About the University Word List

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The University Word List (UWL) is a list of vocabulary items common in academic texts. It is composed of 808 words, divided into 11 levels. This list is designed to be a list of specialized vocabulary for students who know about 2,000 generally common words and plan to study in an English-language college or university. Think of it as the most common 800 words in academic texts excluding the 2,000 words of the General Service List (GSL) (West, 1953). This list is linked to the GSL. If your students study the GSL, followed by the UWL, there should be no repetition.

The list is divided into 11 levels. Level 1 has the greatest frequency and range, level 2 next, etc. The occurrences of the words of the first three levels is about half of the total occurrences of the entire list. Nation (1990 p.19) estimates that the words on this list account for 8% of the words in a typical academic text.

This list was first published in 1984 (Xue and Nation). A new version has been published and is called the Academic Word List (AWL). Go back to my homepage for information and a link to the AWL. I'll be taking the UWL and this page off my site at some point.

The list is posted here separated into levels. In each of the 11 levels the words are alphabetized and separated by a space. Copied as text, it should be pretty easy to deal with.


Nation, I.S.P., 1990, Teaching and Learning Vocabulary, Newbury House, New York

West, 1953, A General Service List of English Words, Longman, London

Xue Guoyi and Nation, I.S.P, 1984, A University Word List, Language Learning and Communication 3, 2:215-229

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