Three Letter Types in OET

One of the subtests that you are to take as part of OET is the writing subtest. This subtest is profession-specific and takes 45 minutes. The task of this writing subtest is to write a letter using the task instructions and case notes provided. Your performance in this subtest will be scored on the criteria – purpose, content, conciseness, genre and style, organization and layout, and language. 

Usually, you will be required to write a referral letter in this writing subtest. However, there are three OET letter types in the OET writing subtest. These letter types will be based on a setting where the healthcare professional will be required to effectively communicate the patient's information to another healthcare professional. 

As an OET candidate, you will encounter three types of letters :
1. Referral
2. Transfer 
3. Discharge 

Structure of the three letters 

The goal of each letter is different but the approach you take for these letters should be the same.  In order to communicate the purpose of the letter effectively, you must select the relevant information from the case notes as per the writing task. It does not matter if your letter is a referral, transfer, or discharge, the selection of the information, structuring, and writing of the letter can be done in the same way. Your letter must include an introduction, main paragraph, additional information, and conclusion. 


The content of all three letters is similar, however, there is one significant difference between them. This difference is the opening paragraph or introduction of the letter. In the opening paragraph, you need to explain the purpose of your letter and each is different for referral, discharge, and transfer letters. 

While writing the introduction, keep in mind that there are no right or wrong phrases to use. You must read the case notes, the patient's medical situation, and the task instructions to clearly explain the purpose of the letter to the reader. 

An example of the introductory line is – I am writing to transfer/discharge/refer/update.....

The case notes will also contain pointers to the type of language you need to use in the letter along with an overview of the situation and the patient's relationship with the reader. 

Body of the letter

While the introduction is different for each type of letter, there is no special difference between the other content of the letter. You will be expected to write the content based on the case notes provided. Be it a referral, discharge, or transfer letter, you will have clearly write the patient's medical situation for the reader's better understanding. Using the case notes, you will be required to write any additional information that seems relevant to the patient's situation. 

Fourth Letter

In case you are a Pharmacy, Veterinary Science, Speech Pathology, or Occupational Therapy specialist, then you will be required to write an information or advice letter to a patient or carer. Sometimes Radiographers are also required to write a response to a complaint letter. 

Hence, no matter what type of letter you are expected to write always keep in mind to use the case notes to understand the purpose of the letter, structure it effectively and select important and relevant information for the letter. 

Want to prepare for the OET? Enroll for OET course online at