OET Medical Words With Multiple Meanings

In Medical English or General English, we find some words that have more than one meaning.  And such words can often create confusion when you do not use them correctly. 

For instance:

The word “PULSE.” It gives two different meanings. 

Medical English: Pulse will mean the pressure wave in the artery when the heart beats. 

General English: Pulse is referred to a type of vegetable, peas, beans.  

Similarly, the word POSITIVE. Generally, Positive is Good, Happy.  A pregnancy report can be positive. It can be good news. 

But, if you are a nurse and you have got the patient’s reports which says Viral Infection POSITIVE then it will mean a different story. It is not GOOD or HAPPY here. 

You will have to be careful when you use the word POSITIVE (in medical sense or in general sense).  

If you say, “the patient is positive,” then what you really indicate is either the patient is happy or the patient’s report is positive. 

Another example is STOOL Stool is what you stand on to change a bulb.  And it can also be fecal matter. 


Keep that stool a little away from that stool (this can be confusing, right?). 

Let us take a look at these sentences: 

  • He is at Culture Club. 
  • Look at that Blood Culture. 

Culture, generally, means a way of life. It can be beliefs of a group of people. 

But, in a medical lab, it means a lab test.  

Similarly, we use a term such as “Benchtop” which refers to a position of an object. For instance, on top of a bench.  But, when it comes to medical English or in a scientific setting, this is a very common term and it is used to describe an analyzer that is very small in size and that also fits on the top of the lab workbench. 

What do you say about the word STAIN? Well, it can be the aftermath of eating Ostrich steak with mushroom sauce. And it will also mean a dyeing technique that is used to identify bacteria (or to be more precise, we call it gram staining).  

Another word that we use is CONTROL Generally, it means to rule, order, limit someone’s behavior or action. Example: This device will help control your blood pressure. 

In medical settings, the word CONTROL may be a serum based material. 

So, it is always important that you use words that do not cause any ambiguity. Remember, candidates often use these confusing words (words that may have two different meanings) when writing a letter or interacting with the OET examiner (during OET speaking sub-test). 

Want to prepare for the OET? Do not wait. Enroll for the OET training online at OETPractice.net. 

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