TOEFL & IELTS Essential Vocabulary 000: Introduction to the Academic Word List [AWL] - Videos


*SUBTITLES available.

Instagram: #eslgarage
Facebook: @eslgarage
Facebook: @compellingconversationsvn

What is the Academic Word List? Why does it matter? How can it help you get a higher TOEFL Score? How can it help you learn and participate more in your college classes?

Let’s start with what many internationals students hoping to go to college or study abroad already know. TOEFL and IELTS scores count, and focusing on the Academic Word List (AWL) helps students score higher on the TOEFL and IELTS, and understand more in college courses across the curriculum.

English teachers naturally notice and appreciate a strong vocabulary. Academic writing requires a more formal register than casual oral speech. Standardized tests also reward a rich vocabulary and often explicitly test vocabulary skills. Nuance and precision can also be displayed by finding the appropriate words. Therefore, English language learners naturally seek to develop a strong academic vocabulary in order to succeed as college and university students.

Yet what are the key words that a college student needs for academic success in English? Professor Averil Coxhead at the School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand studied a wide range of academic texts across disciplines in the late 1990s. She culled 570 word families that she deemed vital for college preparation and created the Academic Word List. The list was further divided into 10 sublists, from the most frequent to the least frequent.

Because of Coxhead’s systematic approach and the clear need for this type of focused vocabulary list to help ambitious, college-bound international students, the AWL quickly established itself within academic high schools around the world. Many intensive English programs also adopted the AWL for their college prep programs, creating a niche within the ESL/EFL world. Although an intense controversy has arisen over the extensive focus on this vocabulary list, highly motivated students (like you!) should at least become familiar with the AWL.

Let’s strive to improve with better English conversations. Adding more AWL words and teaching explicit vocabulary enrichment exercises—in your writing and speaking—is a simple, effective method. Please pay extra attention to these words in your academic courses and test preparation.



  1. Thanks God. I have a chance to follow this series at the beginning. From now on, I will be eager to learn this series very day. please give us your schedule for this series.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here