What is the academic word list?

It is a list of 570 words that appear frequently in all academic texts. This means that they are very general academic words. They are not specially connected with any particular subject and so they are very useful for all students.

The list was created by Averil Coxhead, who analysed hundreds of academic texts, from all subject areas, to see which words were common to all these texts. She then divided the 570 words into 10 lists (called sub-lists of the Academic Word List) according to how frequent they are. Sub-list 1 has the most frequent words, and sub-list 10 has the least frequent words. Each sub-list contains 60 words, except sub-list 10, which only has 30.

These words are common in academic texts, but they are not so common in everyday writing or speech. This is why they are not so easy to learn, but why at the same time, it is very important for students to learn them. If you do not know these words, you will find academic work at university difficult. If you learn these words well, so that you understand them and use them easily, you will find that studying becomes easier and you should be more successful in your studies.

For more information on the Academic Word List, see:


Are there really only 570 words I have to know?

It is important to understand that the 570 words are in fact head-words – they are the most common words within a word family. This means that there may be many more related words that you will also need to understand and learn. Here is an example of a word family:


concluded concludes             concluding             conclusion             conclusions conclusive conclusively          inconclusive            inconclusively

The most common word in this family is conclusion and this is the word you will find on the Academic Word List, sub-list 2.

The Academic Word List including all the words in the word families is about 3000 words. (You can find full lists on UEFAP http://www.uefap.com/vocab/vocfram.htm and Averil Coxhead’s website http://www.victoria.ac.nz/lals/resources/academicwordlist/default.aspx .)

This means that you also need to study how words are built, in order to expand your vocabulary further and to ensure you use words correctly in your writing and speaking.

See: word building