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What is the AWL?

How many academic vocabulary words are there?
This article provides background information about words that are commonly used in academic texts.
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The Academic Word List (AWL) is a list of 570 words that are commonly used in academic texts. These words are not subject-specific. They are general academic words, so they are very useful for all students and also for teachers of language learners.

Although the words on the Academic Word List are general words, this list does not include words from the most frequently used 2,000 words of English.

The AWL was developed by Averil Coxhead as her MA thesis at the School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, where she is currently a Professor in Applied Linguistics.

The list is divided into 10 sublists based on how frequently the words appear in academic texts. For example, the words in sublist 1 occur more frequently than the words in other sublists, etc. but all the words are important to know. Each sublist contains 60 word families but sublist 10 contains only 30 families.

Students often ask:

‘Do I really only need to know 570 words?’
The answer is:
‘Not quite’.

The 570 words are headwords – they are the most commonly used words in a word family. So, you will also need to learn the related words within each word family.

In this course you will learn the first 180 headwords in sublists 1, 2, and 3. You will also do a few exercises where the focus is on word forms. This is where you will learn some of the other words in the word family.

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