The ELAT Guide – What they are looking for

This comprehensive ELAT guide aims to help you better understand what the ELAT is and how you can support your child in ensuring they are given every chance of success in their application.

Author: Zayra Morales

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The ELAT Guide – What they are looking for

This comprehensive ELAT guide aims to help you better understand what the ELAT is and how you can support your child in ensuring they are given every chance of success in their application.  

What is the ELAT?

ELAT is an abbreviation of the English Literature Admissions Test. It’s a test required by all Oxbridge English applicants and is an indicator to the university as to whether they should invite the candidate to interview.

The ELAT is not a test of how many books your child has read or what their specific interest in English Literature is. It is rather a very carefully constructed look into how the applicant can analyse texts, whether they can easily compare and contrast passages, and how original their ideas are.

ELAT Guide to Exam Format

Firstly, the ELAT is a 90-minute exam that consists of comparing and contrasting two texts in any way that appears especially interesting, unusual or powerful. Each applicant is given a booklet with six texts. They are usually a mixture of poems, prose texts, drama, and non-fiction, of varying length. It will say at the top of the paper what the overarching theme of the six texts is, but the applicant will have to choose any two to focus on. The aim of the ELAT is to explore the structure, language, and style of the two texts, together and separately.


How to begin answering the ELAT paper:

From experience, I would say that the ELAT is extremely intimidating at a first glance but once your child begins the process it isn’t too terrible and does actually seem fairly straightforward.

Some advice…

Another ELAT guide to the exam is that there is not much point in reading every text thoroughly. A useful tip is to quickly look at all of the passages. Choose two that jump out and seem interesting in conjunction, then, most importantly, commit to these texts and forget about the others.

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Make a Plan

Before your child begins to tackling any answers in the ELAT, you should stress the importance that they should go into the test with a rough plan of attack.

What areas do they think they are going to focus on and talk about. (Remember to make sure they know that they can’t say everything about a text – or two for that matter – so they have to be specific). They should then figure out a line of argument.

ELAT Guide to the Most Common Mistakes

A common mistake in the ELAT is to choose two texts and simply point out where they converge and where they are different – this is not enough.

Oxbridge universities use this a test of ingenuity and proof that the applicant can argue a line of analysis. Therefore, your child must be able to summarise their argument, or general line of thought, for their essay in one sentence. Development of thought is also vital and thus they should be able to show how their argument and analysis progresses from the introduction to the conclusion.

Areas Your Child Should Cover in their ELAT Answer:

  • Imagery
  • Allusion
  • Syntax
  • Language
  • Form
  • Structure

Constructing the ELAT Essay

Lastly, constructing the essay is an important point to note in preparation for the ELAT. Guide your child on how to construct and they will be given the head start in their application.

Constructing a comparative essay can take many forms but there should always be an introduction and conclusion. This shows the progression the applicant has undergone over the course of the essay. Then once this infrastructure is in place, it is just about constructing an interesting argument about the combination of these two texts and exploring significant points!

For further examples and marking criteria to work by, you may want to look at some more advice on how you can prepare your child for the ELAT.

Further Tuition

If you want to help your child further, why not take a look at our ELAT tuition service.

With our expert tutors, there is the option for online or face-to-face tuition courses. The course will go through the ELAT guide to success and will tackle how to answer those tricky questions.

With ELAT past papers and sample answers, your child will be taught the skills and strategies needed to pass their test with flying colours.

Extra tuition really can make all the difference between a pass or a fail.

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