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Health Sciences First Year Diagnostic English test

The English Diagnostic Test will be held online on 2 April 2022 with Examsoft.

The Exams Office will contact you through your student email to provide further information.

Frequently asked questions

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What is the Health Sciences English Diagnostic Test?

The test is designed to identify students who will benefit from added instruction in spoken and written communication skills in order to progress through five of the Health Sciences professional programmes: Dentistry, Medical Laboratory Science, Medicine, Pharmacy, and Physiotherapy.

The test reflects what is considered the minimum expectations for reading, writing and/or comprehension skills at a university level according to the standards set by Health Sciences and the Department of English and Linguistics at the University of Otago.

It is not designed as a gatekeeping exercise to keep people out of the programme. Rather, it is designed to identify a potential need for help early on (please see more on this under What happens if I do not pass?).

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Who must take it?

The test is required for all first-year students enrolled, enrolling or planning to enrol in Health Sciences programmes.

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Where is the test held exactly?

In the St David Lecture Theatre, which is located on the Dunedin Campus.

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What must I bring?

You must bring three items to sit the test:

  • A mask
  • A pen
  • Your Student ID. If you do not have your Student ID yet, you must bring some form of photo ID. You need to know your Otago student ID number to sit the appropriate session.

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What is the structure of the test?

The test takes 40 minutes. There are two sections to the test:

Reading Comprehension (10 marks; 10 minutes): Students will read a short article and answer 5 short-answer questions using complete sentences. A complete sentence starts with a capital letter, ends with a full-stop, and includes a clear subject and verb.

Written Communication (20 marks; 30 minutes): Students will read a short article then choose one of two essay questions and write a brief essay (approximately 350–450 words). You can find a sample essay question and instructions here:

Written Communication sample essay question (PDF)

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What is the pass mark?

You must score 18/30 or 60 percent in order to pass.

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Are there copies of the test available from previous years?

No. But students wishing to prepare should focus on following instructions carefully and being able to respond to written and spoken material clearly and concisely.

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How do we find out our results?

You will receive an email notification approximately 3 weeks after you have sat the test advising you of your result and giving you clear instructions on how to proceed if you do not pass. This email will be sent to your university email address, so it is essential that you check this address.

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What happens if I do not pass?

Students who do not pass the test will have an opportunity to re-sit the test near the end of the first semester, on 21 May 2022, again with Examsoft. The Exams Office will send out further information closer to the time.

The re-sit is structured the same way as the first test.

Students who do not pass this second test will be required to enrol in ENGL 126 English for University Purposes.


You can enrol directly in and pass ENGL 126 during semester 2. This paper is designed to provide students with the writing and speaking skills necessary to succeed at a university level. The majority of students who enrol in and complete this paper pass it.

Students who do not pass the English Diagnostic Test or ENGL 126 will not be eligible to apply for admission into Dentistry, Medical Laboratory Science, Medicine, Pharmacy or Physiotherapy via the Health Sciences First Year Category.

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Where can I get additional help?

We recommend the services of Student Learning Development. Phone +64 479 8801 or go to

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Will I be able to see my script after the results are released?

If you have not met the 18/30 threshold on the English Diagnostic Test, your results email will inform you of how you can view your test electronically. That email will be sent on 1 June 2022 at 2pm.

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What kind of feedback can I expect?

Feedback is provided on the Writing Section of the scripts as follows:

SC = general problems with Sentence Construction
P = general problems with Punctuation
VT = general problems with Verb Tenses and Verb Use
SP = general problems with Spelling
S&O = general problems with Structure and Organisation
(and the overall presentation of ideas)

Errors on the other sections will be indicated by the markers.

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What if I have a question about my test result?

You must contact Dr Michael Cop via email at in the first instance.

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How do I enrol in ENGL 126?

Enrolment in this course is NOT automatic. Details on how to add second semester papers can be found here:

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What if I have not passed all of my Semester One papers?

If you have not passed all your Semester One papers, you may need to contact Course Approval Staff to discuss your options.

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Whom can I contact if I have not found what I need here?

You can access the  AskOtago Service Portal for all general inquiries. You can contact Dr Michael Cop via email at in the first instance if you have further questions about the test itself.