Applying for Modern Languages at Oxford University

Modern Languages have been taught in Oxford University since 1724. The faculty is one of the largest in the country, with a total intake of more than 250 students a year (including joint courses). Undergraduate students have access to the Taylor Institution Library (the largest research library in Britain devoted to modern languages) and the University’s central library the Bodleian, as well as many online resources. Oxford’s well-equipped Language Centre has resources specifically tailored to the needs of Modern Language students.

Language is at the centre of the Oxford University course, making up around 50% of both first-year and final examinations. The course aims to teach spoken fluency in colloquial and more formal situations, as well as the ability to write essays in the foreign language, and the ability to translate into and out of the foreign language with accuracy and sensitivity to a range of vocabulary, styles and registers. 

Academic Requirements:
- A-levels: AAA
- Advanced Highers: AA/AAB
- IB: 38 (including core points) with 666 at HL

Do you have any advice for future applicants in terms of preparation?

On Oxford Application Form: Be honest and genuine. Don't be modest, but don't make yourself sound arrogant. The tutors have to teach you for 3/4 years, they'll want to teach someone they can get on with.

On preparing for interview: try to read as much as you can, in the language if possible, but if not then translations. Revise your grammar before interviews. (Profile 258)

You have to already be in the mindset of wanting to improve your French on your own. Read a variety of texts - french newspaper websites can be dry so also find a french blog or something that interests you. Read short stories and plays. Try poetry. Think about what you read and write about it in french. Ask a teacher to set you open-ended essay questions. Make notes on new grammatical structures and informal language you pick up. Watch videos on french tv channel websites. Do all this safe in the knowledge that you are doing yourself a favour whether you get an interview or not! (Profile 766)

Read around the subject, practice with a mock interview, don't be afraid to question the interviewers and be prepared to defend your views when they're challenged. (Profile 316)

Prepare, by all means, but don't get into the habit of thinking that they *will* ask this question and *won't* ask that one. I was told to prepare answers for, "Why did you choose Trinity?" and "Why Oxford?". They never asked me those questions. (Profile 354)

Did you have to submit any written work prior to the interview?

The work i submitted was rubbish. i didnt have any essays in english, so sent in two spanish ones and an italian one. for the two spanish essays (one literary and one discursive) i had got barely half-marks, and the italian one was a rubbish business letter. but the invited me for interviews, so they can’t look at it that hard. (Profile 354)

2 pieces of marked written work for each subject because they asked for it! (Profile 258)

One translation into german one essay on a german text (in german) one essay from my english course (Profile 316)

2 pieces for each language (Profile 912)

Did you have to take any exams as part of your Modern Language interview(s)?

Grammar test at interview (Profile 766)

Yes- a 30 minute German grammar test- it is vital to do preparation for this. I had extra lessons for this and my mark was still not brilliant. Its vital to know your german grammar inside out- declensions, adjectival endings and which tenses go with which verbs. (Profile 316)

I had to take a spanish exam and a language aptitude test. prepare for the spanish exam - the grammar is slightly more difficult than a-level. the aptitude test i actually found quite fun, not gruelling at all. there are various different questions, some working out patterns in english, others working out patterns in icelandic or Wolof or some other obscure language, and they also ask a set of questions by the end of which you should be able to work out a paragraph of some made-up language. there are practise papers - do them. (Profile 354)

What questions were you asked during your interview(s)?

What books have you read? Why do you think xyz about this passage? What was your A-level course? Questions about my gap year (spent in Versailles). Why study this course? (Profile 258)

I was asked to comment on aspects of the texts. Beware of opening your mouth before thinking something through - they have the nasty habit of asking you to explain what you mean / why you think that in mid-flow. 5 minutes of french conversation which was general in nature until I was asked to explain something about two composers I had unwittingly brought up and for which I did not have the vocabulary! Don't be afraid to ask them how to say things. I'm quite sure I hadn't ever spoken worse french than in that interview. (Profile 766)

1st interview- When i arrived in college i was given an english passage to discuss in interview. In the interview i was also asked to read a german passage and then discuss it. there was also a brief discussion on my submitted work. 2nd interview- a discussion of linguistics including looking at various linguistic problems, a look at synonyms and a discussion of problems for Germans learning English and vice- versa. 3rd interview- a further German interview this time with two interviewers includng translating some non consecutive sentences an a discussion of German literature which somehow turned into a discussion of Blackadder! Before going into this interview I had to chose one passage in German to discuss- from a choice of 3 or 4. a dictionary was provided for this and i had 5 minutes to look up any words I did not know. (Profile 316)

Some examples: repeat these russian sentences after me... are you sure you want to study russian? look how much work there is... talk to me about the other languages you've learnt in the past... so tell me, how did the latin 'civitas' get to 'ciudad' in spanish and 'cittŕ' in italian?... you mentioned 'families' of languages, what do you mean by that? in which family would you place english? (Profile 354)

What did you wear to your interview(s), and why?

I wore smart casual, eventually opting for no tie. Imagine my dismay when I walked into the Italian interview to see my tutor in a tailor-made Gucci suit... but he didn't seem to mind! Relax: they're used to students wandering into tutorials wearing whatever, so being not too formal may help them feel tutorials with you would be a good idea and therefore accept you. (Profile 258)

Shirt and tie. Whatever they say about smart casual, at least look like you want the place. (Profile 766)

A suit- so as to make a good impression (Profile 316)

Something smart, but that I felt comfortable in - lots of people didn't wear smart clothes but I felt I should, didn't want to be too smart though. (Profile 912)

A dark suit and shirt. (Profile 354)