Comparing the Academic Word List with the Academic Vocabulary List: Analyses of Frequency and Performance of English Language Learners

K. James Hartshorn, Judson Hart


Although use of the Academic Word List (AWL) has been successful and extensive in English as a second language (ESL) materials development and pedagogy (Coxhead 2000, 2011), some scholars have raised concerns about possible flaws. In an effort to overcome limitations, Gardner and Davies (2014) have presented a "new Academic Vocabulary List" (AVL). While their description suggests a number of potential advantages of the AVL over the AWL, these lists have yet to undergo ecologically valid comparisons based on actual ESL learner performance. Thus, this study compares the AWL with the AVL in an effort to identify some of the most salient similarities and differences. While results suggest that the AWL and AVL do not differ significantly in their overall word frequencies or in their capacity to similarly represent the broad construct of academic vocabulary knowledge, they indicate stark differences in terms of their content and in the systematic sequencing of that content. Though much more research is needed, these findings suggest a number of potential advantages of the AVL for ESL teaching and learning.


ESL, Academic Vocabulary List, Learner Performance,

Full Text: