How to get into the University of Oxford for English

Oxford is recognised as one of the best universities in the world, especially for its faculty of English. Just check out the world university rankings by Times Higher Education!

It is no wonder why the English course at Oxford is competitive. The acceptance rate ranges from 11% to 37%, depending on which English course you’re applying to. Hence, a small selection of applicants are successful in receiving an offer, and the application process is far from simple.

If you’d like to get into Oxford University for English or you’re just curious about what it takes to get into one of the broadest and most thorough English courses in the UK, then this guide contains everything you need to know – from entry requirements to tips on what you need to get into Oxford.

The Profs’ English tutors have first-hand experience with the admissions process and what is required to succeed at each stage. Thanks to our expert support, students who work with The Profs are over three times more likely to receive an offer from Oxford University. Reach out to our team today to maximise your chances of success.

What is the English course at Oxford like?

Oxford is ranked 1st in the UK for English by The Complete University Guide (2023). Their undergraduate English course is academically acclaimed for its outstanding tuition and IT facilities. Oxford’s libraries, including its English faculty library, are globally held in high esteem.

English is a Humanities course. The English course at Oxford offers the chance to study English from its Anglo-Saxon origins to the present. Works are not constricted to British texts as students are able to study works written in English from all over the world, including some in translation. Oxford’s English course encourages its students to think about literature in English in multilingual and global contexts across many eras.

At Oxford, the undergraduate English degree can be attained through four different courses, offering a wealth of choices. It can either be studied under the singular degree title: English Language and Literature, or as a Joint Honours Degree. The Joint Honours Degree combines English with one of the following subjects:

  • Classics
  • Modern Language
  • History

Take a look at the table below to get an idea of the different structures of undergraduate courses available to you if you choose English.

English Course TypeTopicsExpectationsLength
English Language and LiteraturePrevious options: ‘Literature and Revolution’, ‘Postcolonial Literature’, ‘Writing Lives’, ‘Old Norse’, ‘Tragedy’, ‘Film Criticism’You can consider critical processes.
You can analyse, judge and evaluate, using literary criticism and theory.
You can study the development of the English language.
3 year course
Classics and EnglishYou must study Latin or Greek or both alongside English.
You may choose to focus most on literature, history, philosophy or linguistics.
You can analyse ancient literature in its original languages.
You can analyse modern literature.
You can consider culture within global literature.
Course I: 3 years (if you have already studied Latin or Greek for A level).
Course II: 4 years (includes a preliminary year for students who have not yet had the opportunity to learn the language to do so).
English and Modern LanguagesYou may choose a modern language to study alongside the English course: French, German, Modern Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Czech (with Slovak) or Celtic.You can think coherently about language as a subject.
You can consider literature and thoughts written in European languages.
You can complete practical work and linguistic training in your chosen language.
4 year course (includes a year abroad)
History and EnglishYou must apply critical thinking to history and literature, and how they interrelate.You can analyse poems, plays, and novels in relation to history.
You have excellent historical knowledge and understanding.
You can evaluate historical documents, including literary ones.
3 year course

Oxford particularly looks for its English students to have analytical and communication abilities. You will develop these abilities into skills you can use for an array of careers.

At Oxford, students studying English will graduate with one or more of the following degree titles: Bachelor of Arts (BA), a Master of Arts (MA), and/or a Master of Philosophy (MPhil).

What are the entry requirements?

The entry requirements to study English at the University of Oxford are high as Oxford is one of the most competitive universities to get into.

QualificationGrade
A LevelAAA
Advanced HighersAA/AAB
International Baccalaureate38

If you need more information regarding grade requirements, such as international qualifications, take a look here.

Worried that you won’t achieve the necessary grades to study English at Oxford? The Profs’ A level and IB tutors can help. We have extensive experience helping students excel in their coursework and final exams and achieve entry grades for this competitive course. Reach out to our team for support.

What subjects are recommended?

It is mandatory for English students who want to study at Oxford to have studied English Literature or English Language and Literature prior to their undergraduate studies.

If you plan on taking a joint English degree, Oxford may require a second particular subject depending on the course you’ve chosen. Take a look at the list below:

  • Classics and English: Latin or Greek (unless you’re taking course II)
  • English and Modern Languages: Your chosen modern language
  • History and English: No required second subject

What admissions tests are there?

Applicants for English at Oxford must complete the following tests to meet their admission requirements. The required tests depend on the student’s chosen course.

  • English Language and Literature: ELAT
  • Classics and English: ELAT and CAT
  • English and Modern Languages: ELAT and MLAT
  • History and English: ELAT and HAT

The ELAT test is structured into essays and written work to test the student by evaluating their ability to critically analyse texts. You can prepare for it by practising essay writing and close reading techniques.

The CAT, MLAT, and HAT are designed in the same way but to check your knowledge and suitability for studying English with Classics, Modern Languages, or History. The CAT requires knowledge of Latin texts and classical allusions. The MLAT evaluates reading comprehension and translation skills in modern languages. The HAT assesses contextual and broad understandings of historical periods, events, and key historians. These subject tests assess your comprehension and aptitude for studying English alongside your chosen second discipline at Oxford.

Strong performance across all sections of your test will demonstrate your potential as an English scholar at Oxford.

Your performance in the test will be marked out of 60. There is no set result that you must obtain to be admitted into Oxford. However, band 1 ranges from 48 to 60, so it is recommended that you aim to score within this band. Scoring 50 and above is especially ideal.

How hard is it to get into English at Oxford?

Applying for Oxford is no simple feat. Getting into English is particularly competitive and challenging. If you’re thinking about applying to Oxford, take a look at the table below to get a clear understanding of the competition:

English Course TypeInterviewedAdmitted
English Language and Literature67%25%
Classics and English87%36%
English and Modern Languages80%28%
History and English44%12%

The Profs’ Oxbridge admissions tutors can help you triple your chances of getting into Oxford to study English. Thanks to our network of experienced tutors, many of whom are Oxbridge graduates and ex-admissions officers themselves, we have the very latest and best knowledge on what Oxford is looking for in top English applicants. Get in touch with us today to chat with a member of our team about how we can help with your application to Oxford.

What are the fees for English at Oxford?

The table below shows the annual course fees for Oxford’s English students:

UK StudentInternational student
£9,250£35,080

You can find out more information about what fees you will pay on Oxford’s fee status page. You can also use Oxford’s fees, funding and scholarship search to see the funding options available to you.

4 tips on how to get into English at Oxford

1. Prepare thoroughly for each stage of the admissions process

When applying to study English at Oxford, there are many stages of the admissions process to consider, and you should prepare for each one thoroughly.

Your grades – preparation for your Oxford application really starts from the moment you start studying for your A Levels (or equivalent). Excellent grades are essential in order to be considered for a place at Oxford, so you should be aiming for AAA in your A Levels (or equivalent) as a minimum.

Your UCAS application – the first official stage of your Oxford application is completing your UCAS application online. As well as your grades, this includes your personal statement. This is the first chance you’ll get to showcase your suitability for English at Oxford and prove that you are interested and committed to the subject areas. Find out how to write a stand-out personal statement in this helpful guide.

The English admissions test – you are also required to take the ELAT, CAT, MLAT and/or HAT test when applying for English at Oxford. The admissions tests are designed to be challenging, so it’s really important that you prepare for them just as you would for any other exam.

The interview – if your UCAS application and test scores are impressive enough, you may be invited to an interview at Oxford. This is your last chance to impress the university and prove that you are an excellent candidate for English. Oxbridge interviews are like oral admissions tests and there is often even a mark scheme your interviewers will be scoring you against, so it’s important to seek professional help to prepare effectively. Here at The Profs, we have excellent interview tutors, experienced in Oxbridge admissions.

Note that all students applying to university for 2023, 2024 or 2025 will still be required to submit a UCAS personal statement as normal. However, from January 2025 onwards (October 2024, for Oxbridge applicants), there will be changes to the UCAS application process and students will no longer be required to write a personal statement. Instead, all applicants will answer a series of shorter, more tailored questions provided by UCAS. 

2. Show evidence of your love for English

Only around 17.5% of Oxford applicants are successful, so it’s important that you do everything you can to make your application stand out from the crowd. Your academic ability might get you on the shortlist, but it’s not what secures your place. Oxford particularly looks for applicants who have a true interest in the subject as well as exceptional abilities and dedication. There are many ways you can show this, such as:

Conduct wider reading, beyond your school syllabus – Self-learning demonstrates a desire to learn higher-level literary criticism and shows that you understand literary analysis at university level. Demonstrate to tutors that you genuinely enjoy analysing new texts. Perhaps choose a specific genre or theme within literature and read widely about your chosen topic. History can be helpful if you’re stuck on what topic to investigate.

Participate in relevant competitions, clubs or challenges – If your school, or another local organisation, has a debating club or a similar extracurricular club that requires strong analytical skills, then this is a great way to showcase your ability. Participating in a poetry, short story, novel, essay or playwriting competition can also be a great way to show that your interests expand beyond the topics covered in the school curriculum.

Showcasing practical applications of your writing, analytical, or language skills – Have you used your verbal reasoning skills in real-world contexts, such as in extracurriculars or work experience pertaining to journalism, marketing or law? Have you written anything creative or analytical and had it published? If you’d like to study English with a Language subject, maybe you’ve completed some work experience abroad and practised your chosen language there. Any practical examples like these will help to prove that you have a serious passion for your selected English course.

3. Have a 5-year plan

Another factor that can set you aside from other applicants is having a 5-year plan. This doesn’t have to be a plan that you necessarily stick to – in fact, it is expected that your interests and ambitions change as your knowledge and experience grow. Having a plan is simply a great way of demonstrating to Oxford that you are committed to the subject and that you are motivated to succeed at your degree, and thus would be a valuable Oxford student.

The first step to having a plan is to develop an understanding of the industries an English degree can lead to and the specific areas you can specialise in. For example, identifying interests in editorial work, translation, or earning a PhD in English literature shows you are a forward-thinking candidate serious about your career. Relating your areas of study, activities and personal passions back to potential careers is essential to presenting a targeted, future-focused candidate profile in just a few sentences.

4. Seek help from an expert Oxbridge admissions tutor

If you want to apply to Oxford it’s important to be aware of how competitive the English course is.
Your application requires you to perform well in multiple stages to be in with a chance of securing an offer. Shortlisted candidates can often fall at the last hurdle of admissions. Unfortunately, schools and colleges are oftentimes not equipped to provide specialist Oxford and Cambridge preparation due to a lack of experience, expertise or resources. As a result, we advise seeking a professional Oxford admissions tutor to help you through the process.

The Profs’ Oxbridge admissions tutors have many years of experience helping students develop their academic profiles, tailor their application to Oxford’s admissions criteria, prepare for the ELAT exam, and excel in their admissions interview.

95% of students who work with The Profs get into their first or second choice university. At The Profs, You’ll gain invaluable independent study skills that will prepare you for study at an elite UK university, as well as a deeper and broader understanding of the skills and knowledge needed to study English at degree level. Reach out to our experienced team today to get started.