English Literature Admissions Test (ELAT)

This admissions test is taken for some Oxford and Cambridge courses.
Last updated: 7 months, 2 weeks ago


The ELAT forms a crucial part of the admissions process to study English at Oxford and Cambridge, and some joint honours courses at Oxford.

How to Prepare

Here are some general resources related to the English Literature Admissions Test (ELAT). Use this page as a hub to branch off and use other resources!

The Basics

The ELAT is a required pre-admissions test to study English 🔗, Classics and English 🔗, and English and Modern Languages 🔗 at Oxford, and English 🔗 at Cambridge.

Note: for the Classics and English course at Oxford, you are also required to sit the Classics Admissions Test, as you are expected to sit the MLAT to apply for English and Modern Languages.

The ELAT is a 90-minute written test which asks you to write one essay comparing and contrasting two passages of your choice. The examination paper will provide you with six passages, which may be a range of extracts from poems, prose and drama, and from a range of writers, time periods and literary movements.

Your essay will be given a total mark out of 60. Each script is marked by two examiners, who each give a score out of 30. If there is less than five marks between the two examiners’ decisions, a third examiner will mark the script to ensure consistency. Then, your marks will be grouped into bands from 1 (top) to 5 (bottom).

To take the ELAT, you need to be registered. This is done separately to your UCAS application. Normally the school or college you attend is a registered test centre, but you need to check this and if you need to find an alternative test centre, there is more information here 🔗 🌟

Helpful Resources

That Oxford Girl has produced a really useful blog post 🔗 🌟 about the ELAT - although it's a few years old, it contains some really useful tips for helping you develop your technique, structure your answer and smash it on exam day.

Here is an online handbook 🔗 to writing commentaries on unseen texts. Although it’s not about comparative writing, it may be useful to help you develop your technique when approaching unseen literature.

The Oxford Faculty of English has produced a helpful webpage on the ELAT 🔗 🌟, including testimonies from three students and from a tutor.

Molly at Oxford video 🔗 Here, YouTuber Molly at Oxford talks more about the ELAT from her own experience.

‘How to Prepare for the ELAT video 🔗 And here’s another handy video about sitting the ELAT.

Practice is Pivotal

Past Papers 🔗 🌟 Here, you can find all of the available past and practice papers. These are particularly useful for practising your approach to comparing unseen texts.

Although practice may get tiring, your approach to understanding and writing about unseen texts will improve with time. However, you may not want to always take a strict and structured approach. On exam day, go with the texts you respond to best, and be creative and thoughtful in your response.

Tips and Tricks

You have 90 minutes to answer the question, and it is up to you how you divide your time into analysis, planning and writing. Most important is your ability to construct a measured and well thought through argument. Divide your time as you see fit, according to how much you plan to write, and how long you want to spend analysing and annotating the texts.

The test will likely ask you to ‘compare and contrast’ the two texts you have chosen. It is imperative that throughout your answer, you consistently integrate comparative language to ensure you’re keeping up a clear answer to the question.

Most of all, the examiners are looking for you to demonstrate your ability to think critically. You need to show that you can think about why certain features are important in a text and what effect you think they might have on the reader.