English language requirements

Practising as a healthcare professional in the UK is an amazing opportunity to progress your career. A part of this process is knowing the language and being comfortable with it.

You will most likely see significant improvements to your conversational language skills while you are living in the UK. However, before you arrive and secure your new role, you will need to provide evidence of your English language knowledge. This is so that you can obtain your professional registration.

You can provide evidence via any of the following:

  1. English exam results (within the past 2 years)
  2. You were training in English
  3. You practise in English

Taking an English exam – IELTS or OET

IELTS exam

  • Requirements – 7.5 overall, with a minimum of 7.0 in subcategories.

IELTS Academic evaluates the ability to write essays, follow lectures, understand academic articles and discuss a wide range of topics, from the environment to education and social trends to cultural values.

  1. Reading (60 minutes)
  2. Listening (30 minutes)
  3. Writing (60 minutes)
  4. Speaking

OET exam:

  • Requirements – B overall, with a minimum grade of B in all subcategories.

OET Medicine evaluates healthcare English, as well as the ability to communicate effectively in medical scenarios, write a referral or discharge letter, understand a patient consultation, or follow a medical text.

  1. Reading (60 minutes)
  2. Listening (50 minutes)
  3. Writing (50 minutes)
  4. Speaking


In terms of credibility, neither exam has any advantage over the other, so your choice solely comes down to preference. The main differences are price, accessibility and perceived difficulty.

OET is specifically created for healthcare professionals and as such the content is more relevant, including terms and scenarios you may be exposed to on a typical working day. Because of this, some people find OET to be the best option. IELTS is much broader and can cover any topic in English which can make it more difficult for some.

However, because IELTS is broader and applies to many situations outside of healthcare, there are currently more test centres available around the world, and this means test accessibility is better in certain countries. At this time, taking the OET at home is still in development; it may be an option to sit the exam remotely in future. You can check for updates on this by clicking here.

The last consideration is the cost, as the OET is more expensive to sit than IELTS.

Trained in English:

Your primary medical qualification may be accepted if it meets the below criteria:

  • Your qualification is under two years old at the time you apply for registration
  • It was taught and examined solely in English. As proof, you will need to submit an original letter or certificate from your university that confirms:
    • The entire course was taught and examined solely in English
    • At least 75%, of course, related to clinical work was conducted in English
    • The date on which you passed your final exam

You will also need to confirm you have never taken the IELTS or OET test.

Practised in English:

The GMC may be able to accept confirmation from your employer if you meet the below criteria:

  • You have worked in a medical capacity for at least the past two years
  • You have worked in a country where English is the first and native language
  • You have not applied to take the PLAB test

English language is an important step on your journey to the UK and we know it’s not easy either. If you’re struggling or would like help with passing your English language, you can view courses here to help you study.

SLC (Specialist Language Courses) have courses for both IELTS and OET to help you pass. Alternatively, you can also obtain one-to-one online training tailored to your requirements if this is better suited to your learning style.

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