For decades, teachers and language learners have been concerned about matching the difficulty level of texts to the proficiency level of learners in order to achieve comprehensible input, which leads to effective learning. Some leveling systems and research use word lists as part of their leveling processes, particularly the Academic Word List. The Academic Vocabulary List (AVL) has not been explored yet as a leveling tool, so this study aims to address this lack of research by examining how the AVL words vary in cumulative frequency bands and also in separate frequency bands with regard to level and topic. The AVL was divided into 5 frequency bands and compared against corpora of biology and U.S. history texts at the elementary, junior high, high school, and university levels. Results showed that the biology texts had a higher percentage of total AVL tokens than the history texts did, suggesting that the AVL may be more suitable for some disciplines than others. For the cumulative bands, Bands 1 through 3 proved to have the highest percent deltas, suggesting that words 1 to 800 are the most useful to learn. Looking at each separate band, Bands 1 and 2 had the highest percent of AVL tokens at the high school level, implying that the words of these bands are especially valuable for learners at this level. The university level had the highest percentage for Bands 3 through 5. There was no statistical significance for any band concerning the factor of the relationship between topic and level, but there was statistical significance for the factor of proficiency level at every level. For the factor of topic, there was significance for every band except Band 3. For each band, the elementary and junior high texts were generally similar to each other concerning the AVL tokens found in them. High school and university texts were similar to each other for Bands 1 and 2 but were not similar to each other for Bands 3 through 5.



College and Department

Linguistics and English Language

Date Submitted


Document Type





academic vocabulary, readability, AVL, leveling, text difficulty, frequency bands