When Step 2CS was canceled due to COVID and then finally done away with altogether, it left all of us in need of ECFMG certification in a stressful tizzy. What do we do next? Thankfully, ECFMG had a game plan and the release of the six pathways left us a little more relaxed. Except, if you were someone like me, who did not qualify for a single pathway!


For months, I was left in limbo – was CS going to be reborn? Was it going to take the shape of something else? What was I going to do with all the time I spent prepping? What should I study for next? And most importantly: how am I going to get certified? The Occupational English Test, or OET, was the answer to our prayers! Having taken mine already (and passed, thankfully), I’m here to share with you the things I did to help get me through and some practical information so you don’t have to click around the website as long as I did! 


#1: What is the OET and how does it work? 

Known as the Occupational English Test, the OET is an exam that tests an examinee’s English proficiency – not your knowledge base. You can take the test online/virtually or in person at a test center. It occurs in four parts that test reading, listening, writing, and speaking. A full overview of the test can be found on their website or by clicking this link: https://www.occupationalenglishtest.org/test-information/healthcare-professions/medicine/


#2: How do I study for the OET? 

You should study for the OET even if you are a native English speaker! ECFMG requires a passing grade, a minimum of 350, for each section in one sitting. To study, I employed the OET practice tests provided by the organization and found that they were enough to ensure that I did well on each portion of the exam. I will say that practicing writing and making sure you know the template is paramount to scoring well in that section, as they have very specific requirements for their writing portion and use a rubric to grade it. Other non-native speakers attested to the use of the E2 language course for OET (Doctors) and said that it prepared them well enough to be confident to take the test within a few weeks! 


#3: What does test day look like? 

Test day for me, in person, was simple. I reported to the testing center and checked in where I was given an arm band, checked in my bag, and was notified of my time for the speaking portion (everyone’s is different) and then told when I would be taking my written portion (the reading, writing, and listening). The written portion often only takes three hours, with the speaking portion taking ten minutes. Make sure you have your passport because it is the only form of identification they will accept. 


#4: How is it scored?

The OET is scored numerically, where a 350 is considered a passing score, with a maximum score in each section of 500. More information on the scoring system can be found on the OET website, scoring section, with descriptions of each score category’s minimum proficiencies.

#5: What do I need for my ECFMG certification? 

In order to obtain ECFMG certification, as stated above, you will need at least a 350 in each of the four categories, obtained in one exam session. In some cases and for some professions, the OET allows examinees to take failed portions only in order to obtain a total passing score. This is not allowed by ECFMG, so not meeting minimum standards for one portion will require us to retake the entire OET.


Though it wasn’t as nerve-wracking as any other test I’ve ever taken, the test day jitters still made it a little challenging! I think the knowledge that it could affect your future makes it that much more frightening, but I promise, in just a few short weeks and with just the right amount of elbow grease, you’ll be well on your way to certification before you can even say ‘pass!’

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