We use cookies on our website to provide you with the best possible user experience. Disabling these cookies may prevent our site from working efficiently. To find out more about our cookies read our privacy policy.


Word pileHow can you build up your vocabulary? 

  • Come to a workshop on learning vocabulary
  • There are many ways to learn vocabulary.  The most important way is by practising your English - reading, listening, speaking and writing.  This leads to deep learning, so you remember and can use new words and phrases correctly. 
  • You need to learn the 3000 most frequent words in English.  You probably know many of them already.  The best way to learn them is by using special books called graded readers.  We have a library of these books which you can borrow - just visit the Language Support Centre.  Using graded readers will also help you get faster and more confident in your reading. (If you would like to see a list of the basic 3000 words, click here, then select Word Lists and click "Oxford 3000".) 
  • You also need to learn the most frequent academic words in English.  You can find these in the Academic Word List by Averil Coxhead.  Click here to see the Academic Word List. Also, click here for exercises that will help you to learn these words. 
  • Use a translating dictionary AND an English-English dictionary. 
  • Use this cheap app, called FlashVoc, to help you learn your vocabulary.  There's also a similar free online programme, called Anki


Why are English-English dictionaries useful? 

  1. You can hear the pronunciation on the CD, often both British and American.
  2. You get real examples of how the words are used.  The examples help you to understand the word - and to remember it. 
  3. You get the most important words in this dictionary.  If a word has more than one meaning, you get the most common meaning first in the list. 
  4. You can buy them on CD and in book form together for about the same price as the book.


More work on Academic vocabulary

  • Academic Vocabulary Exercises is really useful if you are planning to do a degree or postgraduate course here. Lots of useful activities, including wordlists and corresponding activities.


General vocabulary

  • The BBC website  The content changes regularly, but there is always lots of help with vocabulary.  Check out Funky Phrasals and The Teacher.  Also look at Words in the News.    
  • Learn English  A site for elementary and intermediate students, focussing on grammar and vocabulary. Choose ‘elementary’ or ‘intermediate’ on the left hand side of the page and select ‘vocabulary’. You can then choose your topic and you get a great vocabulary collection with easy to understand pictures and exercises to check your knowledge.
  • a4esl  You can choose easy, medium or difficult vocabulary exercises – plenty of things to do on this website!
  • English Club  From the homepage choose ‘learn English’ and then go to ‘Vocabulary’. There are lots of different word lists and activities, with plenty of work on phrasal verbs and idioms.
  • Language Guide  Lots of opportunity for pronunciation and vocabulary practice – hover over pictures and hear the words. This website also gives French translations, but is suitable for any nationality.


Return to Sources of help »