What is ELAT (English Literature Admission Test)?

3 min read

The English Literature Admissions Test (ELAT) is an assessment taken prior to interviews. It is compulsory when applying for an undergraduate English course or a combined English course at the University of Oxford.

ELAT exam

ELAT Meaning: Everything you need to know

Admissions processes are confusing enough without the constant barrage of information regarding various entry examinations. To help guide you through the process, our Oxbridge experts have compiled a compendium of everything you need to know about the ELAT 2024. For more top tips, read our article on top 10 tips for preparing for the ELAT.

  • Composition of the ELAT 
  • ELAT timeline
  • Scoring of the ELAT 2024
  • Top tips for the ELAT

Composition of the ELAT 2024

The ELAT test comprises six poems or passages, ranging from drama to prose. They can be either fiction or nonfiction. Candidates must adequately compare and contrast two chosen passages. Students have 90 minutes to complete the ELAT meaning that they should plan their time wisely. They should focus on style, language and structure of the texts. There is no set format for the comparison; candidates may write this in whichever way best suits their abilities. 

ELAT exam assessors are, in particular, looking for: 

  • Reading skills
  • Ability to shape and articulate an informed response to unfamiliar material
  • Identify various English techniques 

Inside the English Literature Admissions Test, there are six poems or passages from either dramas or prose from fiction or nonfiction reads. These challenge the applicant through comparing and contrasting two chosen passages. The comparisons can be made in any way that interests the writer in 90 minutes, focusing on the style, language and structure of the texts.

This challenge is given to test an applicants 

  • Close reading skills 
  • Ability to shape and articulate an informed response to unfamiliar material 
  • Distinctive features of english literacy structure, language and style
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ELAT Timeline 2024

The ELAT exam is sat in a registered test centre. This can be either a candidate’s college or school or a private local test facility. The ELAT test is taken in early November of every test cycle on a set date set by the Cambridge Assessment Admission testing. 

You can sit the test at your school if it is a test centre, otherwise the English Literature Admissions Test is sat in an open test centre. Find your nearest test centre here. 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 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. 

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. Results are released online to candidates in by CAAT

ELAT test

ELAT Scoring in 2024

The ELAT exam is scored out of a maximum of 60 marks. Marking is performed by two independent assessors, each scoring the applicant’s work out of 30. A summation of the marks is used to finalise the applicant’s score. 

Explanations of marks given can be found from the two universities to give candidate’s an idea of how the papers are marked and particular features in the essay that result in the best outcome in the admission exam. This image below shows the marking criteria for the ELAT test.

ELAT meaning
More information on the specific marking criterias can be found <a href=httpswwwadmissionstestingorgfor test takerselatscoring and results>here<a>

Top Tips for the ELAT 

The ELAT test can be a very difficult exam if left unprepared. Here are some top tips when approaching the English Literature Admissions Test.

Prepare using Sample Past Papers Questions

Just like any other examinations, make sure you go through our ELAT past papers. Oxford University’s past papers can also be found here. Practise untimed at first and go through areas you find difficult, then progress to timed conditions. This will be useful as it will give you an idea as to the level of difficulty of these tests, and by marking yourself, you’ll be able to improve as you progress.

Have a Revision Timetable

It gives you great clarity as you can divide the exam into more digestible topics which allows you to focus on the tasks at hand and cover areas you struggle with most. Additionally, it can give a sense of accountability as it pre-commits you to deadlines you set yourself. By creating a revision timetable, you can tackle the task in small more manageable chunks, rather than stress about the size of your task.

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Read The (Full) Question

One of my highschool teachers mentioned this phenomenal acronym which I still remember to this day; R.T.Q. i.e Read The Question. Or if he was very angry at us for not getting an obvious question correct he’d say R.T.F.Q i.e. Read The Full Question. It can be very easy to get swept up in the adrenaline rush of the start of the exam, so please make sure you fully comprehend the question before writing. 

Take Time to Plan

This enables you to work out a logical structure and an end point for your argument before you start writing. It means you don’t have to do this type of complex thinking at the same time as trying to find the right words to express your ideas. It helps you to commit yourself to sticking to the point you’re trying to convey. 

Stay Calm and Ace the Exam

If you’re applying to either Oxford or Cambridge you’re already an exceptionally capable student. You’ve taken your ELAT preparation seriously, scoured the internet for all the resources and revised for countless hours. Remain calm and composed and ace that exam!


→ How difficult is ELAT?

The ELAT exam is considered a challenging exam, as it is designed to assess applicants’ ability to think critically about literary texts and write analytical essays. However, with careful preparation and practice, many applicants are able to achieve high scores.

→ Do all Oxford colleges require ELAT?

Most Oxford colleges require applicants for English or joint honours courses that include English to take the English Literature Admissions Test. However, applicants should check the specific admissions requirements of the college(s) they are applying to, as some may have different or additional requirements.

→ How long does the ELAT take?

The test is a 90-minute exam that is typically administered in early November. It consists of two sections: the first requires students to answer multiple-choice questions about literary texts, while the second requires students to write an essay on a given literary topic.

→ What is the cut-off score or pass mark?

There is no fixed cut-off score or pass mark. Admissions tutors will consider the scores of all applicants in relation to each other and in the context of other application materials, to identify the most promising candidates for interview and admission.

→ How important is the ELAT?

The exam plays a significant role in the Oxford admissions process for English or joint honours courses that include English. It is used to help select applicants who are invited to interview, alongside other factors such as predicted grades, personal statement, and school reference. However, it is not the only factor considered in the admissions process. Admissions tutors will also consider the applicant’s overall academic ability, potential, and fit with the course.

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