ELAT (English Literature Admissions Test)

What is the ELAT?

If you are applying for one of the following courses you will be required to sit the ELAT: English Language and Literature, Classics and English, English and Modern Languages, History and English.  

The English Literature Admissions Test (ELAT) is a computer-based test, lasting 90 minutes and sat under timed exam conditions.

The ELAT is designed to test a candidate’s close reading skills, and their ability to shape and articulate an informed response to unfamiliar literary material. You will be asked to write one essay comparing two passages, focusing on elements such as language, imagery, syntax, form and structure.

You will be given six passages on the same theme. The passages will be a mixture of different forms (there may be poetry, prose (fiction and non-fiction), and drama, though not necessarily examples of each of these in every year), and will date from different periods. You will be asked to carry out the following task:

  • 'Select two of the passages (a) to (f) and compare and contrast them in any ways that seem interesting to you, paying particular attention to distinctive features of structure, language and style.'

The six passages will be linked by a common theme, which will be given in the introduction of the test. You will be given the names of the authors and the dates of publication, as well as the type of prose (novel, essay etc.).

You are not expected to introduce any references to other texts or authors you have studied and marks are not awarded for evidence of wider reading or prior knowledge of the texts or their contexts. Instead, the examiners will reward your ability to do the following:

  • respond perceptively to unfamiliar writing of different kinds
  • demonstrate skills of close reading, paying attention to the effects of structure, language and style
  • construct a well-focused and structured essay based on comparing and contrasting two passages
  • write fluently and accurately

Please note that the ELAT is a closed-book test and you will not be able to take dictionaries or notes into the test. 

This Oxford admissions test is now computer-based. You will need to take this at an authorised test centre which in most cases, will be your school or college.

All applicants taking this test will be invited to practise taking the 2022 past paper (or equivalent) online in advance of their test day. Please note that as the content and structure of this test has not changed, all existing online resources and past papers are still valuable preparation for you and we strongly recommend you exploring these.

Why do I have to take a test?

Most applicants to Oxford University have great personal statements, excellent references, and are also predicted top grades. It can therefore be difficult for us to choose between so many well-qualified candidates, especially as applicants come from all over the world and take different qualifications.

Tests give us an extra piece of information for every student who has applied for a given course, wherever they are from. Considered together with the other elements of the application, this helps us to identify the very best candidates. However, there is no specific mark that will guarantee your application will be shortlisted. The tests vary each year, and your test score will be considered alongside the scores of other students who apply for your course.

How are the tests designed and reviewed?

When a department wishes to introduce a new admissions test for their course, there is a substantial consultation process within the University, including a pilot testing phase, designed to ensure that the test is suitable. Where appropriate, subject departments are encouraged to share common tests, or elements of tests, to ease the process of application for the student and administration for the school or college. Use of the tests is carefully reviewed and we undertake substantial statistical evaluation of each test.

How do I register? 

Make sure you are registered for your Oxford admissions test anytime between 1 September and 29 September. 

Please note that students applying for Classics and EnglishEnglish and Modern Languages and History and English will need to sit two tests and be registered for both. 

  • Classics and English - CAT and ELAT 
  • English and Modern Languages - ELAT and MLAT
  • History and English - HAT and ELAT

When registered by your centre, you will receive two test registration IDs as confirmation that this has been successful.

Test registration isn't automatic and just completing your UCAS application won't register you for the test. You cannot register yourself for an admissions test. This must be done on your behalf through an authorised test centre. For most candidates this is their own school or college, but can also be an open test centre.

First, check Oxford's test centre portal to see if your school or college is already an authorised test centre. If you can’t find them listed, then get in contact with your exams officer as soon as possible and direct them to our information on becoming an Oxford/TCS test centre. Applying to become a test centre should be quick and straightforward, particularly if the school or college are used to running public examinations or have previously run Oxford’s admissions tests. New centres can be authorised until 15 September.

If for any reason your school or college cannot apply for centre authorisation or you are no longer in education, please read the information below on taking your test at an open centre.

Authorised schools, colleges and other test centres will be able to register candidates for Oxford’s admissions tests anytime between 1 September and 29 September.

Once your test centre has registered you for your test, you will receive an automated email giving you a candidate test registration ID. This email will also give you login details for the test platform and guidance on how to prepare for your Oxford admissions test.

Please make sure you have received this automated email with your candidate test registration ID and other instructions as proof of entry by midnight on 29 September.

To be registered, you will need to provide your centre with the following information:

  1. Name
  2. Date of birth
  3. Chosen course name and code (this is on the course webpage)
  4. UCAS ID number (you will have been given this when you opened your UCAS application)
  5. Email address (as it appears on your UCAS form)
  6. Details of any access arrangements you require (together with evidence to support your request unless your centre already has this information).

Registering at an open test centre:

If for any reason your school cannot become a test centre or your circumstances make this impractical, you can take your test at an authorised open centre. The list of current open centres is available on the Find a test centre page of the test centre portal. This will be expanded over the coming weeks as centres become authorised so if you can’t immediately find a centre, please check this regularly for updates.
Approved test centres can register candidates for Oxford admission tests anytime between 1 September and 29 September.

Please make sure you have your candidate test registration ID as proof by the time registrations close at midnight on 29 September.

If you cannot find a test centre within reasonable travelling distance of your home town, please contact the Support Team at TCS.

Do I have to pay?

We do not charge candidates to take this test. However, please be aware that some independent test centres do charge an administration fee to candidates; you should contact your centre for details.

Test preparation and practice materials

Taking any type of test or exam can be stressful, but you can help build your confidence by doing some preparation ahead of time.

Our general advice is to follow these steps:

  1. Before 29 September (the registration deadline), check that you have received email confirmation of your test registration, together with your test registration ID and log in details (username and password) for the online test platform.
  2. Explore the test-specific practice materials for your test available below. As your test will be fully online this year, we recommend typing your practice answers to past papers.
  3. Watch the video demonstrating how to use the online test platform and prepare for your test. 
    Download the transcript for preparing for your online ELAT.
  4. Once you have watched the videos and explored the practice materials below, we strongly recommend you have a go at your online practice test (click on the button below) which is the 2022 past paper. You might want not to look at this past paper in advance so that you can mimic the experience of taking the online test unseen and as if for real. Having a go at the online practice test will not only allow you to practise answering some past questions and learn the structure of the test. It will also allow you to familiarise yourself with the online test platform and the tools available to support you. These will include accessibility features such as increasing font size, using coloured overlays and high contrast. This will mean that on test day you are able to focus fully on the content of your answers.
  5. Please note that you will not be able to access a score or any feedback on your online practice test.

Here are our top tips for preparing for the ELAT:

  1.  Watch our video with an English tutor giving insights and tips on preparing for the ELAT. 
     Download the video transcript
  2. Watch our ELAT workshop video to see current English Language and Literature students work through a past paper, and explain how they approached the test. 
  3. Review the sample papers for the ELAT. This will help you to feel familiar with the test paper and know what to expect. Please note that many of the texts included in the ELAT have been redacted due to copyright reasons, so you may need to source the correct passages elsewhere, for example from your school or local library, before sitting the test.
  4. Sit at least one past paper in test conditions. This is really important as it will help you get used to how much time to allocate to each question.
  5. Read through the sample answers and examiner comments from the 2015 paper. 
  6. You could develop the close reading skills tested by the ELAT by writing about short passages of your own reading, to practise describing the decisions authors have made in their texts, and the effect of the techniques they use.

Practise the online ELAT

Note: during the real test, for security reasons, the test platform will lock if you try and navigate away from it. If this happens accidentally, your test centre administrator will be able to unlock it again. 

Introduction to the English Literature Admissions Test (ELAT)

This presentation provides information about the ELAT and advice on how to approach the test.

ELAT Workshop video

Past papers

Changes to the ELAT in 2018: Please note, prior to the 2018 test, candidates could compare two or three passages for ELAT. From the 2018 test onwards, they must compare two passages. Please note, the marking criteria were also updated in 2018. 

The University does not endorse, or allow use of, its tests that are protected by copyright for commercial use

Sample paper

  • ELAT marking criteria (please note that the bands used in shortlisting by Oxford are set after marking is complete, when the distribution of candidates’ marks is available, and may not correspond precisely to the bands used in assigning the original mark.)
  • ELAT sample paper (please note that this sample paper was created before the ELAT became a typed test, so any references to colour of ink can be ignored)
  • ELAT sample answer booklet

The University does not endorse, or allow use of, its tests that are protected by copyright for commercial use.

Sample essays with examiners comments

The University does not endorse, or allow use of, its tests that are protected by copyright for commercial use

Explanation of results

The maximum mark for the paper is 60. Each script is marked by two examiners. Each examiner gives a mark out of 30, and the two marks are combined to give an overall mark out of 60. The full range of marks will be used.

Results fall into four bands:

  • Band 1 (top): candidates are highly likely to be called for interview (unless other factors in the application outweigh the evidence of the test)
  • Band 2: candidates are likely to be invited to interview (unless other factors in the application outweigh the evidence of the test)
  • Band 3: candidates may be called to interview (in conjunction with strong factors elsewhere in the application)
  • Band 4: candidates are less likely to be invited to interview (unless other factors in the application outweigh the evidence of the test).

Exam scripts are marked by external examiners, NOT by the University of Oxford. However, the final grading will be decided by an invited panel of awarders including members of the Oxford English Faculty and selected representatives from schools and colleges.

A full breakdown of marks for each candidate is given to University of Oxford admissions tutors.

The University does not endorse, or allow use of, its tests that are protected by copyright for commercial use.

When do I take the test?

These tests are taken on specific dates each year, a few weeks after the application deadline on 29 September. The next test date is:

  • Thursday 19 October 2023

We are aware that sometimes tests fall during school half terms which vary by region each year. Unfortunately due to the tight timeframes for processing applications, it is not possible to avoid this but we hope that by giving considerable notice of test dates, schools will be able to make plans for their students to sit tests either at their school or at an alternative test centre and candidates will make sure they are available to take the necessary test(s).

Our admissions tests are an important part of our assessment process so please ensure you school, college or other test centre registers for your test (or tests) by 29 September. 

It is not possible to re-sit a test. If you feel you did badly due to extenuating circumstances, for example: if you were ill on the day of the test, your test centre can submit a special considerations form for you; or if there was some form of disruption at the test centre you can submit the form yourself. Application forms must be received within 5 days of the test date.

Remember to ensure you are registered for the test by 29 September, even if you feel exceptional circumstances may mean there is a risk you will not able take it.

Our admissions tests are an important part of our assessment process for candidates and in order to make sure your application is as competitive as possible, we strongly advise that you make every effort to sit the test.

If you experience exceptional circumstances beyond your control which prevent this, please alert the college you have applied to as soon as possible.

If you have made an open application, please contact us using our contact form. In this case your application will be considered using the other information you give us as part of your UCAS form and alongside other candidates applying for your subject.

How do I get my results?         

Admissions tutors will receive the results of all candidates' tests directly and in time to make their shortlisting decisions in November. 

Test scores will be automatically distributed to all applicants shortly after college decision letters are sent in January. Applicants will still be able to write to their college to request feedback