How to select the relevant case notes for OET letter writing? The audience awareness is the key

What is audience awareness and why is it important to you?

One of the criteria of the new version of the OET writing assessment is the content, according to the OET centre,

“The content criterion examines a number of aspects of the content:
All key information is included
Information is accurately represented
Audience awareness is key here. The writing needs to be appropriate to the reader (and their knowledge of the case) and what they
need to know to continue care.”

WRITING Assessment Criteria and Level Descriptors, Public version

So, in the test, your letter should include the information that is relevant to the person you are writing to (the audience). You should know what the audience knows about the patient and the case and what they should know to continue the care of the patient. This is called audience awareness.

How audience awareness can help you to understand which information is relevant and which is not?

Before you start writing the letter, you should understand who is your recipient and what is the reason for your letter to them (the purpose).

The main factors you should find from your question booklet are,

  1. Who are you?
  2. Who is your patient and what happened to them?
  3. To whom you are writing to?
  4. Why you are writing to them?

Who are you?

Knowing who you are will help you understand the setting (Example: medical ward, diabetic care unit, etc.) and the urgency of the situation, etc. You can usually find this information at the beginning of the case notes.

Image of OET writing question booklet

Who is your patient?

Information about your patient, like their age, the current and the past medical condition, gives insight into the purpose and the urgency of the situation.

The purpose of the letter?

To find the main purpose of the letter, imagine that you are forced to write this letter to the recipient. What is that reason? that is the purpose of the letter.

Every letter has a purpose. The focus of your letter should be the purpose. The information you choose to include from the case notes should be relevant to the purpose.


The information should be relevant to the reader (the audience) too.

Audience awarness

Infograph of the audience awareness

Who is your recipient?

It is very important to know the recipient of the letter. You can find this information in the task section of the letter and sometimes inside the case notes too.

Find out,

What do they know about the patient and the case?
What do they need to know to continue the care?

Your information should be appropriate to their knowledge of the case

The address of the recepient

Compare it with the address of the patient and the hospital (Are they the same? do they know your patient already? Should you include the social and the medical history, etc?)

The profession of the recipient

What is their level of knowledge about the case?

Most importantly, ask yourself, what does the reader need to know?

What is the main purpose of the letter?

The information I selected is appropriate to the reader and the case?

What other information do they need to know to continue the care of the patient (like future appointments and any special instructions)?

The writing process

Before start writing, I usually suggest my students to stop doing everything else and take a minute to think about the factors we considered above.

Imagine the situation you are writing this letter: The patient, their situation and the purpose; the recipient, their knowledge on the case and the patient. The reason for writing the letter and the other information your recipient should know.

Before you write the letter you should be clear about all these factors because, if you do, your letter will have clarity and coherence.

Also, while transferring the information (Please do not copy the information from the case notes, write it in your own words) be sure to be accurate. The inaccuracies you may make, about the name of the patient, the gender, diagnosis and the other terminologies, are bad for your score.

Write a lot of letters before the test and get it corrected by a trainer. I hope this post will be useful for you in your OET preparation.

A free PDF version of this post is available for download here

For OET coaching, Writing correction or to contact Vinu Das V, click here

  • VinuDasV
  • Vinu Das V is an English Language Instructure with more than 8 years of experience in online and classroom settings. He now trains candidates for OET in India. He also holds a degree in the health care profession.

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