What to expect when you sit the Oxford Test of English

The Oxford Test of English (OTE)  is an online language exam which is designed to show your level of English. It lasts around two hours and examines your language abilities across the four skills — Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking.

There are lots of reasons why you might consider taking the OTE.

Firstly, unlike most language exams, the Reading and Listening modules are adaptive. This means that the difficulty changes depending on your answers. This makes the test shorter and more motivating, and also gives a more accurate measure of your level as a result.

Secondly, there’s lots of flexibility. You don’t have to sit all the modules on the same day, and you can choose which modules to take. If you only need to show your level of spoken English, for example, you can just sit the Speaking module of the exam.

Finally, you can sit the exam at any time of year and you get your results for the Reading and Listening modules on the same day you sit the exam! The speaking and writing results take a little longer — but you will have these back within two weeks.

Learn more about the Oxford Test of English

To make sure you are fully prepared here is a closer look at the four modules of the exam — Speaking, Reading, Listening and Writing.

  1. Speaking 

In this first module, there are four separate parts. Altogether, it should take about 15 minutes to complete. This part of the OTE is testing your ability to respond to questions, to give factual information and to organise your thoughts over a longer monologue. You’ll also be tested on describing, comparing, contrasting, speculating, and making suggestions.

  • The first section is an interview, where you will be asked eight different questions on everyday topics such as your daily routine, or the town where you live.
  • In the second section, you’ll be asked to record two voicemail messages in response to two different situations.
  • In the third section, you’ll do a short talk on an issue or a scenario.
  • In the fourth and final section, you’ll be asked six follow-up questions on the themes or ideas of your short talk from section 3.

Don’t miss our 12 top tips for passing the Speaking test

  1. Listening 

The second module is the Listening section, which lasts around 30 minutes. It’s designed to test your ability to understand global and local meaning. It also tests you on identifying opinion and attitude, and understand implied meaning and interaction.

This part of the test uses adaptive technology to adjust how difficult the questions are, based on your answers, so it might be slightly shorter or longer depending on your level of English. All the answers are multiple-choice and you can listen to each recording twice.

  • In the first section of this module, you will listen to five short monologues or dialogues. You will then need to choose one correct picture option.
  • The second section of the Listening module is a longer monologue accompanied by a note-completion exercise.
  • In the third section, you will listen to a longer dialogue, then match the opinions you hear with the individuals who say them.
  • The final section is comprised of five short monologues or dialogues. You’ll listen and choose the correct answer.
  1. Reading

This is the third module, lasting approximately 35 minutes. This module is designed to test your ability to read in different ways. For some questions, you’ll need to read carefully for detail, and for others you’ll need to scan the text for information. You’ll be tested on your understanding of the writers’ attitudes, opinions and purpose.

  • The first section is made up of six short texts from different sources. You’ll answer one question for each text.
  • The second section is an exercise where you match six profiles of people with four longer text descriptions.
  • In the third section, six sentences have been removed from a longer text, and you’ll need to put them back again in the correct place.
  • The final section is a long text with four multiple-choice questions.
  1. Writing

The final module is the longest one, at 45 minutes. This part of the test is an opportunity to show your ability to give information, to express and respond to opinions and feelings. You will be asked to make requests, suggestions and descriptions, and show that you can be persuasive when Writing.

  • The first section requires you to write a response to an email. You’ll get 20 minutes to write 80-130 words.
  • In the second section, you can choose either to write an essay, or an article or review. The topics that come up are typical of classroom discussion topics. The text needs to be 100-160 words long, and you have 25 minutes to do it.

To discover exactly what the test looks like, take the demo. You’ll get to try out the different parts of the test. You’ll also be able to see if you’re able to answer the questions in the time allocated.

The OTE exam day checklist

Before sitting your exam check out our handy checklist:

✅  Make sure to bring photographic ID with you in order to sit the Oxford Test of English.

✅  Also, bring the username and password you received when you registered for the test.

✅  It’s a good idea to bring a clear plastic bottle of water with you if you think you’ll get thirsty.

❌  Remember, you can’t access your phone or any other electronic device during the test.

To book a test, you just need to find your nearest centre. Check out our website for a full list of centres where you can sit the Oxford Text of English.


Author: Oxford University Press ELT

Every year we help millions of people around the world to learn English. As a department of the University of Oxford, we further the University’s objective of excellence in education by publishing proven and tested language learning books, eBooks, learning materials, and educational technologies.

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