– Lexis: AWL –

Analyse Vocabulary using the Academic Word List and Phrases

Find out more information about why and how we use these phrases by clicking here.

The AWL tool used by Text Inspector analyses your text according to the Academic Word List.

This list was developed by Averil Coxhead as her MA thesis at the School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand and is the most widely used and recognised academic word list, containing over 3000 items.

When used alongside the PHRASE list, the AWL list can help teachers to improve materials for TOEFL and IELTS and help ESL students learn the vocabulary they need to succeed in an academic setting.

What is the Academic Word List (AWL)?

The Academic Word List (AWL) is a list of 570 head words (and their connected sublists) that occur frequently in academic texts.

This includes general words such as ‘accumulate’, ‘modify’, ‘precede’ and ‘statistic’.

As these words aren’t connected to any specific subject, they are extremely useful to the ESOL teacher preparing students to learn English at an academic level or the English language learner preparing for further study.

How is the Academic Word List (AWL) structured?

In addition to the 570 head words, the AWL contains ten sublists which are organised according to their frequency. Each of these sublists contains its own group of derived words.

For example, sublist 1 contains the head word ‘assume’. This is followed by its word family which includes:

– assumed
– assumes
– assuming
– assumption
– assumptions

Each of these lists contains 60 words, except the last which contains 30.

Why use the Academic Word List?

The AWL is comprised of words that are frequently used in an academic setting, yet they’re not often found in speech or everyday texts. This makes them harder to learn than other words.

When used alongside the 2000-word GSL (General Service List), the AWL should give you knowledge of around 90% of all texts you will encounter at an English-speaking college or university.

For students

Familiarity with the AWL will help you:

1. Learn the essential academic vocabulary you need to succeed with your studies.
2. Understand your course material and lectures more easily.
3. Improve your academic writing and express your research, thoughts and ideas more clearly.
4. Increase your confidence when using English for academic purposes.
5. Help you complete your assignments more quickly.

For ESOL teachers and curriculum developers

Familiarity with the AWL will help you:

– Create course materials and lesson plans that provide ESOL students with the vocabulary they need to succeed academically
– Allow you to analyse written texts created by your ESOL students and suggest improvements.
[See the paper ‘How Large Can a Receptive Vocabulary Be’ by Prof. Paul Nation to learn more]

How to use Text Inspector to analyse the AWL content of a text

When you analyse your text, you will first be taken to a summary of the text.

To access the detailed analysis relating to the AWL, look to the left side of the page and click the option ‘Lexis: AWL’.

[Note: this option is for subscribers only. Upgrade here.]

You will be taken to a detailed description which breaks down your text in terms of AWL word list, tokens and types and displays the data in table and graph format.

Upgrade to a full subscription today to unlock more features.


– Coxhead, Averil (2000) A New Academic Word List. TESOL Quarterly, 34(2): 213-238.
– Martinez, R. and N. Schmitt, (2012). A Phrasal Expressions List. Applied Linguistics 33, 3: 299-320. Download it here.