Skip to content
10% OFF + Win a £200 Flight Voucher Special Offers

Difference Between IELTS and OET

Are you looking to start a new career or study in an English speaking country? For countries such as the UK, USA, Australia and Canada there are many things to consider. After VISA’s, accommodation and other entry requirements, proof of your English language ability is very high on the list. There are two exams which will be able to provide you with proof of your English language ability. These exams are IELTS and OET. But what is the difference between IELTS and OET, and which one is right for you? We have taken a look at both exams to help explain the difference between the two and to help you decide which one is most suitable for your needs.

Difference between IELTS and OET


IELTS or International English Language Test System is an examination which measures your ability to communicate in English. It is focused on 4 different areas of communication: reading, writing, speaking and listening. IELTS is recognised as the standard for proof of ability. IELTS is required for those looking to study and work in the UK, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

As IELTS is a general language test, it is not focused on any industry in particular. It is designed to gauge and prove your ability to communicate in English. Due to the wide acceptance of IELTS across the UK and other countries, it is the more popular exam.


OET, or Occupation English Test, is an industry specific exam. Designed only for the healthcare sector, OET is not always considered proof of ability outside of the industry. The exam is focused on a variety of professions within the healthcare sector. However, OET is not recognised in certain countries. Countries that recognise OET: The UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Ukraine, Dubai, Singapore and Namibia. These are the only countries which recognise OET results to work within the healthcare system.

Much like IELTS, OET focuses on the main four areas on communication. But, the questions on the exam are tailored to the medical area in question. This means that you should have a great knowledge of English to score highly.

Health and Care Visa UK Requirements

To receive a Health and Care visa in the UK you must be able to prove your level of English. The role and the body you will be working for, will have different requirements with regard to level. Completing an OET or IELTS exam is the best way to demonstrate your level of ability. Some non-medical roles within the healthcare industry may accept candidates without any official qualifications in English proficiency. Yet, IELTS and OET can help improve your chances significantly.

As well as completing an OET or IELTS exam, there are many other requirements to acquiring a Heath and Care visa. These requirements all need to be met before a visa will be issued. Please note that nationals from certain countries are exempt from requiring to prove their English level. These countries are all listed on the UK government website as well as all other requirements.

Sign up for our offers

Exclusive discounts on your course with Cactus directly on your inbox!

Difference Between IELTS and OET – A Summary

The main difference between IELTS and OET is quite simply a case of what their use is for after completing the exam. For those looking to move to an English-speaking country for general work and study, IELTS is the preferred exam to take. If you are looking at pursuing a career in the medical field then OET is the exam for you. Due to the specialisation of the OET exam, IELTS is the much more popular exam to take. You should check your university/institution requirements and the score needed to access them. Most universities require an average score which is the mean score between the 4 skills. Others also require some specific scores of single skills as well. Most commonly, Writing and Speaking. (for example Average 7 and writing 6.5)

Both exams require a great deal of preparation to score highly. IELTS preparation courses are the perfect tool to help those looking to take their IELTS exam. These courses focus on all 4 separate sections of the exam in detail. While you may already have a high level of English, these courses will help you understand how the exam works and the best way to answer the questions.

It should also be noted that you do not need to complete both exams. While OET is more specialised in its content, some sectors outside of the realm of medicine will also accept it as proof of proficiency. The only issue is the other way round. IELTS may not be accepted for those applying for higher level medical roles.

Ready to Prepare for IELTS?

Learn a language,
your way

Are you ready to start learning a language? Find out more about our online lessons, face-to-face classes, teachers, best ways to start learning and more!

Start learning today

  • French
  • German
  • Italian
  • Spanish
  • Arabic
  • Cantonese
  • Catalan
  • Czech
  • Croatian
  • Danish
  • Dutch
  • English
  • Greek
  • Hebrew
  • Hindi
  • Japanese
  • Korean
  • Mandarin
  • Norwegian
  • Polish
  • Portuguese
  • Russian
  • Swedish
  • Thai
  • Turkish
  • Ukrainian
let’s go