How to Prepare for the MLAT

The Modern Languages Admissions Test (MLAT) is an admissions test used by Oxford University to assess your ability to learn languages and your suitability to study one or more languages at degree-level. The test is designed to be challenging and without the right support, it can be difficult to know how to prepare effectively.

That’s where The Profs’ expert MLAT tutors can help. With first-hand experience of the exam content, tried-and-tested strategies for approaching the questions and learning languages quickly, and an understanding of how the test fits into the wider admissions process, our tutors are able to help you perform well in the MLAT and secure a place on your chosen course at Oxford.

What is the MLAT?

The Modern Languages Admissions Test (MLAT) is an admissions test used by Oxford University for a range of Languages courses. It is designed to assess your proficiency in the language you are applying for, or your ability to learn languages, and your suitability to study one or more languages at degree-level.

Depending on which course you are applying for, the MLAT will entail answering different questions, each of which require different preparation. For this reason, we strongly advise all students sitting the MLAT to find out which questions are required, prepare, and work with an expert in advance. Read on to find out how to prepare or get straight in touch with our team of MLAT experts to get started today.

Which courses require the MLAT?

The MLAT is required by Oxford University for the following courses:

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

Each course requires you to take different sections of the MLAT, so make sure you check which ones are relevant to you under ‘Which section of the MLAT should you take?’ below.

What is included in the MLAT exam?

The MLAT is a paper-based test consisting of 10 sections, however you will only need to complete a maximum of 2 sections. Which sections you need to take depends on the course you are applying for (see the table below).

Individual language tests

The first eight sections of the MLAT are dedicated to individual languages offered by Oxford. These include:

  • Czech
  • French
  • German
  • Italian
  • Modern Greek
  • Portuguese
  • Russian
  • Spanish

For each language test, you will get 30 minutes to answer 2 pages of questions (usually between 3-5 questions). The questions will be a mixture of fill-the-gap exercises and translation exercises to and from English, similar in style to what you will have encountered in past language exams and textbooks.

Despite the format of the questions likely being familiar to you, the content is designed to challenge you. You may be asked to translate uncommon vocabulary, use complex grammatical structures, and make semantic distinctions between similar words in another language. For this reason, we advise preparing thoroughly for the MLAT language tests. Read our tips for preparing or get in touch with our team to find out more about our MLAT tutors.

Language Aptitude Test (LAT)

The Language Aptitude Test is the ninth section in the MLAT and is an assessment of your ability to learn a new language. Like the individual language tests, the LAT is 2 pages long and you will have 30 minutes to complete it.

In the LAT, you will be presented with a made-up language and asked questions relating to it, usually involving translating words, phrases and sentences from the language into English using the information provided.

The LAT is likely to be unfamiliar to you, not only because it is based on a made-up language, but also because it is asking you to look at language in a very technical way. It is therefore important that you prepare thoroughly. We advise working with a LAT expert who can advise you on the most effective strategies for approaching the questions and getting the highest marks possible.

Philosophy test

The Philosophy test is the tenth and final section of the MLAT. You are only required to take this section if you are applying for Philosophy and Modern Languages.
The Philosophy section consists of comprehension and essay-based questions which you will have 1 hour to complete. It is split into two sections:

  • Section A: You will be presented with a passage of text on a random topic. You must then answer 2 questions about the text. These questions will be related to your comprehension of the text and your ability to extract the key information and arguments from it.
  • Section B: You will be presented with 3 questions on a range of topics. These questions could include: producing an argument for or against a proposal, deciding if one or more statements are true or false, being given a statement and asked if you accept it, answering a philosophical or societal question, and more.

Which section of the MLAT should you take?

The sections of the MLAT that you are required to take will depend on which course you’re applying for and whether or not you are applying for a language at beginners’ level. No more than 2 sections of the MLAT are required for each course. See the table below for details.

Course type Section of the MLAT
Single language courses (French, German, Russian or Spanish) If you are applying for French, German or Spanish, you will need to take the test for that individual language.
If you are applying for Russian as a single language, you will need to take the Russian test and the Language Aptitude Test section.
Courses combining two languages (any combination of Czech, French, German, Modern Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish) If you are applying for two languages, you must take the test for both. For example, if you are applying for French and Spanish, you must take the French test and the Spanish test.
You do not need to take the Language Aptitude Test if you have previously studied both of the languages you are applying for. However, if you are applying for one beginners’ language, then you will be required to take the Language Aptitude Test in combination with the test for the language you have previously studied. For example, if you are applying for French and beginners’ level Italian, you should take the French test and the Language Aptitude Test.
Modern Languages and Linguistics If you are applying for Linguistics with French, German, Modern Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Russian or Spanish, and have studied that language previously, then you should take the test for that language.
If you are applying for Linguistics with beginners’ level Modern Greek, Italian or Portuguese, then you should only take the Language Aptitude Test.
Classics and Modern Languages If you are applying for Classics I or II with Czech, French, German, Modern Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Russian or Spanish, and have studied that language previously, then you should take the test for that language.
If you are applying for Classics I with beginners’ level Czech, Modern Greek, Italian or Portuguese, then you should only take the Language Aptitude Test.
Note that in addition to the MLAT, you will also be required to take the Classics Admissions Test (CAT) separately.
English and Modern Languages If you are applying for English with Czech, French, German, Modern Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Russian or Spanish, and have studied that language previously, then you should take the test for that language.
If you are applying for Linguistics with beginners’ level Czech, Modern Greek, Italian or Portuguese, then you should only take the Language Aptitude Test.
Note that in addition to the MLAT, you will also be required to take the English Literature Admissions Test (ELAT) separately.
European and Middle Eastern Languages If you are applying for Arabic, Hebrew, Persian or Turkish alongside one of Czech, French, German, Modern Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Russian or Spanish, then you should only take the relevant test for the European language you’re applying for. For example, if you are applying for Spanish and Arabic, you should take the Spanish test.
All applicants wishing to study Arabic, Hebrew, Persian or Turkish will also be required to take the Oriental Languages Aptitude Test (OLAT) separately.
History and Modern Languages If you are applying for History with Czech, French, German, Modern Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Russian or Spanish, and have studied that language previously, then you should take the test for that language.
If you are applying for History with beginners’ level Czech, Modern Greek, Italian or Portuguese, then you should only take the Language Aptitude Test.
Note that in addition to the MLAT, you will also be required to take the History Aptitude Test (HAT) separately.
Philosophy and Modern Languages If you are applying for Philosophy with any language, you are required to take the Philosophy test. You should also take the test of the language you are applying to study: Czech, French, German, Modern Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Russian or Spanish.
If you are applying for Philosophy with beginners’ level Czech, Modern Greek, Italian or Portuguese, then you should take the Philosophy test and the Language Aptitude Test.

When is the MLAT?

The MLAT takes place on Wednesday 2nd November. You must ensure you have registered for the test through an authorised test centre (see below) before the September deadline to ensure that you are eligible.

It is not possible to re-sit the MLAT. If you feel you did badly due to extenuating circumstances, such as being ill on the day of the test, then your test centre can submit a special consideration form for you. However, application forms must be received within 5 days of the test date.

How do you register for the MLAT?

To register for the MLAT, you will need an authorised test centre to register you on your behalf. For most candidates, their authorised test centre is their school or college, however you should check this with your Exams Officer to make sure. If your school or college is not authorised, they can register to become a test centre at any time before the September deadline. Alternatively, you can find an open test centre to register with. You can find your nearest test centre via the Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing (CAAT) website.

In order to register, you will need to provide your personal details and UCAS number, as well as the name of the university (Oxford), course and course code, which you can find on UCAS or the individual subject page for your course. You can register from the beginning of September and you must have your candidate entry number as proof of entry by the end of September.

Please note that registration is not automatic for any admissions tests at Oxford, including the MLAT, so you must register through a test centre before the September deadline.

How much does the MLAT cost?

Oxford University does not charge candidates to take the MLAT. However, some independent test centres do charge an administration fee to candidates, so contact your local test centre for details.

When can you find out your MLAT results?

Your MLAT results will not be automatically published, however you can request them as part of the usual feedback process. Oxford University will receive the results of all tests in time to make their shortlisting decisions in November, so you do not need to send your results to them separately.

4 tips for preparing for the MLAT

1. Expand your language skills and vocabulary

The individual language test sections require you to have at least an A level (or equivalent) knowledge of your chosen language. However, previously studying the language alone may not be enough – there is a high likelihood that you will encounter vocabulary that’s unfamiliar to you, need to use difficult or uncommon grammatical structures, and differentiate semantically between very similar words.

Expanding your skills and vocabulary in your chosen language/s is therefore an important part of your preparation. You’ll want to make sure that your language abilities are as advanced as possible going into the exam, so that you can perform as well as possible. Remember that you may be up against students who have had more experience using the language than you, so if possible try to go beyond what you have been taught in school.

If you need additional support with your language skills, our language tutors can help. We have experts in French, German, Spanish, Italian and more, all of whom can help you expand on your existing knowledge of the language and develop skills that will aid you in the MLAT and in your wider language learning. Reach out to our team today to learn more.

2. Take practice tests under timed conditions

Taking practice tests is one of the best ways you can prepare for the MLAT, as it helps you familiarise yourself with the types of questions you’ll be asked in each section you’re required to take. You can find all of the papers from 2011-2022 on Oxford University’s MLAT page, as well as solutions to the papers from 2013 and onwards, so make the most of them!

Completing practice tests under timed conditions will also help you to gauge how fast you need to work in the exam, as you’ll only have a short time (30 minutes) to complete the questions. Time is one of the main factors students taking the MLAT struggle with, so ensuring you are able to complete as much of the paper as possible in the time allowed will give you an advantage. It also emulates the environment you’ll face in the real exam, so when it comes to marking your practice tests (using the solutions provided), you’ll get a good idea of how you’ll perform on the day and how to improve.

3. Prepare for the LAT and/or Philosophy test separately

The Language Aptitude Test and the Philosophy test are very different from the individual language tests, in that they do not require any prior knowledge of a language/subject. You should therefore prepare for them separately and treat them as their own individual tests.

For the LAT, it is important that you study the past papers closely, as the format and content of the questions are likely to be something you have never encountered before. The LAT is very similar to the Oriental Languages Aptitude Test (OLAT); both tests assess your language learning ability, are based on the same made-up language in any given year, and ask very similar questions. Therefore, we suggest using our tips on how to prepare for the OLAT, including expanding your knowledge of Linguistics and finding a strategy that works for you, to enhance your preparation.

For the Philosophy test, again make sure that you are familiar with the styles of questions you will be asked. As well as completing questions in past papers, we also recommend keeping up to date with relevant news and current issues by reading articles from reputable sources. When reading these, practise identifying the key arguments and opinions in the piece and think about what your own opinion is on the issues, as these are helpful skills for the test.

4. Get help from a professional MLAT tutor

How you perform in the MLAT will impact how likely you are to be offered a place on your chosen course, so it’s really important that you are prepared to do as well as possible in the exam. Unfortunately, schools and colleges are oftentimes not equipped to provide specialist MLAT preparation due to a lack of experience, expertise or resources. As a result, we advise seeking a professional MLAT tutor to help you through the process.

The Profs’ MLAT tutors have many years of experience preparing students for the MLAT exam, with many having actual experience as university admissions officers as well. Over these years, they have built a bank of previous questions and developed in-depth knowledge of the mark scheme, so they know exactly what examiners will be looking for.

If you work with The Profs, you are more than three times more likely to get into Oxford, the best university in the UK for Modern Languages. You’ll also gain invaluable independent study skills that will prepare you for higher education, as well as a deeper and broader understanding of your chosen language and Linguistics.

Plus, you can trust us to guide you through every stage of the admissions process to ensure that you don’t just succeed in the MLAT, but also achieve top A level or IB grades and perform well in your interview. Reach out to our team today to get started.