Preparing for IELTS, OET and OSCE exams

For overseas qualified nurses who want to register with the NMC

If you qualified as a nurse overseas, you may have to complete your IELTS, OET or OSCE exams before you can register with the NMC. On this page you'll find advice and resources to help you prepare.

From the 1st January 2021, Nurses and midwives who trained in the European Union must now follow the same registration procedures as nurses who trained outside the European Union. For further information regarding registration in the UK following Brexit, please see the NMC website: What brexit means for nursing and midwifery

NMC requirements for English language competence

If you qualified as a nurse overseas and want to register as a nurse in the UK, you will need to provide evidence of English language competence. 

In order to meet this requirement, you will need to satisfy one of the following criteria:

English Language Tests accepted by the NMC

If you need to do an English language test, The NMC accepts two types:

  • International English Language Test System (IELTS) 
  • Occupational English Test (OET)

For more information about the NMC's accepted English language tests, and what marks are required to pass, please see the NMC's guidance here.

OET resources

  • The OET preparation portal has preparation materials, sample answers, sample tests, online masterclasses and more.
  • Prepare and practice by downloading free OET nursing sample tests here.

  • You can search here for classroom, online or private classes. You can also filter by country.

IELTS resources

  • The British Council's website offers a wide range of IELTS resources. See Prepare for your test for more details.
  • In order to obtain an adequate score, you will need to understand how the scoring system works, and what the examiners are looking for when they mark your test. The assessment criteria or 'band descriptors' are public and available to view here.  
  • NOTE: As from 5th December 2018, the NMC lowered its required IELTS score for writing from 7 to 6.5. See the NMC's information here for more details.

Other resources

  • Your local university may offer IELTS or OET preparation courses. These can differ in cost and length depending on your specific needs. 
  • You can also improve your English through English language courses that are available at local colleges and training providers. 
  • If you are employed, ask your employer if they can offer any support or assistance. You should also check if your employer has any study policies, development policies or can offer funding. 

Hiring a private language tutor

Private tutors range from £15 - £45 per hour and can coach you either one on one, or in a group. Some tutors offer tuition via skype or facetime.

If you are going to hire a private tutor, consider the following:

  • What qualifications and experience do they have?
  • Do they have specific knowledge and experience of the OET / IELTS process and OET / IELTS scoring system?
  • Do they have a good track record of helping student pass?
  • Can you get recommendations, testimonials or feedback from other students?

RCN library resources

RCN members can borrow books and access eBooks online. 

Reading through nursing journals, books and newspapers will help develop your English and understanding of nursing issues. RCN members can also access a range of journals for free through the RCN library.

NMC Test of Competence

If you trained outside the EU or EEA, you will be required to complete the NMC Test of Competence which consists of two parts: 

  1. A computer based test (CBT)
  2. A practical test called an "Objective Structured Clinical Examination," (OSCE)

If you trained within the EU or EEA, you would only have to complete the OSCE if you failed to meet certain standards or requirements during your application. See the NMC's information for those who Trained in the EU or EEA for more details.

Part 1: Computer based test

Part 1 is a computer based test, based of 120 multiple-choice questions. You will need to take this test under formal exam conditions in a Pearson VUE test centre. See the website for more details.

You can also read more about this exam in the NMC's guide, Candidate information booklet for the NMC Test of Competence, Part 1: Pearson VUE

Part 2: The OSCE exam (Objective Structured Clinical Examination)

Part 2 of the test is called the OSCE, which will act out scenarios which nurses and midwives would be likely to come across when they assess, plan, carry out and evaluate care. You must sit the OSCE exam at one of three test centres in the UK. These are:

  • Northampton University
  • Oxford Brookes University (On campuses in Swindon and Oxford)
  • Ulster University 

University resources 

The University of Northampton's website has some useful information and resources to help you understand and prepare for your OSCE: 

Oxford Brookes University's website also has some useful information and resources about OSCE:

In addition, you can also find information on the University of Ulster's website:

Other resources 

You can find OSCE preparation books and eBooks using our Library subject guide. RCN members can borrow books and access eBooks online. 

The NHS Employers website also has information about the CBT and OSCE. See Recruitment of Overseas Nurses.

Your employer may also be able to provide you with support and training in preparation for your OSCE. 

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