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Classics Admissions Test (CAT) Guide

Everything you should know before taking the CAT and how to be successful!


The Classics Admissions Test is an admissions test used by the University of Oxford. The CAT is divided into three separate tests, each of which measure a candidate’s ability in Latin, ability in Greek, or aptitude for Classical languages respectively. Students will take one or more of these papers depending on whether they are already studying classical languages at school, and which of the options on the Classics degree course they are interested in applying for. This test is used by Oxford University admissions tutors to distinguish between otherwise similarly qualified applicants as part of their rigorous application process.


The CAT is set by Oxford University as a mandatory requirement for students applying for Classics (Course I and Course II), Classics and English, Classics and Modern Languages, or Classics and Asian and Middle Eastern Studies.


The CAT is separated into three different papers: the Latin Translation Test, the Greek Translation Test, and the Classics Language Aptitude Test (CLAT). Which of these papers an applicant sits depends on what they are currently studying at school, as well as which classics degree course they are applying to. At Oxford, applicants can apply to either Classics Course I (a degree course designed for students who are studying Latin and/or Greek to A-level or equivalent) or Classics Course II (for applicants who have studied neither Latin nor Greek to A-Level or equivalent. Applicants for Classics Course I (either alone or as part of a joint degree) must sit either one or both of the Latin and Greek Translation Test (depending on which one(s) they study), whilst applicants for Classics Course II (either alone or as part of a joint degree) must sit the Classics Language Aptitude test.

The Greek and Latin Translation Tests each consist of a short passage each in prose and verse in the language in question. The applicant must translate the passage into English. This test does not allow dictionaries, grammar books, or any other kind of notes into the test.

The Classics Language Aptitude Test (CLAT) is designed to test the ability of a student to analyse how new languages work in a way that doesn’t depend on preexisting knowledge of any language in particular.


Students are required to answer all the questions given to them in the paper(s) they sit as part of the CAT.


Oxford University uses the CAT as a standardised format for assessing and benchmarking their applicants. The exam rewards either the ability to accurately translate classical texts in either Latin or Greek, or the ability to adapt to new languages and learn quickly as part of their potential degree course.

Oxford uses students’ marks in the CAT to make decisions about which applicants they should invite to interview, giving them a further indicator in addition to predicted and achieved grades. Whilst the CAT is important in their selection processes, it is always used as part of a matrix and considered alongside other factors submitted with the application, such as predicted grades and personal statement.


Each section of the CAT is marked out of 100. Each of the language translation sections (Greek and Latin) allocate 50 marks for each of the two translation questions, whilst the CLAT splits the total marks between Section A (25 marks), Section B (50 marks), and Section C (25 marks). It is rare for applicants to obtain over 80 marks on any one of the papers, so anything over 70 is a relatively good indicator of being above the average score.


For the Latin or Greek Translation Tests, applicants are advised to revise both vocabulary and grammar points that they have covered in their school course so far. The Translation Tests are designed to be at a level that is challenging but also doable for students studying A-level or equivalent Latin or Greek courses. In addition, general translation techniques and skills should be practised as good preparation for the test.

For the CLAT, although no knowledge of a particular language is required, students can prepare by working on language-based logic puzzles and translation tasks in order to ensure their best performance in the test.


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How to register for the CAT


The test date for the CAT in 2023 is the 19th of October, meaning that all applicants will have to sit the test on this exact day. This may be during half term, but with plenty of advanced notice this hopefully shouldn’t prevent your school or college from holding the test. Be aware that if you miss this date for whatever reason you will not be able to take the test on another day and your application will not be considered.


The CAT, like many Oxford Admissions Tests, requires applicants to register in advance of sitting the test. 2023 applicants will have to register between the 1st and 29th of September to be able to sit the test.

An applicant cannot register themselves for the test, but must be registered through an official test centre. For most candidates this will be their school or college, but if not it can be done through an open test centre. We recommend reading the Oxford University CAT page for more details on how to register. However you register, make sure that you have submitted all your details to the test centre and have received your candidate entry number as proof of entry by midnight on the 29th of September. If you have extenuating circumstances (i.e. a situation beyond your control) that prevented you from registering on time, get in touch with the Oxford college you applied to immediately and alert them of your situation.


Oxford University does not charge applicants a registration fee. However, independent test centres do sometimes charge an administration fee for candidates to cover costs such as room hire and invigilation. Get in touch with your chosen test centre to clarify if this cost will apply to you.


Tips from a Successful Oxford Classics Student


  1. Watch CAT Workshops: The University of Oxford publishes workshops on their CAT webpage in which university professors explain the different CAT papers and how they measure an applicant’s skills. Watching these will serve as a good introduction to the CAT and your preparation journey.
  2. Practice Translating Texts: Regularly practise close reading and translation of Latin or Greek texts (if sitting one or both Translation papers), both going over the set texts from your school classes as well as unseen text practice.
  3. Go Over Vocabulary and Grammar: Spend some time going back through the Latin or Greek vocabulary and grammar you have covered in class so as to give you the headstart on your unseen Latin or Greek text translations.
  4. Seek Feedback: Request feedback on your practice essays and responses from teachers, mentors, or peers. Constructive criticism will help you identify areas for improvement and refine your approach. Previous Oxford Classics Students, such as our mentors here at Oxbridge Applications, are also a great source of knowledge to draw on, as they can give you an accurate picture of what it means to perform like a real Oxford Classics student. Get in touch with one of our mentors today as part of an Admissions Test Tuition course.
  5. Time Management: During preparation, practise undertaking translations or completing language grammar puzzles under timed conditions to improve your ability to manage time effectively during the CAT.


In addition to official CAT past and specimen papers on the Oxford Website, we at Oxbridge Applications have written a series of additional mock papers. Our students have 33% more questions to practise with. Our mock CAT papers are included with our CAT admissions test tuition course. All of our ELAT tutors are highly-trained Oxford graduates who can share their personally insights of having sat the test. You can contact our Oxbridge-graduate Consultants on +44 (0) 20 7499 2394 or email [email protected] to discuss which of our test training would suit you best. We also have an online testing portal for students who want to sit the exam in timed, test conditions.


At Oxbridge Applications, we pride ourselves in providing up-to-date advice and unrivalled expertise. As well as collating information from publicly available sources, we also conduct our own research into the application process; for example, by surveying the thousands of students we support each year. Speak to an Oxbridge Applications expert today for advice on your specific situation!

How to Pass the CAT?

The best advice we can offer to succeed the CAT exam is to begin exam preparation early and practise often.

Most students who don’t make it through the interview stages and feel their CAT results let them down tell us that they didn’t spend enough time practising with unseen materials and working to the specific timings and requirements of the relevant CAT paper.


Since no specific subject knowledge is required for the CAT, challenge yourself to begin working through past papers and familiarising yourself with the questions as soon as possible.


Reflect on your personal strengths and weaknesses. No two students should have the same revision strategy for the CAT, since you all have varying abilities. Try to identify which text forms you get on well with best, as well as how you fare in engaging with new texts and translating rapidly or, in the case of the CLAT, how quickly you can adapt to a new language system.


Don’t restrict your practice materials: Once you have tried all of the real past papers, and have moved on to additional materials like our bespoke CAT papers, you should then look wider at similar materials. For example, if taking Latin or Greek Translation papers, take a look at unseen text questions for other A-level exam boards or other exam systems, such as the IB. This could offer you a wider array of practice material and help train your flexibility to unseen materials.


Strategic Guidance

Unsure about your Oxbridge application? In our one-hour consultation, our experts strategise your application, assess your potential, and resolve queries to maximise your success. Contact us at [email protected] or +44 (0) 20 7499 2394.

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