ELAT (English Literature Admissions Test)

Please note, the test date for the ELAT has been moved to Thursday 4 November 2021.

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.  

The English Literature Admissions Test (ELAT) is a paper-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. 

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.

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.

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?

The University's admissions tests are administered by Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing (CAAT). Registration isn't automatic and just completing your UCAS application won't register you for the test. You cannot register yourself for a test, but must do so through an authorised test centre. For most candidates this is their own school or college, but can also be an open test centre.

You must provide your centre with the following information:

  • your name, gender, date of birth and UCAS number exactly as they have been entered on your UCAS application
  • the name of the University, course and course code
  • details of any access arrangements you require, along with the evidence to support your request. (Requests for modified question papers must be submitted by your centre by 30 September.)

Taking your test in school or college:

Please ask your Exams Officer whether or not your school or college is registered as a test centre. If they are not, they can follow this advice on how to become a test centre. Institutions can register to become test centres at any time before the deadline of 30 September. Registration for candidates to take tests opens on 1 September and you must have your candidate entry number(s) as proof of entry by 6pm UK time on 15 October. You are strongly advised to begin making arrangements as soon as possible.

Taking your test in 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 open centre. You can find your nearest test centre via the Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing (CAAT) website. Registration for candidates to take tests opens on 1 September and you must have your candidate entry number(s) as proof of entry by 6pm UK time on 15 October. You are strongly advised to begin making arrangements as soon as possible. If you cannot find a test centre within reasonable travelling distance of your home town, please contact the Support Team at CAAT.

Joint schools: 

Candidates for Classics and English and English and Modern Languages will need to sit more than one test and will need to ask to be registered for both tests. You will receive two candidate numbers as confirmation that your registration has been successful.

Can I apply for access arrangements?

Your test centre will be able to apply for access arrangements for you if you have a permanent or long-term disability which might affect your performance such as a sight impairment, dyslexia or cerebral palsy. You may also be eligible for access arrangements if you have a short-term difficulty, such as a broken arm.

The access arrangements you are eligible for will depend on the exact nature of your condition and most often will be the same as those you would get while taking a public examination at your school. These could include modified materials (i.e. large print or braille exam papers), extra time, or the use of a laptop.

You should let your school or test centre know of any requirements you may have as early as you can and provide them with medical evidence to support your application. Please note the deadline for applying for modified papers is 30 September, while all other access arrangements can be arranged by the normal deadline of 15 October.

When do I take the test?

The University's admissions tests are administered by Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing. These tests are taken on specific dates each year, a few weeks after the application deadline on 15 October. The next test dates are:

  • Thursday 4 November 2021
  • Wednesday 2 November 2022

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 register for the test (or tests) by 15 October. 

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.

How do I get my results?         

Results for the ELAT are released to candidates in early January by CAAT. You will be issued a PDF Statement of Results to via their Results Online system. Results are only available for candidates to download for 60 days from the date of issue. After this, you cannot obtain your results. Admissions tutors will receive the results of all tests directly from Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing in time to make their shortlisting decisions in November, so you do not need to send your results to us separately.

How do I prepare?

Taking any type of test or exam can be stressful, but you can help build your confidence by doing some preparation ahead of time. You may also do better in the real test if you've had a chance to practise some sample or past papers, and got used to the format and timings of the admissions test you have to take. Here are our top tips for preparing for the ELAT:

  1.  Watch our ELAT workshop video to see current English Literature students work through a past paper, and explain how they approached the test. 
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Read through the sample answers and examiner comments from the 2015 paper. 
  5. 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.

Introduction to the English Literature Admissions Test (ELAT)

This presentation provides information about 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

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).

Where there is a difference of five or more marks between the two examiners, a third examiner will mark the script. The overall score will be the two nearest marks combined.

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.