What is the MLAT?

3 min read

Written by Joseph Watt for Oxbridge Mind.

If you want to study Modern Languages at the University of Oxford, you’ll need to sit the Modern Languages Admissions Test (MLAT). The MLAT assesses a candidate’s potential as a Modern Languages student and is an important step in the Oxford application process. Though it may seem daunting, the MLAT doesn’t have to be! In this article we’ll take you through everything you need to know about the test to feel prepared before you sit it.

Do I need to sit the MLAT?

If you are applying to read a course at the University of Oxford that includes the study of a Modern Language, even if you have never studied that language before, then you are required to sit the MLAT. Here is a list of all the Oxford courses that require candidates to sit the MLAT:

  • European and Middle Eastern Languages
  • Classics and Modern Languages
  • History and Modern Languages
  • Modern Languages
  • Modern Languages and Linguistics
  • Philosophy and Modern Languages

How is the paper structured?

The MLAT is a paper test split into 10 sections, and you will need to complete either 1 or 2. The 10 sections are listed as follows:

Czech6. Portuguese 
French7. Russian
German8. Spanish
Italian9. Language Aptitude Test (LAT)
Modern Greek10. Philosophy

Which sections do I need to complete?

In all 8 of the Modern Language sections candidates have 30 minutes to complete a mixture of grammatical and translation exercises, assessing your ability and potential in that specific language. For each language you are applying to read that you have studied up to A Level (or equivalent) standard, you’ll need to complete one of these 8 sections.

The Language Aptitude Test (LAT), also lasting 30 minutes, tests an individual’s capacity for learning new languages. You must complete the LAT if you are applying to read one or more languages that you haven’t previously studied. You will also need to take it if you are applying to study the single honours Russian course.

The Philosophy section is the only non-linguistic section within the MLAT and tests an individual’s abilities as a prospective Philosophy student. It lasts 60 minutes. You must complete this section only if you are applying to study Philosophy and Modern Languages.

The Oxford University admissions website outlines exactly which sections you’ll need to complete for each Modern Languages degree. If you are submitting a joint schools degree application, meaning you will read Modern Languages with a subject in a different school apart from Philosophy and Modern Languages, you will also need to sit another Oxford admissions test. For example, if you wish to study History and French, you’ll need to take the History Admissions Test (HAT) alongside the MLAT. Find out more about these additional tests on the University of Oxford website

How do I prepare for the MLAT?

The best way to prepare for the MLAT is to go through MLAT past papers to get used to its specific format. You can also find these on the University of Oxford website. For more advice and guidance, be sure to check out our ‘Ten Top Tips to Ace the MLAT’. 

What is a good score for the MLAT?

The MLAT forms only a part of your application to study Modern Languages at Oxford. This gives the admissions team a clearer, but not full, picture of you as a prospective student. Admissions tutors look at your test alongside the rest of your application. This means there isn’t a specific mark that you’ll need to achieve for tutors to shortlist you for an Oxbridge Modern Languages interview. 

How do I sit the MLAT?

If you have to take the MLAT, the easiest way to register is by talking to the Exams Office in your school to see if they are an official testing centre. If, for whatever reason, they are not or you are unable to follow this testing route, then you’ll need to locate your most convenient open test centre which you can find on the Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing website. Note that the test itself is free to sit but some centres may charge an administration fee for each candidate. 

What happens next?

You will need to sit the MLAT and submit your application alongside your personal statement and any required written work. The admissions team from your chosen college will shortlist candidates to interview. Remember, the MLAT is only one element of your Oxford application, so don’t fret if you feel it didn’t go too well; there are plenty of other opportunities for you to shine as a prospective student. And, of course, if you aren’t asked to attend an interview, try not to take it personally: remember your worth is not tied to your academic attainment – you are far more complex and valuable than a rejection from Oxford.

For more information on how to ace the Modern Languages Admissions Test, check out our other articles on the MLAT which help you prepare for each section of the test. 

Good luck!

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