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What is the Academic Word List?
The AWL is a list of words which appear with high frequency in English-language academic texts. The list was compiled by Averil Coxhead at the Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.
To find these words, an analysis was done of academic journals, textbooks, course workbooks, lab manuals, and course notes.
The list was compiled following an analysis of over 3,500,000 words of text.
The words selected for the AWL are words which occur frequently in a range of academic subjects, including the Arts (including history, psychology, sociology, etc.), Commerce (including economics, marketing, management, etc.), Law and the Sciences (including biology, computer science, mathematics, etc.). This means that the AWL is useful to all second-language learners who wish to study in an English-speaking institution no matter what their field of study. The AWL does not, however, include technical words which are specific to a given field. Nor does it contain words which are of general use and very high frequency.
Why should I learn it?
You will need to know this academic vocabulary if you want to study in an English-speaking college or university. In fact, because these words are so common, they are even useful to those who do not plan to go on to post-secondary study in English. These are words that you will frequently see in newspapers, magazines, and novels, and hear on television, movies or in conversation.