Summer pre-sessional English course 2020

The Oxford University Language Centre is pleased to offer this preparatory course for new international students. The six-week intensive programme is designed to provide students with the necessary academic language and literacy skills to succeed in the English-speaking university environment. Academic visitors and students aiming to study at universities other than Oxford are also very welcome to apply. The course focus on written and spoken academic communication prepares you to perform at a high level from the very beginning of your degree course. In particular you will benefit from:

  • Specialist tutors in academic English
  • Specifically designed courses
  • Small groups of students in class
  • Regular individual feedback



Students chatting in garden


The Pre-sessional course is really useful for learning the skills needed for our academic courses. The classes are of a small size which enables the tutors to give guidance to each student individually. Also, the trips every week help us to get familiar with the new environment quickly. I strongly recommend this course to all international students.

Zhuolin, China, DPhil in Mathematics

During the Pre-sessional course you learn to study in English. We did lots of things which are useful for when you enter university: writing essays, literature reviews, debating in English…and at the end of the course I felt much more confident in English and ready to start my university course.

Francois Denoël, Belgium, BA Economics


The Pre-sessional course is a full-time intensive course, geared towards improving the academic language and literacy of students in a compressed time-frame. It provides an opportunity to meet and connect with people from around the world, learn about British culture and visit places of interest in and around Oxford. This means students integrate into University life quickly and effectively.

The Pre-sessional course will help you:

  • Write academic English for different audiences and purposes
  • Understand grammatical aspects of language that pose difficulty for non-native writers
  • Read more effectively, with increased efficiency and speed
  • Speak academic English in presentations, seminars and tutorials
  • Improve your pronunciation
  • Learn effectively from lectures
  • Develop academic study skills such as searching for information and referencing sources
  • Focus on tasks relevant to your discipline
  • Become aware of your strengths and weaknesses and learn independently
  • Develop critical thinking skills
  • Become aware of the culture of your discipline
  • Understand the culture of the University

Pre-sessional classes usually take place at the Language Centre, and are broken into two broad course components, which will be taught by different tutors. These are:

Written Communication
This segment of the Pre-sessional course covers all aspects of written language production and comprehension. This can be broadly broken into three core skills:

Academic Reading
These lessons are aimed at helping students read with increased efficiency and speed, while enabling them to cope with problems encountered during reading. The following areas are covered:

  1. A review of reading strategies
  2. Faster reading 
  3. Note taking and summarising
  4. Sources of difficulty (e.g. vocabulary, grammar, reference, cohesion)
  5. Coping with long sentences
  6. Recognising different discourse structures
  7. Identifying the writer’s stance as well as the purpose of the text (i.e. reading ‘between the lines’)

Academic Writing
In this module, a comprehensive review of the foundations of academic writing is provided. Although some writing will be done in class, students are expected to complete a number of writing tasks at home. This module will cover:

  1. The ‘English’ essay
  2. Organisation and structure
  3. Conventions of graduate writing
  4. The writing process (including planning a longer research project)
  5. Editing and reformulating
  6. Cohesion

Language Study
This covers grammatical aspects of language that pose difficulty for non-native writers. The focus is placed on reviewing English syntax in order to increase your technical knowledge of English and, in so doing, improve your written work. The following areas are covered:

  1. Sentence types
  2. Linking language
  3. Demarcation and Punctuation
  4. Citation Conventions

The Spoken Communication course is mainly designed to help you gain confidence and competence in speaking and listening in different academic contexts. The approach divides the Spoken Communication Course into three core components:
Academic Listening 
Although some listening to social and informal English is included in these lessons, the main objective is to prepare students to deal with lectures, seminars and tutorials. The module therefore covers: 
  1. Prediction and inference 
  2. Recognising intonation 
  3. Recognising reduced forms 
  4. Listening for ‘gist’, as well as for detail 
  5. Transitioning from listening to note-taking 
  6. Recognition of lecturing devices (such as recycling, reformulating, exemplifying, explaining, expanding and summarising). 
Academic Speaking Skills 
The main emphasis of this module is for students to develop their spoken skills in a number of areas necessary for advanced university study. It covers: 
  1. Discussing disciplines and research 
  2. Managing group work 
  3. Strategies for group discussion 
  4. Arguing a case 
  5. Summarising and discussing articles 
  6. Speaking with academic tutors/ supervisors 
  7. Joining in informal conversation 
  8. Expressing and discussing your stance 
  9. Speaking personally: expressing your stance 
  10. Confidence and speaking 
Academic Presentation Skills 
During the Pre-sessional, students will be asked to take part in individual and group presentations. In particular, you will be expected to give two presentations (one pair/group presentation and one solo presentation in your own discipline).  
This module therefore covers: 
  1. Preparing and giving presentations 
  2. ‘Holding the floor’ 
  3. Role of the audience (e.g. questioning speakers in an appropriate manner) 
  4. Question and answer techniques 
  5. Appropriate use of lexis  
  6. Awareness of register 
  • The course is open to all students with conditional or unconditional offers from Oxford University
  • The course will also accept academic visitors and students intending to study at other universities
  • Applicants need to demonstrate their current level of English prior to commencing the pre-sessional course. English tests recognised by the Language Centre include: IELTS, TOEFL, CAE and CPE
  • Oxford University requires evidence of ability in English for admission to its courses. While the pre-sessional may be a condition for entrance onto a degree course, it is not an alternative to the test scores required by the University. Please see the University’s English language requirements for undergraduate study, or graduate study
  • Information for students who need to apply for a Tier 4 visa

The cost of accommodation is not included in the course fee. However, students studying at Oxford University often secure accommodation in their own colleges for the summer Pre-sessional period. In the first instance, students should contact their college as soon as possible to enquire about the availability, and cost, of rooms for August and September.

If college accommodation is not available, or for students intending to study at other universities, the Language Centre can provide information about suitable student accommodation in Oxford.

Key facts

  • 6 week intensive course
  • Monday 10 August 2020 - Friday 18 September 2020
  • 20 hours of tuition per week
  • £3,250 including organised excursions and activities
  • Pay a £350 deposit to guarantee your place
  • Receive a Certificate of Achievement

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