at material at B1-B2 level and think that it is too easy for the test. This may be true,however, if you are still struggling at B1 level, you are not ready for the test. Spend time making sure that you know the basics - general language functions. Remember that more complex communication strategies like hedging or dealing with difficult conversations build on basic communication strategies.
2. How well can you skim over a paragraph and pick out the key terms? You need to be able to do this quickly and accurately for the reading test.
3. Can you identify key terms when someone is talking? You need to be able to predict or guess the words you are likely to hear. Remember that words you can read easily may sound quite different when they are spoken.
Speaking: write your own script for the sort of things you think you'll need to say. This will make you feel a bit more confident even if you have to adapt your dialogue for each role play.Some suggestions:
* explaining how to look after a dressing at home.
* explaining about pain relief after an operation
* explaining about eating and drinking after a tooth extraction
* advising about suture removal
* suggesting ways to change diet /exercise habits
Dealing with difficult conversations
Lately, I have had a lot of requests for help in dealing with difficult conversations. Firstly, understand that these are not easy for most of us but we can all learn to manage them better. Some of the scenarios may be:
1. anxious mother/father whose daughter/son is in the middle of an operation. The parent keeps insisting that you let them into the operation.
2. patient who is terminally ill but insists on going home, refuses help and claims that s/he can manage alone. Refuses admission to the hospice or nursing home.
3. young mother whose baby may have jaundice/tries to discharge herself before blood test result back.
4. Patient refuses to take medication because friend says that a herbal remedy is much better. Test results indicate a serious infection which must be treated with antibiotics.
As in real life, you need to 'put yourself in the patient's shoes'. Imagine how they must be feeling (frightened,worried,determined) and start by respecting their feelings.
Empathise: I can see this must be difficult for you. / I understand this is very hard for you.
Remember that you should never say ' I know how you feel' because you don't! You can only imagine how the person feels.
Explain why it is important for them to do something.Acknowledge their concerns first.
I know that you really want to see your daughter now but it's not possible. She's in the middle of an operation so we are not allowed in until she arrives in Recovery.
Negotiate when they insist on an action or when they refuse to accept what you say.
Would you be willing to wait here until the surgeon can come out and speak to you?
Do you think you could wait a little longer for the test results before you decide to go home?
What if the patient insists?
This is difficult for most people to manage. The only way to manage such a situation is to repeat the reasons why you think it is important for them to listen to you. Then, whilst ensuring the patient understands that you respect their right to make their own choice, suggest giving them some information with a phone number to discuss the situation at a later stage. This is as close to an authentic situation as you can get.
Nurse: I appreciate that you have made a decision not to go to the hospice or a nursing home but perhaps you may change your mind later. Can I give you this information leaflet about the services available at the hospice? There is a phone number as well if you ever want to find out more.'
It's important not to keep insisting and very important not to sound judgemental at all.