The word list has been divided into sublists based on the frequency of occurrence of the words in the Academic Corpus. The words in Sublist 1 occur more frequently in the corpus than the other words in the list. Sublist 2 occurs with the next highest frequency.
The more frequent the words in the list, the more likely they are to occur in academic texts. When the frequencies of the words in the Academic Corpus are added together, we get a percentage of coverage of the words in the corpus. Words with higher frequency cover more of the corpus.
Table 1 below shows the coverage of each of the sublists of the Academic Word List. It is clear that the coverage of the sublists starts very high with Sublist 1 (3.6%) and drops quite quickly to Sublist 9 (0.2%). The figures in column 3 indicate how many pages on average a learner would need to read in order to meet each word again. It is assumed that there are 400 running words on a page. The figures are only averages.
Table 1: Coverage and pages per repetition of the items in the Academic Word List sublists in the Academic Corpus
Coverage of the Academic Corpus (%)
Pages per repetition in the Academic Corpus
1 (60 families)
2 (60 families)
3 (60 families)
4 (60 families)
5 (60 families)
6 (60 families)
7 (60 families)
8 (60 families)
9 (60 families)
10 (30 families)
The AWL has 570 word families. Word families are used because most regularly formed family members can be understood from knowledge of the stem and the affixes. For example, the word family analyse includes the regular inflections of the verb, analysed, analysing, analyses and the derivations of the word, analysis, analyst, analysts, analytical, analytically etc., and the American spelling, analyze, analyzed, analyzes, analyzing.