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OET Speaking: The Importance of Being a Good Listener

Updated: May 19, 2022

Many of the techniques used during the OET speaking subtest such as labelling, chunking and checking as well as active listening, are commonly taken for granted and students miss a great deal by not understanding how to use them.

Do you constantly forget to say 'uh-uh' or 'oh, I see' while the patient/interlocutor is talking during the role-play? Well, you are not alone. You are also one of the many if you believe that these interjections sound funny, or that you are perhaps interrupting the speaker when you use them.

Clearly, listening is a skill that we can all benefit from improving. By becoming a better listener, we can improve our ability to influence, persuade and be heard, too. This is even more the case during a doctor-patient interaction and in the same sense during the OET interviews.

How to be a good listener. As an active listener the doctor should avoid interrupting the patient at all costs, they should summarize and repeat back what they have heard, and observe body language (pick up verbal and visual cues) to give them an extra level of understanding. Here are some useful listening techniques the importance of which should never be undermined.

  • Paraphrasing to show understanding

  • Using nonverbal cues that show understanding such as nodding, eye contact, and leaning forward

  • Brief verbal affirmations like “I see,” “I know,” “Sure,” “Thank you,” or “I understand”

  • Asking open-ended questions

  • Asking specific questions to seek clarification

  • Waiting to disclose your opinion

Become comfortable using the active listening techniques

It might take a while to get used to doing this, but there are many ways to develop the soft skill of being a good listener. You can start by creating a list of the techniques and understanding how and when to use them appropriately. Employing these techniques in your real life will further boost your confidence and what's more, you will be able to apply them during your OET speaking without reminding yourself or sounding artificial when you do it.

So, next time you talk to a friend or a coworker, make sure you listen actively. You might be surprised by how it affects the interaction and the outcome of the conversation. Good luck.

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