Top 100 List of Vocabulary Words for Academic Reading
This list of vocabulary words is arranged in four sections of 25 words each to make study and practice easier. Each list is followed by links to pages that explain or practice many of its words. Direct links to each section of the list:
Practice this List of Vocabulary Words on Quizlet
• Section 1: Start with these Thinking Words
• Section 2: Academic Writing Vocabulary
• Section 3: Adjectives and Adverbs
• Section 4: More Useful Vocabulary
Learning these words (along with basic English vocabulary) will help you to understand more of what you read with only occasional use of a dictionary. That’s essential for comprehension, so you don’t lose the thought you’ve just read while constantly looking up words you don’t know.
Even the small number of academic vocabulary words on this list (100 word “families”, or over 200 words counting all the most common forms) can help you get closer to the level you need. That’s the main focus of this site, and this page in particular.
There are of course many more words you will need to understand to do serious academic or professional work in English (and you can also practice many of the others on EnglishHints). However, this list of vocabulary words is an excellent place to start.
It’s based not only on my own experience (as a student, reader, and teacher), but also on lists made by several other teachers and researchers.
Note that many of these words have been used so much that they have developed more than one use or meaning. It’s important to notice how they are used, as you read, and not just memorize a simple definition. Vocabulary.com is very good for giving the different senses of words, as well as lots of examples of their use in sentences.
See especially the 100 words on the Academic Vocabulary Toolkit list— somewhat different than this list (especially since she counts each form or part of speech separately) —but well worth the study. If you only have time for one sub-list of 10 words, try list 3 (see list intro-- "Read More"-- for links to the 10 sub-lists).
You will already know many of these words. Learn the others with the help of the links on this page, and you’ll be well on your way to reading whatever you need to in English!
1: Start with These Thinking Words
Note: Each word family begins with the verb (vb.), if it has one, followed by its noun (n.) or nouns, and common adjective(s) (adj.) or adverbs (adv.), if any. Only commonly used forms are listed.
Spellings are American, when British spellings differ (analyze vs. analyse, etc.) Both American and British spellings should be acceptable anywhere.
- analyze (vb.), analysis (n.) & analyst (n.- person), analytical (adj.), analytically (adv.)
- assume (vb.), assumption (n.)
- conclude (vb.), conclusion (n.), conclusive (adj.), conclusively (adv.)
- consider (vb.), consideration (n.), considerable (adj.)
- context (n.), contextual (adj.)
- demonstrate (vb.), demonstration (n.), demonstrative (adj.)
- determine (vb.), determination (n.), determined (adj.)
- evaluate (vb.), evaluation (n.)
- evidence (n.), evident (adj.), evidently (adv.)
- examine (vb.), examination (n.)
- factor (vb. or n.)
- focus (vb. or n.), focused (adj.)
- identify (vb.), identification (n.)
- imply (vb.), implication (n.)
- infer (vb.), inference (n.)
- interpret (vb.), interpretation (n.), interpretative (adj.)
- investigate (vb.), investigation (n.),investigative (adj.)
- objective (n. or adj.), objectively (adv.)
- relevance (n.), relevant or irrelevant (adjs.)
- select (vb.), selection (n.), selective (adj.), selectively (adv.)
- significance (n.), significant or insignificant (adjs.), significantly
- solve (vb.), solution (n.)
- suggest (vb.), suggestion (n.), suggestible or suggestive (adjs.)
- support (vb. or n.),supporter (n.- person), supportive (adj.)
- validate (vb.), validation & validity (ns.), valid (adj.)
You can practice most of these words in the Investigations Crossword. (answers here) and Scientific Method Vocabulary. If you already know most of the 100 words on this priority vocabulary list, the other words taught and mentioned in Scientific Method Vocabulary and the other pages linked from this page are also worth learning.
Many of these first words are also used in the explanations on the Improve Reading Skills page, and all are included in the flashcards and games for this Quizlet List. (I like the matching game best, but Gravity is also challenging!)
You can also practice them (along with the words in section 3) in a word search puzzle. (Its answers are here.)
Section 2: Academic Writing Vocabulary
- argue (vb.), argument (n.), argumentative (adj.)
- chart (vb. or n.), uncharted (adj.)
- compare (vb.), comparison (n.), comparable & comparative (adjs.)
- contrast (vb.or n.*), contrasting (adj.)
- criteria (n.- plural; sing. is criterion)
- criticize (vb.), criticism (n.) or critic (n.-person), critical (adj.), critically (adv.)
- define (vb.), definition (n.)
- describe (vb.), description (n.), descriptive (adj.)
- develop (vb.), development (n.), developed, developing, undeveloped (adjs.)
- emphasize (vb.), emphasis (n.), emphatic (adj.), emphatically (adv.)
- explain (vb.), explanation (n)
- illustrate (vb.), illustration (n.), illustrated (adj.)
- imagine (vb.), imagination (n.), imaginative or imaginary, unimaginable or unimaginative (adjs.)
- indicate (vb.), indication (n.), indicative (adj.)
- introduce (vb.), introduction (n.), introductory (adj.)
- justify (vb.), justification (n.), justifiable & justified (adjs.)
- oppose (vb.), opposition (n.), opponent (n.-person), opposed & opposing (adjs.)
- persuade (vb.), persuasion (n.) persuasive (adj.), persuasively (adv.)
- predict (vb.), prediction (n.) predictable & unpredictable (adjs.) , predictably (adv.)
- purpose (n.), purposeful (adj.)
- react (vb.), reaction & reactor (ns.), reactive (adj.)
- respond (vb.), response (n.), irresponsible, responsible, & responsive (adjs.), responsibly
- summarize (vb.), summary (n.)
- topic (n.), topical (adj.)
- transition (n.), transitional (adj.)
*Often (though not always) if a word is used both as a noun and a verb, the noun form will have the accent (stress) on the first syllable and the verb on the second: con'-trast as a noun; con-trast' as a verb.
(Other examples: impact, in section 4 below: im'-pact is the pronunciation of the noun form; im-pact' of the verb. The same is true for noun and verb forms of conduct, extract, increase, permit, progress, and transport, among many others.)
However, 'support' in section 1 has the accent on the second syllable for both noun and verb forms: sup-port'. Benefit and monitor in section 4 both have the stress on the first syllable.
You can see examples of these 25 (and other academic) words in TOEFL or IELTS Essay Sample or Essay Organization and practice them on Writing Test Vocabulary or Online Crossword- Essential Academic Vocabulary (along with many Section 1 words.)
There's a word search puzzle to review these words (and the words in section 4). Its answers are here.
Section 3: Words Used Primarily as Adjectives and Adverbs
- accurate (adj.), accurately (adv.)
- alternative (adj.-- or n.), alternatively (adv.)
- appropriate (adj.), appropriately (adv.)
- approximate (adj.), approximately (adv.)
- brief (adj.), briefly (adv.)
- complex (adj.)
- consistent (adj.), consistently (adv.)
- constant (adj.), constantly (adv.)
- crucial (adj.), crucially (adv.)
- effective (adj.), effectively (adv.)
- essential (adj.), essentially (adv.)
- eventual (adj.), eventually (adv.)
- final (adj.), finally (adv.)
- fundamental (adj.), fundamentally (adv.)
- legal (adj.), legally (adv.)
- logical (adj.), logically (adv.)
- maximum (or maximal) (adjs.)
- minimum (or minimal) (adjs.)
- obvious (adj.), obviously (adv.)
- previous (adj.), previously (adv.)
- primary (adj.), primarily (adv.)
- prior (adj.)
- similar (adj.), similarly (adv.)
- specific (adj.), specifically (adv.)
- unique (adj.), uniquely (adv.)
Many of these have noun forms (alternative, complexity, consistency, constancy, effectiveness, logic, priority, similarity, specificity, or uniqueness), and a few have verb forms (alternate, approximate, maximize, minimize, and specify) but they are not as common as the adjective or adverb forms.
Notice how commonly adjectives are formed from verbs or nouns by adding -al, -ic and -ive (as well as just by using the verb’s past or present participle—see the yellow box in Word Formation for an explanation of the difference. See also Suffix List for many non-academic examples of all these endings.)
You can practice many of these on the Adjective Opposite Matching Games pages, including especially the main page and the Thinking Adjectives page.
More Useful Vocabulary
- aspect (n.)
- assess (vb.), assessment (n.)
- authorize (vb.), authority (n.), authorized or unauthorized (adjs.)
- benefit (vb. or n.), beneficial (adj.), beneficially (adv.)
- categorize (vb.), category (n.)
- connect (vb.), connection (n.), connected (adj.)
- consequence (n.), consequent or consequential (adjs.), consequently (adv.)
- contribute (vb.), contribution (n.)
- exclude (vb.), exclusion (n.), excluded, excluding, & exclusive (adjs.), exclusively (adv.)
- impact (vb. or n.)
- integrate (vb.), integration (n.), integrated (adj.)
- interact (vb.), interaction (n.), interactive (adj.), interactively (adv.)
- issue (vb. or n.)
- locate (vb.), location (n.)
- monitor (vb. or n.)
- occur (vb.), occurrence (n.)
- participate (vb.), participation (n.), participant (n.-person) participating (adj.)
- procedure (n.), procedural (adj.)
- quote (vb. or n.), quotation (n.), quotable (adj.)
- range (vb. or n.), (far-)ranging (adj.)
- require (vb.), requirement (n.), required (adj.)
- source (n.)
- strategy (n.), strategic (adj.)
- structure (n), structural (adj.)
- transform (vb.), transformation (n.)
You can practice some of these List of Vocabulary words on the Collaborative Thinking Crossword (answers here). If you want to practice lists 2-4 with the games and flash cards on Quizlet, you can enroll in my (Mrs. Simonton’s) course there. It’s free, but you have to register. (Link to list 1 is above, after Section 1.)
Free Word Search Puzzles has a number of academic vocabulary word searches. There are links to to of them at the ends of section 1 and 2, but the first also includes section 3 and the second includes all the word families in section 4. It has two more puzzles at the end of the academic section with 50 words each-- 100 more very useful words for university study or professional work.
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