Any candidate applying to study Modern Languages at Oxford or Cambridge will have to sit a written paper as part of the admissions process: The Modern Languages Aptitude Test (MLAT) at Oxford and the Modern and Medieval Languages Admissions Assessment (MMLAA) at Cambridge. There are big differences between the two tests, from the structure and what they are testing to when they are sat. This blog covers the Cambridge MMLAA. You can read our blog on the Oxford MLAT here.
The Cambridge MMLAA – Structure
The MMLAA is sat in Cambridge when candidates go up for interview. It is an hour-long paper divided into two tasks based on one passage of writing in English: one response written in a foreign language studied to A-Level and one response written in English.
Twice as many marks are available for the response written in a foreign language and Cambridge therefore recommend that candidates spend 40 minutes on this task compared to 20 minutes on the response written in English. As may be expected, the response written in a foreign language usually requires summarising the ideas found in the passage, whereas the response written in English requires more critical thinking and drawing of independent conclusions.
The Cambridge MMLAA – How to prepare
The MMLAA tests your ability to express ideas both in your target language and in English.
- Revise grammar and vocabulary.
You want your writing in the target language to be as accurate as possible and if you can show off some more complex structures then do!
- Read widely in the target language.
The passages which you will be asked to read and respond to may be on any topic, so the more widely you have read, the more likely you are to have the vocabulary needed to discuss the ideas the author is talking about. Newspapers in the target language are a good place to start, but don’t stick to the Current Affairs homepage – look at the Science, Technology and Culture parts too.
- Be succinct and specific.
This applies for both parts of the test. You are asked to write about 250 words in the target language, which is not much. Try and use specific vocabulary so that you can convey as much of the author’s ideas as possible in the limited space. Similarly, there’s no suggested word count for the response in English, but you will only have about 20 minutes to write it. Get to the heart of the matter as quickly as possible so that your own ideas are the star of the show, rather than just ‘filler’.
- Complete past papers for practice.
This should give you an idea of how to best approach the tasks in the time limit. Cambridge don’t make many past papers available on their website (although there is usually one or two there), but you can create your own papers following the test format. Find a piece of English writing from newspaper editorials, journals, or work by essayists and practice summarising ideas in your target language.
- Rush when reading the passage you are given.
You need to be able to understand the text in depth as well as come up with independent ideas about it which you can support.
- Just translate the passage.
The response in the target language should show that you can summarise ideas, not simply translate. Think about what the author’s assumptions and overarching conclusions are and use these to structure your response.