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The HSFY English Diagnostic re-sit will be held on Monday 6 May in St David's Lecture Theatre.

Please attend the appropriate session:

  • 18:00–19:00 = for students with surnames starting with A – L
  • 19:30–20:30 = for students with surnames starting with M – Z

Frequently asked questions

What is the Health Sciences English Diagnostic?

The diagnostic 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 diagnostic reflects what are 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?).

Who must take it?

The diagnostic is required for all students enrolled in Health Sciences First Year who are planning to apply for Health Sciences programmes.

Where is the test held exactly?

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

What must I bring?

You must bring two items to sit the diagnostic:

  • 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
  • Masks (are recommended because there are many students in the room at the same time)

What is the structure of the diagnostic?

There are three sections of the diagnostic, each worth 10 points for a total of 30 possible points. The duration of the diagnostic is approximately 45 minutes. The content of the sections is as follows:

  1. Reading Comprehension. Students will  read  a short article and 5 questions about that article. They will then write short answers in complete sentences. A  complete sentence  starts with a  capital letter, ends with a  full-stop, and includes a clear  subject  and  verb.
  2. Listening Comprehension. In part A of the Listening Comprehension, students will  listen  to 3 short scenarios and answer a question about each one. In part B of the Listening Comprehension, students will listen to 4 short conversations and answer a multiple-choice question about each conversation.
  3. Written Communication. Students will read a short article then choose one of two essay questions and  write  a brief essay (approximately 200 words). You can find a sample essay question here:

Written Communication sample essay question (PDF)

What is the pass mark?

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

Are there copies of the diagnostic 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.

How do we find out our results?

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

What happens if I do not pass?

Students who do not pass the diagnostic will have an opportunity to re-sit the diagnostic near the end of the first semester, in the evening on Monday, 6 May 2024, again in St David's Lecture Theatre.

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

Students who do not pass this second diagnostic will be required to enrol in ENGL 128 Essentials of Communication.


You can enrol directly in and pass ENGL 128 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 or ENGL 128 will not be eligible to apply for admission into Dentistry, Medical Laboratory Science, Medicine, Pharmacy or Physiotherapy via the Health Sciences First Year Category.

Where can I get additional help?

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

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, your results email will inform you of how you can view your diagnostic.

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.

What if I have a question about my test result?

You must contact Dr Sally Couper via email at in the first instance.

How do I enrol in ENGL 128?

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

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.

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 Sally Couper via email at in the first instance if you have further questions about the test itself.

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