Jill Woodward at Elizabeth Knox Home & Hospital mentioned in her testimonial that they held IELTS training for overseas nurses in order for them to gain registration to work as RNs in New Zealand. For this, they need to have their clinical qualifications assessed by NZQA, achieve IELTS 7.0 across all bands and then participate in a six week pre-registration course. They need to achieve IELTS 7.0 in all skills within a 12 month period, or do OET (Occupational English Test) and achieve a minimum of B across all skills. You can read the criteria for applying to the New Zealand Nursing Council here. Note, OET (the Occupational English Test) is the alternative to IELTS.

One learner, Navdeep Kaur, who studied with us, is a typical example. She got her nursing qualifications in India, then had considerable work experience both in hospitals and also training nurses studying for a diploma of nursing. She came to New Zealand with her husband on a temporary work visa and has been working as a Healthcare Assistant for an agency. She did relief home care work and rest home work while she developed her language skills to a level where she can take IELTS and get registration. She’s under a lot of pressure because her current visa is temporary and her family are here with her.

She is well aware of the importance of communication skills for clinical practice in New Zealand. As she said “Communication is critical in nursing. I remember on the first day listening to people as they were working in hospital. At each step they were telling the patient ‘we are going to do this and this’. In India we have similar procedures but in practice we often don’t do this.” She accepts that IELTS, or OET, are good exams to test this communication.

So, what are Navdeep’s tips for people needing to prepare for IELTS or OET? “When I came here I was not used to reading books. I had left all that behind. I was busy at home and at work. So here I started reading – mainly New Scientist, Time, newspapers. These help me a lot. My teachers have really encouraged me.” She has also benefited from input in her reading skills.

She stresses the importance of getting some teacher direction with writing too. “Nobody taught me complex sentences. HD, my teacher, has been helping me with complex sentences. I am weak on focusing on the main idea. This is different from how I learnt in India. I like this this way of learning, the materials and the teacher’s attention. Teacher’s attention for me is the most important thing.”

The other area where overseas trained nurses will really benefit from direction is with vocabulary learning. From living in New Zealand and working as healthcare assistants, nurses are likely to develop their everyday language and their knowledge of idioms. They are also likely to learn or know technical words for their clinical work. However, they are unlikely to get enough exposure to academic words to learn these directly and will need some considerable direct study of these.

The Academic Word List is a list of words that are important in university / study texts whatever the topic. They are often the sort of words that make it possible to follow an argument in a text (identify; distribution; establish; concept; assume; factor). Research shows that they are words that most language learners do not meet often enough to just learn naturally and so they are worth spending time learning. They make up between 13% and 18% of the words in IELTS reading tests and will also be extremely useful when writing the texts you need to write for IELTS (essays and descriptions of graphs).

Here’s a link to the Academic Word List. It looks long, but actually once you know the meaning of one head word, you can work out the meaning of the whole word family. (E.g. you know “environment”, you can guess “environmental, environmentalist, environmentally” etc.) I suggest that each week you focus on one of the sublists. Look up the words you don’t know and start learning them. Learn the meanings first and also how to use them.

Here’s a link to a page of with information about the Academic Word List. The Useful Links sub page is particularly useful.

Navdeep achieved band 7 in all skills.