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University education vocabulary

Introduction to university education vocabulary


Education is one of the key topics for IELTS. You will almost certainly need it in part 1 of the speaking module and it is also a common essay topic. You will find here a list of helpful vocabulary to improve your performance in those two papers.

How to learn this vocabulary

Whatever you do, don’t just sit down and learn the list. You need to be able to use the language for yourself. How can you do this:

  • choose the language that you need – make it personal to you
  • note what other words it is used with
  • note any grammar problems
  • remember pronunciation
  • practice using it

Test yourself first

To see what you know and what you don’t know, I suggest you try these vocabulary tests.

  • education 1 – test your knowledge of prepositions with education vocabulary
  • education 2 – test your knowledge of some more technical educational vocabulary

A warning – local variations

This list of vocabulary comes from the British educational system. Different countries and cultures frequently use their own terminology. For instance, in American English it is quite possible to describe university as “college” or “school”. These words mean something quite different in British English



  • it can replace the word “student”
  • note the different prepositions “of a university” and “from university” and “in a subject”
  • graduate is quite formal so in speaking you could use “I left university” instead
  • a fresher is a first year student, Americans use “freshman”

Level of degrees


  • if you study a humanities subject, you get a BA for your first degree and an MA for your master’s
  • if you study science, you get a BSc for your first degree and an MSc for your master’s

Types of qualifications

notes and common mistakes

  • you can only receive a degree for a full course at university; do not use “diploma” and “certificate” to mean degree
  • to confuse you, the piece of paper you receive when you graduate is a certificate

Types of education


  • if you receive a degree from a university, you are in higher education
  • if you receive a diploma or certificate, you are in further education

Types of course




Be particularly careful with “college” and “school” which do not mean the same as “university” in British English

Forms of learning

notes and common mistakes

  • a lecturer gives or delivers a lecture and is sometimes used as a rank of university teacher
  • a tutor is in charge of a seminar or tutorial
  • we don’t use “class” or “lesson” in university education (although Americans do use “class”)



  • a scholarship is won for academic merit
  • typically a grant is awarded either for a particular project or to allow a student to follow a course

Types of writing



Studying and lecture words


  • you review your notes, but revise for an exam
  • you concentrate in a lecture but on a subject

Some informal “university” verbs – useful in speaking


Get more vocabulary and ideas for IELTS

7 Responses to University education vocabulary

  1. daye September 9, 2016 at 8:37 am #

    I learned the vocabulary list page by page. They are really useful in helping me prepare IELTS test. Thank you very much.

  2. Wei March 25, 2017 at 6:49 pm #

    Firstly,thank you for your vocabulary list which helps me a lot. But it seems that there is a little problem in the list. In the chart “Types of Writing” ,the word might should be “assignment” but not “assigment”,which means an “n” is lost.But maybe it is without any problems but my misunderstanding about “assigment”. Thank you so much.

    • Dominic Cole March 26, 2017 at 2:10 pm #

      Thanks for pointing out the mistake- I’ll get it fixed

  3. Farzan April 12, 2017 at 5:06 pm #

    Thank you so much. Treasure Trove!!


  1. IELTS speaking – part 1 – work/student | Dominic Coles IELTS Blog - November 30, 2010

    […]  you check out my Education vocabulary page, you will find a handy list of education vocabulary with advice and some exercises on how to […]

  2. Sample IELTS essay – Education | Dominic Coles IELTS Blog - December 1, 2010

    […] You can find lots more education vocabulary and some exercises to help you learn it on my education vocabulary page. […]

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