Top Tips for IELTS

Academic Word List Exercises

The Academic Word List and IELTS writing

These words are exactly the sort of words you need to be able to use in your writing. They are all common words and you do need to learn to use them. This means learning:

  • their grammar
  • collocations/word combinations
  • different word forms

Their meaning is not normally a problem.

What is the Academic Word List?

My daily word exercises are based on the Academic Word List (AWL). The AWL is a list of the words most used in academic writing across all specialties (science, law, medicine,economics etc).

The AWL contains 570 word families subdivided in 10 lists with list 1 containing the most frequently used words and list 10 the least. The idea is that list 1 contains the most common words and  list 10 the least common.


Learning how to use the Academic Word List

The Academic Word List is a great tool but you need to know how to use it. Here are some quick tips.

Do not just focus on what the words mean - these are words you want to use for yourself.

Learn what all the common forms of the word are: this means learning the word families

You need to know what other words you can use in combination with these words - this means collocations and prepositions. If you don't know that then you can't use them!

570 word families is not 570 words - it takes time - don't rush it

There are 1000s of words in the Academic Word List and it will take time to master. Why? Each word is in fact a family of words e.g. analyse is not one word but at least 4:

Analyse - analysis - analytical - analytically


Review is important 

Learning words needs repetition. This is why I now have weekly review exercises. The latest is below:

[iframe_loader type='iframe' width='100%' height='600' frameborder='0' src='']



IELTS essay exercises using the Academic Word List

One great way to learn words from the Academic Word List is to see how they are sued in context. These essay exercises will help with just that:

Word formation exercises

Word formation and nouns: 6 sets of exercises to help you make nouns from list 1 of the Academic Word list 

Exercises on the headwords in each sublist

Please note that this is a work in progress. That means I'm still working on it. Scheduled end date is December 2015. Also note that some of the links here will only take to you exercises and not complete lessons.

List 1 - Academic Word List

 List 2 - Academic Word List

List 3 - Academic Word List

List 4 - Academic Word List

List 5 - Academic Word list

List 6 - Academic Word List

List 7 -Academic Word List

List 8 - Academic Word List

List 9 - Academic Word List

List 10 - Academic Word List

The complete list of AWL words

For those of you interested in the complete list of all words in the AWL and not just the headwords, this list in the form of a pdf file comes from Victoria University. 

Academic words to describe change

One sensible way to learn the words is by theme. many of the words in the Academic Word List relate to change: this exercise helps you to use them.

lesson and exercises on different words to describe change

Academic words to discuss research

review exercise on some key words in list 1 of the Awl on research

Teaching and learning using the Academic Word List

If you are interested in teaching or learning using the Academic Word List, you might want to check out this resource:

8 Responses to Academic Word List Exercises

  1. Aiping December 20, 2010 at 2:22 pm #

    Hey mate

    Thank you so much, you are really helpful.
    I got this site today, and i think, I am not sure I will come here every day, but as often as I can.


  1. How to learn IELTS vocabulary – 10 top tips | Dominic Coles IELTS Blog - November 16, 2010

    […] Daily Word from the AWL […]

  2. IELTS writing – key essay vocabulary – 8 exercises from the Academic Word List | Dominic Coles IELTS Blog - November 18, 2010

    […] clearly  you should try and use academic language and the best source of academic language is the Academic Word List (AWL). These are the words that all academic writers use. The second answer is very practical. The […]

  3. Sample IELTS essays | Dominic Coles IELTS Blog - November 22, 2010

    […] my link to useful vocabulary to structure an essay. You can practise the academic vocabulary on my Academic Word List page where you will find an interactive quiz on each […]

  4. Improve your IELTS Vocabulary | Dominic Coles IELTS Blog - November 28, 2010

    […] Get more exercises […]

  5. Improve your IELTS vocabulary | Dominic Coles IELTS Blog - December 1, 2010

    […] Academic Word List Exercises […]

  6. Improve your academic vocabulary – IELTS Writing Blog - Model Task 1 and 2 responses - August 15, 2011

    […] […]

  7. FPP blog » Arhiv » 3UNI – 18.10.2011 - October 18, 2011

    […] HW assignment (follow this link and choose 3 […]