Whether you need help with academic or informal vocabulary, you should have a method for collecting and studying new words that you want to learn. Downloading a flashcard app for your smartphone is a great way to create lists of words you want to practice and quiz yourself on, and because you usually have your phone with you, you can always add new words you encounter to your vocabulary app. Quizlet, Flashcards with Cram, and StudyBlue are all free vocabulary apps.
General Academic Words
The Academic Word List contains 570 of the most commonly used words in higher education. Save this document into your own files, delete the words you already know, then study the remaining words on your list. Copy them into a flashcard app to study and quiz yourself.
General Academic Phrases
For Useful Discussion Phrases, visit our page on Discussion resources.
The Academic Phrasebank includes MANY phrases commonly used in academic writing. The phrases are organized by how they're used, so you can find phrases for introducing a topic, giving an overview of how your paper is organized, referring to other research, describing research methods, reporting research results, transitioning from one section to another, writing conclusions, and much more.
See the Academic Formulas List for the most commonly used phrases in written and spoken English.
The most common engineering phrases used in technical writing are useful to use in lab reports and other science and engineering writing assignments.
Vocabulary by Major
The following vocabulary lists are Google documents. You can save a copy in your own files and edit the lists as you like, or copy the words and definitions into a flashcard app (such as Quizlet, Flashcards with Cram, or StudyBlue) to study them and quiz yourself.
Informal Language and Slang
Idioms like "down the road" and "up in the air" are common in American English.
Not sure what an idiom means? Look it up in an idiom dictionary.
Watch this short video on “American English Tricks and Traps” to learn more about idioms. [University of Minnesota students: to access the video click "Sign in" > click "Sign in with your organization portal" > type "umn.edu" > enter your internet ID and password.]
Phrasal verbs like "turn on," "hand in," and "find out" are very common in English. They usually consist of a verb and a particle.
150 Most Common Phrasal Verbs in English. Save this document into your own files, delete the words you already know, then study the remaining words on your list. Copy them into a flashcard app to study and quiz yourself.
The video “English Tricks and Traps” has more advice on learning more phrasal verbs and idioms in daily life. [University of Minnesota students: to access the video click "Sign in" > click "Sign in with your organization portal" > type "umn.edu" > enter your internet ID and password.]
Slang develops and changes rapidly in any language. Understanding slang will help you have conversations with your friends and classmates and possibly avoid any embarrassing situations. The best way to learn slang is to spend time listening to and speaking with American students.
If you can't find a new word in a good dictionary, it might be slang. Try looking it up in Google.