English students are eager to learn as many new English words as possible, and although there are many ways to practice vocabulary, there are definitely modes of study that help students learn words quicker. One method of vocabulary learning is to identify the words that are used more often in the English language and then learn these words first. Luckily for us, many professors and linguists have created list for students to use. (Check out the Wikipedia page on Word Lists for links to many different list of commonly used English words.)

You might notice that many of these lists use words that we use in everyday speech, like prepositions and articles. The majority of our students learned these words before coming to CISL, so we suggest stepping it up a notch* by using the Academic Word List, which is geared towards more academic English words. A graduate student at the Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand named Aeveril Coxhead developed this list by looking at textbooks from many different fields and creating a list of the most frequently used words. Thank you, Aeveril!

The Academic Word List is divided into sections. Today we are looking at Section One, which contains the most commonly used words from the entire list. How many of these do you know?


sector • available • financial • process • individual • specific • principle • estimate • variables • method • data • research • contract • environment • export • source • assessment • policy • identified • create • derived • factors • procedure • definition • assume • theory • benefit • evidence • established • authority • major • issues • labour (labor) • occur • economic • involved • percent • interpretation • consistent • income • structure • legal • concept • formula • section • required • constitutional • analysis • distribution • function • area • approach • role • legislation • indicate • response • period • context • significant • similar


To practice using these words, answer these following conversation questions. You might notice that some of the words in these questions are forms of the original words (for example, the adjective “consistent” was changed to its adverbial form, “consistently”).


Twenty Questions from the Academic Word List, Section One


1. What year was your country established?

2. Have you ever had a very different interpretation of a song or a movie than your friends had?

3. As a teenager, did you have a problem with authority?

4. Can you explain the structure of your government?

5. Do you think that there is a formula for happiness? What about success?

6. Do you feel like you have a “role” in your family? Do your siblings have different roles?

7. What is your approach to a big problem?

8. Can you function without coffee?

9. What are some issues that you have had with roommates? If you approached your roommates with your problem, what was their response?

10. Do you have a theory about why women love chocolate?

11. What is your assessment of your high school?

12. What do you waste your money on? Can you estimate how much money you waste on this thing each year? Can you be more specific and say how much you wasted on this thing over this last week?

13. What has been a very significant event in your life over this last year?

14. Can you explain the concept of your favorite restaurant?

15. Are your eating and exercise habits consistently healthy?

16. What is the source of some of your worries?

17. What sector of your government do you think receives the most money?

18. Do you think the average income of your country is enough for a family to live on?

19. What period of your life has been the happiest? What occurred that made you so happy?

20. What percent of your income goes to taxes?


*Stepping it up a notch is an idiom that means “take to a higher level” and “challenge yourself with something that is more difficult.” We hope that this Academic Word List and corresponding questions helped you to step your English vocabulary skills up a notch!