OET Writing Guide: Genre and Style

OET Writing Guide: Genre and Style- Genre and Style are the fourth criterion used to assess your Writing performance. Style. It examines whether your writing aligns with the reader's speciality and knowledge.

OET Writing Guide: Genre and Style



OET Writing Guide: Genre and Style:  The Occupational English Test (OET) is designed to assess the language proficiency of healthcare professionals seeking to work or study in an English-speaking environment.  Notably,  among its four subtests, the writing subtest requires candidates to demonstrate their ability to communicate effectively in a healthcare setting. 

Essentially, one crucial aspect of successful OET writing is understanding genre and style. In this blog post, we will explore the significance of genre and style in OET writing and provide essential tips to enhance your performance.

Genre and Style are the fourth criteria used to assess your Writing performance. Hence, this Style examines whether your writing aligns with the reader’s speciality and knowledge.

In the healthcare industry, you typically write formal letters, and OET’s Writing sub-test reflects this by requiring you to use this style.

This guide will explain:

  • What formal writing is
  • How to use the right register (level of formality) and tone for your reader
  • How your grammar can help you to sound formal


Writing formally


When writing from professional to professional or even from professional to patient (for some OET professions), it is expected that you use formal language.

Towards the end of the case notes, you will find reminders about the genre and style you should use in the Writing task, including:

  • Expand the relevant notes into complete sentences
  • Do not use note forms.

Polite, respectful, and non-judgmental language is used in formal writing. You demonstrate this through the language you use to make requests of the reader, how you present information to the reader, and how you present information about the patient.

Now, let’s examine some examples of informal and formal phrases and sentences.



  • Thanks for having a look at Priya.
  • I’ve sent her to you because she needs to lose some weight.

These phrases use the patient’s first name and are not respectful toward her condition.



  • Thank you for seeing Mrs Priya Patel
  • I am referring her to you for your specialist advice.

Both of these phrases respect the reader’s role and express politeness about the patient, using her full name as part of the introduction.


OET Writing Guide: Genre and Style


To enhance your understanding of genre and style.  Let’s explore some methods for identifying the register (formality) and tone of your letter, as well as how to select the appropriate language during the Writing sub-test.


Using facts and not making judgements


When you present patient information, one way to be respectful and non-judgemental is to use facts:

  • He writes with his left hand and drives a manual car before the fall.
  • She works on her computer every day and carries a heavy laptop home.

When describing a patient’s lifestyle choices, use facts instead of words which sound judgemental:

When presenting patient information, using facts is one way to demonstrate respect and a non-judgmental attitude:

  • The patient writes with their left hand and used to drive a manual car before the fall.
  • The patient works on their computer every day and carries a heavy laptop home.

Also, when describing a patient’s lifestyle choices, it is preferable to use factual information instead of using words that may sound judgmental.



  • Mr X is a heavy smoker
  • Mrs Y is a binge drinker OR Mrs Y is an alcoholic
  • Ms Z does not exercise enough



  • Mr X smokes 30 cigarettes a day
  • Mrs Y avoids drinking in the week but drinks 15 units of alcohol on an average weekend
  • Ms Z admits she is only physically active once every 3-months.

By presenting the facts, the reader will know what this means in terms of recommended norms. Further, it allows you to avoid passing judgement on the patient and their lifestyle.


Starting and ending your letter


How you start and end the letter plays a crucial role in establishing the appropriate formal tone from the beginning and leaving a favourable impression at the end.  Additionally, it is customary to conclude with a closing sentence that provides the reader with the option to contact you or expresses gratitude for their involvement.

For instance:

  • If you need additional information, please feel free to contact me.
  • We appreciate your ongoing management of this patient. Thank you.


Being formal with the right grammar


The punctuation you employ will indicate whether you are writing in a suitably formal style.  Again, this entails refraining from using contracted forms and exercising caution regarding the usage of brackets and abbreviations.

Now, let’s examine some examples of formal and informal grammar.



Contractions are considered informal and should be avoided while writing.



  • He’s keen to return home.
  • She’s looking forward to holding her baby.
  • She didn’t follow the care plan correctly.


  • He is keen to return home.
  • She is looking forward to holding her baby.
  • She did not follow the care plan correctly.



It’s essential to take into account the reader when deciding when and where you abbreviate.


Below are some examples to help you get a better idea of what we mean by this.

Reader: Endocrinologist
  • Mrs Patel was diagnosed with NIDDM in 1998.

Since you are addressing an endocrinologist, they would be familiar with this abbreviation, and the condition is crucial to the patient’s reason for seeking their care. Hence, it is appropriate to use the abbreviation. However, for an orthopaedic surgeon, the abbreviation may be less suitable. In this case, any reference to the condition, which could potentially impact the patient’s treatment, should be written in full form.

Reader: Community Nurse
  • He was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation

Globally, there are multiple abbreviations used for Atrial Fibrillation: AF or AFib. Therefore, it is preferable to use the full form of this condition instead of abbreviating it.

If you believe your reader may not be familiar with the abbreviation, it is best to avoid abbreviating it to prevent interruptions in their reading.


Understanding Genre: Tips

Genre refers to the specific category or type of writing that you are expected to produce. In the OET writing subtest, the two common genres are a letter of referral and a letter of discharge.  Therefore, It is essential to recognize the differences between these genres and adapt your writing accordingly.

  1.  Letter of Referral: A letter of referral is typically written by one healthcare professional to another, providing detailed information about a patient’s condition and recommending further treatment or consultation. Key points to remember when writing a referral letter include:
    • Introduce yourself and establish your professional relationship with the recipient.
    • Clearly describe the patient’s medical history, symptoms, and current condition.
    • Explain the purpose of the referral and include any relevant test results or diagnostic reports.
    • Express your expectations and reasons for the referral.
    • Maintain a formal and objective tone throughout the letter.                                       2


2.  Letter of Discharge: A letter of discharge is written when a patient is released from a healthcare facility, such as a hospital or clinic. This type of letter should include the following elements:

    • Begin with a warm and friendly greeting to the recipient.
    • Provide a summary of the patient’s medical history and treatment received.
    • Explain the reason for the patient’s discharge and provide any necessary instructions or recommendations for post-discharge care.
    • Offer appreciation and well wishes to the recipient and the patient.
    • Maintain a positive and supportive tone.

Adapting Style: Tips

In addition to understanding the genre, adapting your writing style to suit the OET writing subtest is crucial for success. Consider the following tips:

  1. Use Formal Language: Maintain a professional tone throughout your writing. Also, use appropriate vocabulary and avoid colloquial expressions or slang.  In addition, Your writing should reflect your ability to communicate in a formal healthcare context.
  2. Organize your Ideas: Ensure your writing is clear and well-structured. Further, use paragraphs to separate different ideas or sections of your letter. Begin with an introduction that sets the context and purpose of your letter, followed by supporting details, and end with a clear conclusion.
  3. Be Concise: OET writing demands efficient conveyance of information. Therefore, Employ clear and concise sentences to express your ideas, while avoiding unnecessary repetition or wordiness that can confuse your writing.
  4. Proofread and Edit: Take the time to review your writing before submitting it. Also, check for grammar and spelling errors, as well as coherence and clarity. A well-edited letter demonstrates your attention to detail and enhances your overall score.



Mastering the genre and style of OET writing is essential for achieving a high score in the writing subtest. Therefore, understanding the specific requirements of referral and discharge letters, using formal language, organizing your ideas effectively, being concise, and proofreading your work are all crucial elements to consider.

Being formal, using facts, refraining from judgment, and correctly starting and ending your letter are the key components of genre and style. 

Therefore, if you follow the steps outlined above, with practice and attention to these key aspects, you can confidently navigate the genre and style requirements of the OET writing subtest and improve your chances of success.

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