As a first step, all candidates are required to submit a UCAS form and one piece of recent written work, and to sit the English Literature Admissions Test (ELAT). (History and English applicants do not take the ELAT, and are exceptionally required to submit two pieces of English written work: more information can be found here.) On the basis of evidence from the UCAS form, the written work, and their performance in the ELAT, candidates will be placed in one of ten bands. Those placed in the bottom 40-50% of all applicants are unlikely to be called for interview, as we consider that an interview is unlikely to compensate for weaknesses elsewhere in the application. It is important to remember that shortlisting takes place in a highly competitive environment; virtually all candidates are predicted 'A' or 'A*' grades in all of their A2 examinations (or equivalent qualifications), so a strong academic record in itself does not guarantee an interview. Candidates called for interview will have an application which includes: an excellent or promising academic record; a strong reference; good written work; and an ELAT paper of a high standard. Available contextual information on candidates is also taken into account at this stage.
Once shortlisting is complete, the Faculty will operate a procedure of reallocation between colleges, moving some candidates to colleges other than the one to which they originally applied. This is undertaken in full consultation with the tutors in each college, and is done in order to make the Admissions process as fair as possible, giving all candidates a balanced chance of gaining a place in the University as a whole.
The interview is the final stage of selection. It is Faculty policy for shortlisted candidates to receive at least two interviews; often these will be arranged to allow candidates to demonstrate different skills, such as close reading of an unseen passage, or extensive discussion of wider reading. Candidates may well be interviewed by more than one college during their stay in Oxford; as with pre-interview reallocation, this is to ensure that the best candidates gain places in the University regardless of the competition in particular colleges.
In conclusion, those responsible for Admissions will carefully examine all available information at every stage: qualifications achieved and predicted, school or college reports, personal statements, written work, ELAT test results, and performance in interviews. They will also consult with their colleagues across the University, in order to ensure that competition is fair across all colleges. The aim of the whole is to establish each candidate’s potential for effective learning in a tutorial-based system, and for achieving good examination results in the Faculty of English.