Detail of a manuscript in the Bodleian Library.
Detail of a manuscript in the Bodleian Library.
(Image credit: Bodleian Library).

English Language and Literature

mortar boardUCAS codeQ300calendarDuration3 years (BA)
pencilEntrance requirementsAAAHeadSubject requirements
  English Literature or English Language and Literature
  A language, History
tickAdmissions test(s) workOne piece
bar chartAdmissions statistics*Interviewed: 63%
Successful: 24%
Intake: 235
*3-year average 2018-20

+44 (0) 1865 271055
Email English

Subject requirements:       Essential       Recommended       Helpful – may be useful on course

Unistats information for this course can be found at the bottom of the page

Please note that there may be no data available if the number of course participants is very small.

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

The English Language and Literature course at Oxford is one of the broadest in the country, giving you the chance to study writing in English from its origins in Anglo-Saxon England to the present. As well as British literature, you can study works written in English from other parts of the world, and some originally written in other languages, allowing you to think about literature in English in multilingual and global contexts across time. The course allows you a considerable degree of choice, both in developing your personal interests across core papers, and in choosing a topic for your dissertation and for a special option in your final year. Options have included Literature and revolution, Postcolonial literature, Writing lives, Old Norse, Tragedy, and Film criticism.

Studying literature at Oxford involves the development of sophisticated reading skills and of an ability to place literary texts in their wider intellectual and historical contexts. It also requires you to consider the critical processes by which you analyse and judge, to learn about literary form and technique, to evaluate various approaches to literary criticism and theory, and to study the development of the English language.

The Oxford English Faculty is the largest English department in Britain. Students are taught in tutorials by an active scholar in their field, many of whom also give lectures to all students in the English Faculty. You will therefore have the opportunity to learn from a wide range of specialist teachers. Library provision for English at Oxford is exceptionally good. All students have access to the Bodleian Library (with its extensive manuscript collection), the English Faculty Library, their own college libraries and a wide range of electronic resources.

In your first year you will be introduced to the conceptual and technical tools used in the study of language and literature, and to a wide range of different critical approaches. At the same time, you will be doing tutorial work on early medieval literature, Victorian literature and literature from 1910 to the present.

In your second and third years you will extend your study of English literary history in four more period papers ranging from late medieval literature to Romanticism. These papers are assessed by three-hour written examinations at the end of your third year. You will also produce a portfolio of three essays on Shakespeare, on topics of your choice; an extended essay (or occasionally an examination) relating to a special options paper, chosen from a list of around 25 courses; and an 8,000-word dissertation on a subject of your choice. Submitted work will constitute almost half of the final assessment for most students.

Alternatively, in the second and third years, you can choose to follow our specialist course in Medieval Literature and Language, with papers covering literature in English from 650-1550 along with the history of the English language up to 1800, with a further paper either on Shakespeare or on manuscript and print culture. Students on this course also take a special options paper and submit a dissertation on a topic of their choice.

 students student working in a library students

“The real value of Oxford’s English course is its sheer scope, stretching from Beowulf to Virginia Woolf and beyond. Being guided through all the different ages of English literature means you explore periods and styles you may otherwise have rejected out of hand, discover brand new tastes, and even more levels to your love of literature! The ability to sit and read some of the greatest works of prose, poetry and performance in a city steeped in its own near-mythological wealth of history and beautiful architecture gives you a sense of being lost in your own fantasy, your own realm of turrets, tutors and texts.” 


“I never really had any doubt I wanted to study English (I was a bit of a freak in that respect probably). The course here is so broad, I feel like I'm learning about things I would never have thought to do on my own. The best thing is probably the amount of freedom we get; we choose which lectures we want to go to, which texts to focus on, and mostly even choose our own essay questions. It means from the start you really get to explore your own interests, but your tutors make sure you're still preparing for broader exam questions through these.”
"[The best thing about the course was] the freedom I had to direct my own studies, from choosing the books I wanted to write on, to developing my own specific area of focus within them. The course was a completely different learning experience from school because I was given the freedom to really work out what I thought about texts without having to worry about meeting assessment objectives or covering key themes. I've left Oxford knowing that I've really explored why I love literature so much and that I've contributed something individual to the study of literature, even if it ends up being just read by me.”

English Language and Literature

A typical week

Although details of practice vary from college to college, most students will have one or two tutorials (usually two students and a tutor) and one or two classes (in groups of around 8 to 10) each week. A tutorial usually involves discussion of an essay, which you will have produced based on your own reading and research that week. You will normally be expected to produce between eight and twelve pieces of written work each term. Most students will also attend several lectures each week.

Tutorials are usually 2-3 students and a tutor. Class sizes may vary depending on the options you choose. In college, there would usually be 6-12 students and in the department there would usually be no more than 15 students. There might be specific circumstances in which some classes contained around 20 students. 

Most tutorials, classes, and lectures are delivered by staff who are tutors in their subject. Many are world-leading experts with years of experience in teaching and research. Some teaching may also be delivered by postgraduate students who are usually studying at doctorate level.

To find out more about how our teaching year is structured, visit our Academic Year page.

Course structure



Four papers are taken:
  • Introduction to English language and literature
  • Early medieval literature, 650–1350
  • Literature in English, 1830–1910
  • Literature in English, 1910–present day


Three written papers form the First University Examination, together with a submitted portfolio of two essays for Introduction to English language and literature. All exams must be passed, but marks do not count towards the final degree.



  • Course I:
    • Literature in English, 1350–1550
    • Literature in English, 1550–1660
    • Literature in English, 1660–1760
    • Literature in English, 1760–1830
  • Course II:
    • Literature in English, 650–1100
    • Medieval English and related literatures 1066–1550
    • Literature in English, 1350–1550
    • The history of the English language to c1800


  • Course I:
    • Shakespeare (may also be studied in Year 2)
  • Course II:
    • The material text or Shakespeare (choice of option)
  • Both courses:
    • Special options paper
    • Dissertation
More information on current options is available on the English Language and Literature website.


All period papers will be examined by final written examinations at the end of the third year. Most students will submit one extended essay for Special options, due in at the end of the first term; dissertation and portfolio for Shakespeare/The material text, due during the second term.

The content and format of this course may change in some circumstances. Read further information about potential course changes.

Academic Requirements

Advanced Highers:  AA/AAB
IB: 38 (including core points) with 666 at HL                                                                                           
Or any other equivalent (see other UK qualifications, and international qualifications)

Wherever possible, your grades are considered in the context in which they have been achieved.  (See further information on how we use contextual data.) 

Subject requirements 

 Essential:  Candidates are expected to have English Literature, or English Language and Literature to A-level, Advanced Higher, Higher Level in the IB or any other equivalent.
 Helpful:A language or History can be helpful to students in completing this course, although they are not required for admission.

If a practical component forms part of any of your science A‐levels used to meet your offer, we expect you to pass it.

If English is not your first language you may also need to meet our English language requirements.

Please note that creative writing qualifications, regardless of awarding body, are not accepted and will not help you meet the academic requirements for this course.


All candidates must follow the application procedure as shown in applying to Oxford. The information below gives specific details for students applying for this course.

Admissions test

Test: ELAT 
Test date:4 November 2021
Registration date:                         6pm 15 October 2021                                                                                                       

All candidates must take the English Literature Admissions Test (ELAT) as part of their application. Separate registration for this test is required and it is the responsibility of the candidate to ensure that they are registered. We strongly recommend making arrangements in plenty of time before the deadline. For everything you need to know, including guidance on registration and preparation, can be found on the ELAT page. 

Written work


Candidates are required to submit one recent example of writing. We understand the impact COVID-19 may have had on your schoolwork, and that this may have restricted the range of written work you’ve completed. Normally we’d prefer to read an analytical discussion of a topic or topics in the field of English literature, although an English language topic might be suitable. You can send us an excerpt from your course work or EPQ (if you have drafted any), or any piece of written work you’ve done on any literary texts.  This could include a short timed essay or a brief critical commentary, although we understand that those give you less scope to show what you can do.  Please don’t submit a piece of creative writing. The piece you choose should not exceed 2,000 words, but you’re welcome to submit an excerpt from a longer piece if you think it represents your best work (you may add a note to explain the context of the excerpt).  

If you are a pre-qualification applicant, we would normally expect that you would submit a marked essay produced in the normal course of your school or college work, and that it should not have been rewritten after marking.  We understand that may not be possible this year, so please describe the circumstances under which your work was produced on the form provided. You and your teacher will both fill in this form, so tell us under what conditions you wrote the essay, with what help, and in what timeframe. Tutors will take that information into account.   

If you are a post-qualification, or mature applicant, you can decide (but it is not necessary) to produce a new piece of work, as you may want to give a clearer reflection of your current abilities. Again, we understand that this means it may not be possible to have it marked. Please use the space on the form to describe the circumstances in which the work was produced. 

Submission deadline:10 November 2021

For general guidance and to download the cover sheet, please see our written work page.

What are tutors looking for?

Successful candidates will give evidence of wide, engaged, and thoughtful reading. The ELAT and written work help us to gauge your analytical skills and your writing. Interviews allow us to explore your enthusiasm for literature, your response to new ideas and information and your capacity for independent thought. We are not looking for any particular reading, or particular answers: we are interested in your ideas and in how you engage with literature. Shortlisted candidates may also be asked to discuss an unseen piece of prose or verse given to you before or in the interview. Tutors appreciate that you may be nervous, and will try to put you at ease.

For more detail on the selection criteria for this course, please see the English website.


Our students go on to succeed in a very wide range of careers: the analytical and communication skills that develop during this course equip them for many different paths. Popular careers and fields include the law, advertising, acting, publishing, politics, teaching, librarianship, public relations, journalism, writing, further research, management consultancy and finance.

We don't want anyone who has the academic ability to get a place to study here to be held back by their financial circumstances. To meet that aim, Oxford offers one of the most generous financial support packages available for UK/Republic of Ireland students and this may be supplemented by support from your college.

Further information for EU students starting in 2022 is available here.


These annual fees are for full-time students who begin this undergraduate course here in 2022.

Fee status

Annual Course fees


Further details about fee status eligibility can be found on the fee status webpage.

For more information please refer to our course fees page. Fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on likely increases to fees and charges.

EU applicants should refer to our dedicated webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s departure from the European Union.

Living costs

Living costs at Oxford might be less than you’d expect, as our world-class resources and college provision can help keep costs down.

Living costs for the academic year starting in 2022 are estimated to be between £1,215 and £1,755 for each month you are in Oxford. Our academic year is made up of three eight-week terms, so you would not usually need to be in Oxford for much more than six months of the year but may wish to budget over a nine-month period to ensure you also have sufficient funds during the holidays to meet essential costs. For further details please visit our living costs webpage.

Financial support


A tuition fee loan is available from the UK government to cover course fees in full for Home (UK, Irish nationals and other eligible students with UK citizens' rights - see below*) students undertaking their first undergraduate degree**, so you don’t need to pay your course fees up front.

In 2022 Oxford is offering one of the most generous bursary packages of any UK university to Home students with a family income of around £42,875 or less, with additional opportunities available to UK students from households with incomes of £27,500 or less. The UK government also provides living costs support to Home students from the UK and those with settled status who meet the residence requirements.

*For courses starting on or after 1 August 2021, the UK government has confirmed that EU, other EEA, and Swiss Nationals will be eligible for student finance from the UK government if they have UK citizens’ rights (i.e. if they have pre-settled or settled status, or if they are an Irish citizen covered by the Common Travel Area arrangement). The support you can access from the government will depend on your residency status.

 See further details.

(Channel Islands and Isle of Man)

Islands students are entitled to different support to that of students from the rest of the UK.

Please refer the links below for information on the support to you available from your funding agency:

States of Jersey
States of Guernsey
Isle of Man


Please refer to the "Other Scholarships" section of our Oxford Bursaries and Scholarships page.

**If you have studied at undergraduate level before and completed your course, you will be classed as an Equivalent or Lower Qualification student (ELQ) and won’t be eligible to receive government or Oxford funding

Fees, Funding and Scholarship search

Additional Fees and Charges Information for English Language and Literature

There are no compulsory costs for this course beyond the fees shown above and your living costs.

Contextual information

Course data from Discover Uni provides applicants with statistics about undergraduate life at Oxford. But there is so much more to an Oxford degree that the numbers can’t convey.

The Oxford tutorial

College tutorials are central to teaching at Oxford. Typically, they take place in your college and are led by your academic tutor(s) who teach as well as do their own research. Students will also receive teaching in a variety of other ways, depending on the course. This will include lectures and classes, and may include laboratory work and fieldwork. However, tutorials offer a level of personalised attention from academic experts unavailable at most universities.

During tutorials (normally lasting an hour), college subject tutors will give you and one or two tutorial partners feedback on prepared work and cover a topic in depth. The other student(s) in your college tutorials will be from your year group, doing the same course as you and will normally be at your college. Such regular and rigorous academic discussion develops and facilitates learning in a way that isn’t possible through lectures alone. Tutorials also allow for close progress monitoring so tutors can quickly provide additional support if necessary.

Read more about tutorials and an Oxford education

College life

Our colleges are at the heart of Oxford’s reputation as one of the best universities in the world.

  • At Oxford, everyone is a member of a college as well as their subject department(s) and the University. Students therefore have both the benefits of belonging to a large, renowned institution and to a small and friendly academic community. Each college or hall is made up of academic and support staff, and students. Colleges provide a safe, supportive environment leaving you free to focus on your studies, enjoy time with friends and make the most of the huge variety of opportunities.
  • Each college has a unique character, but generally their facilities are similar. Each one, large or small, will have the following essential facilities:
    • Porters’ lodge (a staffed entrance and reception)
    • Dining hall
    • Lending library (often open 24/7 in term time)
    • Student accommodation
    • Tutors’ teaching rooms
    • Chapel and/or music rooms
    • Laundry
    • Green spaces
    • Common room (known as the JCR).
  • All first year students are offered college accommodation either on the main site of their college or in a nearby college annexe. This means that your neighbours will also be ‘freshers’ and new to life at Oxford. This accommodation is guaranteed, so you don’t need to worry about finding somewhere to live after accepting a place here, all of this is organised for you before you arrive.
  • All colleges offer at least one further year of accommodation and some offer it for the entire duration of your degree. You may choose to take up the option to live in your college for the whole of your time at Oxford, or you might decide to arrange your own accommodation after your first year – perhaps because you want to live with friends from other colleges.
  • While college academic tutors primarily support your academic development, you can also ask their advice on other things. Lots of other college staff including welfare officers help students settle in and are available to offer guidance on practical or health matters. Current students also actively support students in earlier years, sometimes as part of a college ‘family’ or as peer supporters trained by the University’s Counselling Service.

More about Oxford colleges and how you choose