About the Oxford English Literature Admissions Test (ELAT)

Message about the Oxford ELAT 2023

On Friday 19 October we announced that – due to the technical problems and rubric confusion candidates experienced in sitting the Oxford ELAT – we would not be using ELAT scores in our formal shortlisting calculation this year.

Since issuing that statement, the very considerable disparity of candidates’ test experiences has become clearer to us. The Oxford ELAT is designed as a standard test; it allows our admitting tutors to assess how all candidates respond to the same exercise. This year, however, problems with the test meant that candidates did not access or take it in the same conditions and circumstances. 

The Faculty of English has therefore taken the decision not to mark ELAT scripts. This is not a decision we have taken lightly, but we believe it is the only way to ensure that our admissions process is fair, equitable, and robust.

We apologize once more for the problems candidates experienced. We recognize that candidates took great time and care in preparing for and sitting the test and we are very sorry that this work cannot be taken into account this year. Please be assured that candidates will have the opportunity to show us the same range of skills in argument and textual analysis in their written work (to be submitted by 10 November). 

With sincere apologies,

David Taylor
Director of Undergraduate Admissions, Faculty of English, University of Oxford


The Oxford English Literature Admissions Test (ELAT) is a pre-interview admissions test for applicants to English undergraduate courses at the University of Oxford. It is one of the elements admissions tutors use to decide whether to invite a candidate for interview.

The English Literature Admissions Test (ELAT) is a computer-based test, lasting 90 minutes and sat under timed exam conditions. It tests candidates’ close reading skills, and their ability to shape and articulate an informed response to unfamiliar literary material. Candidates write one essay comparing two passages, focusing on elements such as:

  • language
  • imagery
  • allusion
  • syntax
  • form and structure

Oxford ELAT test format

Candidates are given six poems or passages from drama and/or prose (fiction or non-fiction), and are asked to carry out this single task:

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.

The six passages will be linked by a common theme, which will be given in the introduction. Candidates may choose any two of the six to compare.

Changes to the test

Please note, prior to the 2018 test, candidates could compare two or three passages. Since then, they must compare two passages. The ELAT marking criteria were also updated in 2018. From 2023, the test will be computer based.