Which tenses should I use in OET writing?

Which tense should I use in the OET writing?

Students are often confused about the differences between using the past simple and present perfect in the OET writing test. In this blog, I will go over a few different tenses and how to use them in a referral or discharge letter. 

The OET’s main focus is to test your ability to communicate effectively in the healthcare environment. This does not mean that grammar is not at all important in the exam. Using the right tenses in your referral and discharge letters can help you communicate information more effectively. On the other hand, using an incorrect tense could cause confusion. 

Are you currently preparing to take the OET? Make sure to check out our OET preparation course for more examples and targeted practice.

Don’t forget to download your free OET Tenses Cheat Sheet at the bottom of the blog!

Present simple

At the start of your referral letter, or in case notes, you may need to use the present simple in order to report simple facts such as the patient’s name, age, and status. We use the present simple when we know the facts are unlikely to change.

Example: 

The patient is 32 years old. 
The patient is allergic to latex. 
She lives alone.

Past simple

Once you move on to the patient history and background information, you’ll likely need to use the past simple. We use the past simple for completed actions in the past. In the healthcare setting, we use the past simple for reporting isolated symptoms, appointments, etc.

In the OET writing notes, you may see statements with time markers such as “two days ago”, “last month”, or “in 1995”. We customarily use the past simple for such sentences.

Example: 

The patient fell in the shower and hit his head yesterday. 
She had gallbladder surgery in 2000.
The patient underwent physical therapy six months ago.

Present perfect and present perfect continuous

Finally, when describing the patient’s current situation, you may have to connect it to their state in the past. The present perfect can be used to describe a condition that hasn’t changed or is continuing until the present. For describing symptoms and conditions, we often use the present perfect for connecting the past to the present. You may use time markers “since “ and “for” with present perfect sentences.

Example:

The patient has attended physical therapy for the last two months.
The pain level has remained stable since the patient’s last visit.
He has made a good recovery but requires continuous monitoring for the next two months.

We can also use the present perfect continuous if we want to stress the action is continuous or repeated.

Example:

The patient has been using over the counter medication for pain management.
The patient has been suffering from severe nausea for three months.

Activity

Decide if the following sentences use the correct tense and change them if you think they’re incorrect. You can find the answers at the end of this post.

1. The patient has received pain medication yesterday.
2. She suffered a stroke five years ago.
3. The patient is being allergic to penicillin.
4. The patient injured his right hand last week.
5. His condition has been steadily improving.
6. The accident has happened at 4:30.
7. The patient’s right ankle is painful for five months.
8. The nurse carried out the initial assessment.
9. The patient is informed about the risks during their appointment three months ago.
10. He was concerned about the correct use of his new medication.

What to expect from the OET course?

Are you preparing for the Occupational English Test

At Intrepid English, we have been working hard to bring you a new course focused on the OET exam. This course is focused on exam skills and brings you many practice activities directly from the exam. 

Your success in the OET is not only about understanding the test structure and memorising it. The OET is a skills test, and tests how well you can apply your English ability in the healthcare context.

By the end of this course, you will be closely familiar with the test structure and skills tested. You will improve your vocabulary range and grammar ability through guided and targeted practice. You’ll learn to express your opinions and communicate effectively. You will complete writing practice for specific purposes and receive feedback.

Then, you can put what you’re learning into practice and work on your fluency and pronunciation in live lessons.

We can help you make a study plan based on your time commitments and your timeline. If you’d like to learn more about the course, please book a free consultation with me (Lida). We can talk more about your learning goals and needs.


Answers to activity

1. The patient received pain medication yesterday.
2. She suffered a stroke five years ago. (correct)
3. The patient is allergic to penicillin.
4. The patient injured his right hand last week. (correct)
5. His condition has been steadily improving. (correct)
6. The accident happened at 4:30.
7. The patient’s right ankle has been painful for five months.
8. The nurse carried out the initial assessment. (correct)
9. The patient was informed about the risks during their appointment three months ago.
10. He was concerned about the correct use of his new medication. (correct)

Grab your free downloadable OET Tenses Cheat Sheet right here!

Book a free trial lesson today and talk about your learning goals with an experienced English teacher. Say goodbye to boring English lessons! If you’re not sure what you want to learn, let your teacher choose from the range of English courses that have been designed to help our students to achieve their goals.

This blog was written and recorded by Intrepid English Teacher Lida.

Find out more about Lida on her Intrepid English Teacher profile page. 

If you have any questions, or you would like to request a topic for a future blog, you can contact us using the chat box or email us at Intrepid English.

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