Learning to speak and write English is one thing, but once you arrive at university, you’re likely to encounter all kinds of unfamiliar words and phrases that are specific to classrooms, lectures and textbooks.
It’s always worth brushing up on your academic vocabulary and writing skills — whether you’ve just passed your English language test or you're halfway through your degree.
We’ve compiled a few useful resources and tools that will help you navigate through your studies.
Academic word lists
An academic word list is a great place to start. These lists contain words that appear frequently in English-language academic texts.
Some great resources are:
- The Top 60 Most Common Academic Words by vocabulary.com links to dictionary definitions and includes practice tasks and spelling games.
- RMIT University offers a list of 570 of the most important words to learn to aid you in understanding lectures and reference material.
- Exam English has 10 groups of academic words, with practice tests for you to complete once you work your way through each set.
Academic writing skills
Manchester Academic Phrasebank is an academic resource designed for international students whose first language is not English. It offers useful and practical tools and examples of academic phrasing, organised according to the main sections of a research paper, such as defining terms, giving examples, comparing and contrasting and signalling transition. A PDF version is also available.
Using English for Academic Purposes (UEFAP) offers a vast amount of information and advice for international students. The 'Writing' section of the website section goes through structuring essays and reports, referencing and other features of academic writing.
Writing assistant tools and checkers
Grammarly is an automated grammar checker and writing assistant. Grammarly offers far more than your basic spellcheck tool — the algorithms can flag context-specific grammar corrections, punctuation, wordiness and style. If you opt for the paid version, there’s also a plagiarism tool. You can install a browser extension for assistance with emails, online documents and social media, or download it for Microsoft Office.
Hemingway Editor is an online editing tool that checks for style and structure to help you organise your thoughts and suggestions — essentially, shaping your writing until it’s clear and concise. It flags instances of unnecessary adverbs, complex sentences and passive voice. There’s even a desktop app you can download for offline use.
Online learning content
ABC Learn English is produced by Australia’s national broadcaster. It has a comprehensive website with lessons on grammar, vocabulary and the subtler aspects of language use, plus video learning content and quick audio lessons on pronunciation and word meaning.