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Writing your OET Letter with Purpose

There are 6 different categories that the OET examiners use to assess your letter. The first one is Purpose.

Watch our video to find out more about it or keep reading.

Writing with Purpose

When you’re planning and writing any formal letter you have to think about its purpose.

Why are you writing it? Who’s going to read it? What do you want them to do? And how easy is it for them to find and understand your requests?

Because the OET is designed to replicate situations you’ll face in your everyday working life, purpose is one of the criteria you’ll be assessed on.

The way they do this is by looking to see if the purpose is:

  1. Immediately apparent (Why are you writing it? Who’s going to read it? What do you want them to do?)

  2. Sufficiently expanded (how easy is it for the reader to understand your requests?)

How can you do this?

Well, you can think about two things here:

  1. Why are you writing this letter to this particular person? Why is it going to Person A and not Person B?

  1. Why have you decided to write the letter today? Why not last week or next month? What’s prompted you to write - is it because your patient needs further advice, treatment or support? Or does your patient need to be transferred or discharged?

You’ll be able to find this information in the actual writing task itself and / or there may be more supporting evidence in the final section of the case notes.

Once you know this information, make sure you demonstrate the purpose in the opening paragraph of your letter.

Then, and now we come on to the second part of Purpose, we need to sufficiently expand on the reasons for writing the letter so that the reader can know exactly what you’re asking of them and why.

The reader needs to be clear about the situation and so they’ll need more detail than just what you’ve outlined in the opening paragraph. Of course, you don’t need to include everything - the reader will have access to the case notes if they want to know every part of the patient’s medical history. But they will need to know the details pertinent to the care of your patient.

These additional details may include: medication, how often you’d like the reader to monitor the patient, or specific activities the patient needs help with. You should outline this information in the body paragraphs.

Let’s look at an example together. Here’s the task:

Writing Task

Using the information given in the case notes, write a letter to the Occupational Therapist, Michal Drewson in Alder Grove Clinic, 52 Alder Grove, West Drayton, outlining the patient’s history and requesting a home assessment.

… An Occupational therapist provides support to people whose health prevents them doing the activities that matter to them - so your patient must need help doing everyday activities and therefore needs an assessment.

So you know you’re writing to the occupational therapist because your patient needs support and possible needs help adapting her home. You’re not, for example, writing to the physiotherapist to help your patient with strengthening and relaxation exercises.

Understanding this will help you pick out the relevant details from the case notes and also help you think about what information the OT needs to have to deal with your request. This will be different in each case.

In this particular one, we need to look for:

  • Condition - difficulties this causes the patient - what the OT should do to help

In your letter, your opening paragraph may look something like this:

Dear Mr Drewson,

Thank you for seeing Marge Bristow (47) for a home assessment. Mrs Bristow has recently been diagnosed with fibromyalgia and needs support with daily activities such as cooking and other household activities.

From just this opening paragraph, we can see immediately that:

  1. The reader needs to visit the patient’s home for an assessment because the patient has fibromyalgia.

  2. This is impacting her life.

  3. The reader needs to access the patient’s home to see what support or adaptations need to be made to aid the patient with everyday activities such as cooking and cleaning.

And look at how the initial sentence has been expanded on to give further details - in this case, with why it’s necessary to make the home visit.

In the body paragraphs, you can go on to explain further with any relevant examples. You could start a body paragraph like this:

Mrs Bristow lives with her husband and teenage son. She experiences pain climbing stairs and finds it difficult to open doors and cupboards. She prefers to dress herself, but reports that this can be a challenge on bad days.

Having recently had to give up her job in the post office, Mrs Bristow would like to find a suitable part time job working from home. ...

You may then want to go on to talk about other issues she’s been facing, any exercise or treatment programmes she’s on etc, but it would be unusual to detail any medication unless it is directly relevant to the OT - perhaps the patient cannot open medication packs easily, for example.

You could end with a further summary.

I would be grateful if you could assess her home and suggest aids and adaptations as necessary.

Things to remember. Think about:

  • Who you are writing to?

  • Why?

  • What do you want them to do?

  • Have you made this clear at the beginning?

  • Have you given details to explain this further?

Each case is different, so you’ll need to adapt as necessary. Don’t think you can learn any set phrases and just put them in changing the patient’s name! Each person is different; each case is unique, and your letter should be too.

Thanks for reading.

We’ve got a special offer for you on our On-demand writing course for doctors. Just click on this link.


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