Oxford 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 Oxford ELAT: English Language and Literature, Classics and English, English and Modern Languages, History and English.  

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

The Oxford 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 Oxford 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?

More information on how to register for this admissions test will be available here shortly. The deadline for registering will be 29 September.

Joint schools: 

Candidates for Classics and EnglishEnglish and Modern Languages, and History and English 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. The deadlines for applying for modified papers and requesting access arrangements will be available soon.

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 register for the 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 register 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.

We are aware that there may be extra difficulties for some candidates this year but we do expect the vast majority of candidates to be able to sit tests as planned.

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

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.

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 Oxford ELAT:

  1.  Watch our Oxford 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 Oxford 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 Oxford 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 Oxford 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 Oxford English Literature Admissions Test (Oxford ELAT)

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

Oxford ELAT Workshop video

Past papers

Changes to the Oxford ELAT in 2018: Please note, prior to the 2018 test, candidates could compare two or three passages for Oxford 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.