OET Writing: Use of "was" & "has been" in patient diagnosis

Are you confused when to use "was" and when a "has been" will be more suitable?

Read on to find out the application of tenses in patient diagnosis.


OET Writing



The decision between 'past simple' and 'present perfect' tense while writing about a patient's diagnosis can be crucial when it comes to the writing subtest in OET. The best way to go about this can be rather simple if the knowledge of the situation is applied correctly.


It all boils down to the comparison of the situation in focus to the time when the letter is being written.

When to use Past tense

We use past tense when the action of the medical procedure has been completed successfully without any anomalies or complications. 
For example: "Mrs.Woodard gave birth to a boy child 2 weeks ago". This tells the reader that the delivery is complete with no untoward incidents or complications."

Past tense can also be used with a patient that has been diagnosed and the situation is now diffused. 
For example: "Mr.Cornwell was diagnosed with pneumonia and treated with antibiotics prior to his discharge last week." 
This conveys to the reader that mister Cornwell's condition is now resolved compeletly.

An ongoing situation that has been brought under control can also be described with the help of Past tense. Ongoing Diabetes which well managed with the help of medication is one example.

When to use Present Perfect tense

We use present Perfect tense in two different conditions. One, When the reader is not presently aware of the condition. Two, When the condition is not yet resolved.

A doctor who is currently aware of the situation of a patient and is about to be updated on any new developments on the same is an example of where we use present perfect tense.

For example: "Miss Wheeler was admitted to hospital 3 days ago. She has been diagnosed with unstable angina and requires your follow-up care. " 
This clearly states that the said things are news to the reader.

Next situation is where the condition has not yet been resolved.
For example: "Mrs. Carter has been diagnosed with septicemia and prescribed antibiotics. she will return to the Outpatient clinic next month for a review of the antibiotic’s effectiveness." 

This conveys that the condition is still being finalised and if the antibiotics do not prove effective, they will have to be replaced.

Hope this resolves a big headache of yours. Happy Scoring!

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