Academic English: a definition

Academic English is…

…often considered relatively formal complex English that conveys ideas in a precise and objective manner. It is generally acknowledged to include the essential skills of literary analysis, the observance of reference systems, the synthesis of associated scholars and the ability of critical evaluation. Essential academic vocabulary, phrases and grammatical complexity are often used traditionally in academic dialogue and text. Specifically, Academic English refers to words and practice that are not necessarily common or frequently encountered in informal conversation and circumstances.

Wilson (2017) Academic English UK.

Academic English definitions from the Internet…

‘Academic English’ is the type of English you need for reading and understanding your study materials and writing about your subject. (The Open University, 2017)

Academic writing in English is linear, which means it has one central point or theme with every part contributing to the main line of argument, without digressions or repetitions. Its objective is to inform rather than entertain. As well as this it is in the standard written form of the language. There are ten main features of academic writing that are often discussed. Academic writing is to some extent: complex, formal, objective, explicit, hedged, and responsible. It uses language precisely and accurately. It is also well organised and planned. (UEFAP, 2014)

Academic English is the genre of English used in the world of research, study, teaching and universities. If you read an article in an academic journal or listen to someone giving a presentation or a talk about an academic subject in an academic environment, Academic English is probably being used (English for university, 2016).

Academic English also called English for Academic Purposes (EAP) entails training students, usually in a higher education setting, to use language appropriately for study. It is one of the most common forms of English for specific purposes (Wikipedia, 2017)

Effective Academic English depends on producing the most appropriate style for your purpose and audience. It includes consistency, the right level of formality, expressing ideas precisely, being concise and objective (Manchester University, 2017).

Academic language (American English for Academic English) refers to the oral, written, auditory, and visual language proficiency required to learn effectively in universities and academic programs. i.e., it’s the language used in lectures, seminars, books, and journals. It’s the language that students are expected to learn and achieve fluency in (Education Glossary, 2017).

Academic language is the language needed by students to do the work in universities. It includes, for example, discipline-specific vocabulary, grammar and punctuation, and applications of rhetorical conventions and devices that are typical for a content area (e.g., essays, lab reports, discussions of a controversial issue) (Csun, 2017).

Academic Language is the language needed by students to understand and communicate in the academic disciplines.  Academic language includes such things as specialized vocabulary, conventional text structures within a field such essays and lab reports and other language-related activities typical of classrooms, such as expressing disagreement, discussing an issue, or asking for clarification.  Academic language includes both productive and receptive modalities (CWU, 2017).

Academic English Dictogloss


A dictogloss is a classroom dictation activity where learners are required to construct a short text (3 sentences) by listening and taking notes, which are then used to reconstruct the text. There are many key skills used in this type of lesson; listening, note-taking, communication with other students, grammar and vocabulary development.


Dictogloss #6: Academic English

What is academic English? What is generally considered academic English in skills and language. Key language areas: phrases most people agree / academic English terminology.      Level: ***** [C1]   TEACHER MEMBERSHIP


Listening Lesson: What is academic English?


Academic English: How is it different?

What is academic English? This lecture by Cambridge University Press discusses the key differences between Academic and General English. The listening worksheet has a variety of questions and is great introduction to understanding Academic English .  Level ***** [B1/B2/C1]   Video [5:20]   Example  /  TEACHER MEMBERSHIP


Academic English: Listening Resources

All our listening tests  are created from a variety of different types of listening websites. The tests are note-taking practice with a set of questions.

Academic English Ted Talk tests

Listening Tests

Academic listening tests with a range of questions types. 10-15 minutes. Click here.

Academic English BBC 6 minute listening tests

BBC English

30+ listenings based on news and current affairs. Open questions. Click here.

Academic English Harvard Business review listening tests

HBR Tests

Harvard Business Review – short three minute business listening tests. Click here.

Academic English TED Talks listening worksheets

TED Talks

14+ TED TALK lectures. A range of different topics with open questions.  Click here.

Academic English You Tube academic lecture listenings

Listening lectures

40-50 minute ‘real’ lectures from Stanford, Harvard, Oxford Universities. Click here.

Academic English Pronunciation worksheets

AEUK Listenings

A whole range of different listenings on lots of different topics. Click here.


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Academic English: Writing Resources

Useful advice on all areas of writing skills at university. We write our own argument essays to help students to identify key ideas and supporting details.

Academic English writing skills

Writing Skills

Everything to do with academic writing. Referencing to paragraphing. Click here.

Academic English writing argument essays

Argument essays

10x two-sided argument essays – general and academic texts 400-800 words. Click here.

Academic English Situation problem solution evaluation essays

SPSE essays

 SPSE: Situation, Problem, Solution, Evaluation essay writing. Click here.

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Academic English: Reading Resources

Academic English UK write their own reading texts. These readings improve reading skills, enhance understanding and most of all develop critical thinking.

Academic English presentations

Reading Tests

AEUK reading tests. Academic texts with a variety of question types. Click here.

Academic English debates at university


Read, identify the main points & write a  summary. Click here

academic English seminars for university English


Different reading texts and exercises to improve reading skills. Click here.

Academic English: Speaking Resources

Lots of advice and ideas on how to develop academic speaking skills. How to give a good presentation, or how to run and participate in a debate or seminar. 

Academic English presentations


 Academic presentations, signposting language and delivery tips.              Click here.

Academic English debates at university


Academic debating at university, debate phrases and key processes. Click here.

academic English seminars for university English


Seminars are small group discussions. Seminar phrases and advice.            Click here.

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