English for Academic Purposes:  Vocabulary

Selecting vocabulary: General service list of English words

In order to succeed in HE in English, you need:

  • a good general vocabulary, for example:

In 1953 Michael West (West, 1953) published his well-known General Service List of English words. This was a list of the 2000 most useful word families of English. Although the list has been criticised for many reasons, research into academic texts by Averil Coxhead (Coxhead, 2000) has shown that the General Service List (GSL) covers almost 80% of the academic texts she studied. It would seem essential for any EAP student to know these word families.

General Service List of English Words. West (1953).

The original list had about 2000 headwords and about 1500 related words, making about 3500 words altogether. In the original list, different verb forms were not given (e.g. work, works, working), neither were plurals (book, books), nor the months, days of the week and numbers. I have added these making about 5500 words altogether.