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English Literature Admissions Test (ELAT) Guide

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

WHAT IS THE ELAT?

The English Literature Admissions Test is an admissions test used by the University of Oxford. The ELAT focuses on assessing a candidate's aptitude for literary analysis and their ability to articulate critical insights. By incorporating the ELAT into the selection process, the University of Oxford can identify students who not only possess a passion for English Literature but also exhibit the intellectual acumen required to excel in the program.

WHO NEEDS TO SIT THE ELAT?

The ELAT is set by Oxford University as a mandatory requirement for students applying for English Language and Literature, Classics and English, English and Modern Languages, and History and English.

HOW IS THE ELAT STRUCTURED?

The ELAT is specifically designed to evaluate a student's literary interpretation, critical thinking, and written communication skills. The Oxford ELAT is a 90-minute written exam in which you will be asked to complete one essay response to a question on unseen passages. The exam will contain six passages, all of which share a common theme and are a mix of different forms, such as prose, poetry, and drama (although not all of the forms will necessarily come up in every year’s exam).

The paper will ask you the question: 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. This question is designed to test your ability to respond to unseen passages, demonstrate close reading and textual analysis skills, construct a cohesive argument, and write fluently.

CAN I CHOOSE WHICH QUESTIONS I ANSWER IN THE ELAT?

Whilst you do not have a choice of questions per se, the exam allows applicants to select two out of six different passages (usually of different forms) to compare and contrast in an essay-style answer. This gives students a degree of flexibility in selecting the passages that they feel allow them to shine the most.

HOW IS MY SCORE IN THE ELAT USED?

Oxford University uses the ELAT as a standardised format for assessing and benchmarking their applicants. The exam rewards responding to unseen texts with creativity, flair, and academic rigour rather than asking about particular books or authors that you are expected to have read prior to the exam, so that students taking different qualifications at school can access the syllabus.

Oxford uses students’ marks in the ELAT 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 ELAT 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.

WHAT IS A GOOD ELAT SCORE?

The maximum mark for the paper is 60; the script is marked by two different examiners, each of which gives a score out of 30. The ELAT score is used alongside the rest of your application, making it very difficult to say that any particular mark will ensure you receiving an invitation to interview. Band 1 results (scoring 48 to 60) are certainly the most competitive results, this is the general area you should be aiming for so that the result doesn’t become a barrier.

DO I NEED TO KNOW SPECIFIC CONTENT?

The ELAT is a test of skills, such as critical thinking, analysis, and essay-writing, rather than of any particular content knowledge. Although the content is not specific to any school syllabus, the skills that you will be using to take the test will be those taught and practised in your A-level (or equivalent) English literature syllabus, so we recommend focusing on these skills. It can be difficult to identify tasks and exercises to practise these skills; our specialist tutors who have experience of advising students taking other qualifications and help them fill in knowledge gaps.

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How to register for the ELAT

WHEN IS THE ELAT IN 2023?

The test date for the ELAT 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.

WHEN IS THE DEADLINE FOR REGISTRATION?

The ELAT, 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 ELAT 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.

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO TAKE THE ELAT?

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 English Student

HOW CAN I PREPARE FOR THE ELAT?

  1. Read Widely: Engage with a diverse range of literary works, including classic and contemporary texts, to enhance your critical analysis and understanding of different writing styles.
  2. Practice Analysing Texts: Regularly practise close reading and analysis of literary texts, paying attention to themes, character development, and narrative techniques.
  3. Hone Essay Writing Skills: Work on structuring and expressing your ideas coherently in essays, ensuring clarity and depth in your arguments.
  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 English 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 Literature student.
  5. Time Management: During preparation, practice writing essays under timed conditions to improve your ability to manage time effectively during the ELAT. For access to bespoke, true-to-life mock papers with which to practise your timing skills, head to our Admissions Test Resources hub and browse our exclusive collections!

ELAT PREPARATION MATERIALS

In addition to official ELAT 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 ELAT papers can be found here and are included with our admissions test tuition. 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.

WHAT IS THE BEST STUDY GUIDE FOR THE ELAT?

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 ELAT?

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

Most students who don’t make it through the interview stages and feel their ELAT 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 ELAT paper.

START EARLY

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

REFLECTION

Reflect on your personal strengths and weaknesses. No two students should have the same revision strategy for the ELAT, since you all have varying abilities. Try to identify which text forms you get on well with, as well as how you fare in reading through and planning answers to unseen texts.

DON'T RESTRICT YOUR PRACTICE MATERIALS

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 ELAT papers, you should then look wider at similar materials. For example, 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.

ELAT Admission Private Tuition x4

Available all year-round and includes 4 private admissions test tuition sessions and four test papers, which are marked by expert Oxbridge-graduate tutors.

ELAT Admission Private Tuition x6

Available: Year-Round and includes 6 private admissions test tuition sessions and six test papers which are marked by expert Oxbridge-graduate tutors.

Past ELAT test papers

Prepare for your admissions test with our mock papers.

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