OET Letter Format: Did you know?
So many students have questions about the OET letter format. How many paragraphs should I write?; Is there a right or wrong way to finish?; Do I need to use capital letters in the address?
We'll take a look at the answers to your questions and give you some extra writing tips too!
1. Is there a difference between ‘Yours sincerely’ and ‘Yours faithfully’?
We use 'Yours sincerely' when you know the recipient's name, and in the majority of cases, in the OET case notes, they will give you the name of the person you are writing to. E.g. They may say, "Write a letter to the patient's GP, Dr. Josephine Pinto..." and so you would start, "Dear Dr. Pinto"
and you would end,
In case they don't give you a name, just a job title - e.g. "Write to the Physiotherapist", then you would start,
We don't typically use other endings, such as "Kind regards / Best wishes" etc as these are not so typical in professional letter writing.
2. Should I sign my name at the end of the letter?
No, don't write or sign your name, just write your job title (Nurse, Doctor, etc).
3. How many paragraphs should I write?
There is no set requirement for the number of paragraphs you should write. Between 3 and 5 is normal.
The opening / introduction
The treatment received
The discharge notes
4. Do I need to use a closing sentence? Is it counted in the word count of the letter?
A closing sentence is best practice for a healthcare letter as it shows formal, polite respect to the recipient. It will not be included in your final word count by the assessors.
You can end by saying something like, "Please do not hesitate to contact me should you have any further questions."
5. Which parts of the address should be in capital letters?
The names of people, job titles, and names of streets, suburbs, cities, etc should be capitalised. Here’s an example:
Dr. Peter Jones Osterly Practice
79 Woodlands Street Carlton Vale
6. Where and how should I write the date?
You can write it on the left-hand-side, or the right, after the address. It's typical to use the full form rather than numbers at the start of your letter. E.g. 21 October 2022
7. What else can I write on the reference line? Should I write the address or marital status?
Just write the patient’s full name and date of birth, and make sure you copy these down carefully from the case notes. If no date of birth is provided, you can include the patient’s age in the reference line.
Don't include the patient’s home address, marital status, occupation or other details. You may need to include some of this information in the body paragraphs if the information is relevant ot the case and ongoing care.
8. Am I marked according to the number of lines I write?
No. Everyone has different-sized handwriting, you are only marked on the number of words in your letter.
9. Which part of the letter is counted in the word limit of 180-200 words?
Only the main body paragraphs are counted in your word limit. This starts with your opening paragraph and ends with the last body paragraph.
10. Can I write the whole letter in block capitals?
Yes, if you are taking OET on paper but you must keep it consistent throughout the letter: if you start writing in capital letters, you need to write the whole letter in capital letters. You may need to practise doing this beforehand, because it usually takes longer to write everything in CAPITALS.
Don't use block capitals if you are taking the computerised test.
11. How many lines should I leave between sections of the letter?
You should leave at least one blank line in between the main body paragraphs, so that's it's nice and clear where one paragraph stops and another one starts.
Don't write your whole letter on every other line, it does not assist the reader particularly.
12. Can I write below the last line of the page in order to finish off my letter?
We don’t recommend this. You are welcome to use all the lined paper you are given for your letter so use the lines on the next page to finish the letter. Even if you just have to write the 'Yours sincerely, Doctor' part, use a new page to do so.
13. Will I be given rough paper to plan my letter on?
There is space on the back of the writing booklet for you to write notes and do rough work. This will not be marked.
Make sure you take time to plan your letter. Select the information needed and put it in order of priority. You don't have time to write a 'rough' letter, so after planning, start writing your letter in 'neat' straight away.
14. Do you accept British or American spelling?
British or American versions of spelling are equally acceptable but you should be consistent with the version that you use during the letter.
My advice, in general, would be, get used to the style of English that the country you are planning to work in uses, so change your computer and phone to Australian English if you are moving to Australia, and to UK English if you are planning to move to the UK or Ireland etc. This will make life easier for you in the long run.