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Who is the Oxford 3,000™ actually for?

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Oxford 3000Bjorn Candel is an EFL teacher in the UAE. In this post, he looks at how the Oxford 3,000™ – a list of the 3,000 most important words in English – can be used with EFL students.

Frequency-based vocabulary lists like the Oxford 3,000 are powerful language learning tools. In fact, they are way too powerful to stay in the hands of teachers and EFL publishers. That’s why I give each of my students the Oxford 3,000 in an Excel or Numbers file, with empty columns for definitions, example sentences, word family information, collocations etc.

A blank copy of the Oxford 3,000 Excel file

A blank copy of the Oxford 3,000 Excel file

Focus tool

The Oxford 3,000 is a perfect tool for focusing students on studying vocabulary. A huge amount of research and work has gone into compiling this list of vital words for learners of English, and students can take advantage of this by checking if new words they come across in a text or a language activity are on the list. If a new word is in the list, I tell the students to learn it. If not, they have to decide if they feel that word is important enough to make the effort to learn it.

Ambitious and lazy students

Using the Oxford 3,000 is a great approach to vocabulary learning for ambitious students. The list becomes a guide where these students can focus on the words they really need to know to progress in English. And it is a focus tool that helps them become more independent as language learners.

Using the Oxford 3,000 is also a great tool for lazy students. They don’t have to make an effort to decide which words to focus on. If the word is in the list, they simply learn it.

Why an empty list?

I give my students an Oxford 3,000 list with no definitions or example sentences for the simple reason that finding the definition and typing it in the list helps the learner remember it. They are actively working with the new words, not simply looking up dictionary entries. And by actively adding and compiling the information, the Excel or Numbers file also becomes a personalised vocabulary record for the student.

Collocations and word-family data is entered in an Oxford 3,000 Numbers file

Collocations and word-family data is entered in an Oxford 3,000 Numbers file

How many words did you say?

A list of 3,000 words is incredibly long (my Excel file is 310 pages). It’s easy enough to find a new word in the list by using the Find function. However, to make the list easier to work with, I’ve also added a column labelled Date. Whenever a student has worked on a particular word, they simply add the day’s date at the end of the row.

You can then use the Sort function to sort the file according to date so that all the words the student has worked on that day jump to one place at the top of the page. (These functions work the same in a Numbers file).

The entries are sorted by date

The entries are sorted by date

What next?

There a lots of things you can do with the new vocabulary at the top of the Excel or Numbers file. For example, you can:

  • Copy and paste the new words into a fresh Word file (landscape) and save it as a master file

    The completed work in the Oxford 3,000 becomes a master copy

    The completed work in the Oxford 3,000 becomes a master copy

  • Remove the definitions in the master file and save it with a new file name

    Worksheet 1: Headwords are removed

    Worksheet 1: Headwords are removed

  • Remove the head words and example sentences in the master file and save it with a new file name

    Worksheet 2: Definitions are removed

    Worksheet 2: Definitions are removed

  • Remove the word family and collocations information in the master file and save it with a new file name

    Worksheet 3: Word family information is removed

    Worksheet 3: Word family information is removed

In this way, the learner creates three recyclable vocabulary worksheets with an answer key in less than two minutes. This is also great for learner independence.

Guiding students towards asking the right questions

You can use the Oxford 3000 file for homework, or as part of a vocabulary portfolio. The work can be graded, helping students develop their understanding of vocabulary learning through the grading system you use. Let’s look at an example:

Student Work Grade
The student has only entered definitions in their Oxford 3,000 list. 60-65%
The student has entered a definition and an example sentence for each vocabulary item. 70-75%
In addition to above, the student has added some word family words and/or some collocations. 80-85%
In addition to above, the student has added multiple meanings/definitions with corresponding example sentences. They have added collocations, chunks, phrasal verbs, fixed expressions, opposites and/or synonyms. 90-100%
Ali has a very good grasp of multiple meanings and word family information. He's still struggling with collocations and set phrases.

Ali has a very good grasp of multiple meanings and word family information. He’s still struggling with collocations and set phrases.

Using this kind of grading system for a vocabulary portfolio, I am indirectly helping my students ask key questions like, “But what is a collocation?” “How do I find phrasal verbs for this verb?” “Does fail have a noun?” “Which meaning of this word should I use?” “Is search engine a collocation?”

Throughout the whole semester, Muath has kept asking questions about his vocabulary entries. He's been aiming to be the first student in the class to get 100%. In the final weeks of the semester, he was finally awarded 100% for his work with the Oxford 3,000.

Throughout the whole semester, Muath has kept asking questions about his vocabulary entries. He’s been aiming to be the first student in the class to get 100%. In the final weeks of the semester, he was finally awarded 100% for his work with the Oxford 3,000.

When I started using the Oxford 3,000 with my students three years ago, I wasn’t sure how students would respond to these activities. I found that they seem to like the routine and recognise the value of working with the Oxford 3,000 word list.

Sources

The Oxford 3,000 word list

The Oxford 3,000 profiler

A 3-minute overview of the Oxford 3,000

For CEFR levels, the English Profile has been consulted

The vocabulary items in the example worksheets are from Douglas, Nancy. Reading Explorer 1. Heinle 2009 (page 15).

Bjorn Candel is currently teaching in the English Foundations Programme at Fujairah Men’s College in the UAE. He has been teaching English as a Foreign Language (EFL) for 17 years, primarily in the Middle East. He has a BA in English, Spanish and Linguistics, an MA in Translation  and a Cambridge DELTA (British Council/International House). Special areas of interest include corpus-based research, vocabulary acquisition, the Lexical Approach, and mobile learning.

Author: Oxford University Press ELT

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27 thoughts on “Who is the Oxford 3,000™ actually for?

  1. Where can I get a copy of the Oxford 3000 as an excel file?

  2. Pingback: Who is the Oxford 3,000™ actually for? | ...

  3. I would also like to access a copy of that file.

  4. A new resources and something new to think about…I wonder if anyone has had much experience using this in classes with high-level primary students. I would be interested to hear their experiences and ideas.

    • Hi Mark,

      I’m only teaching Beginners to Pre-Intermediate adult students at the moment, so I can’t really say. But at least around a third of the vocabulary in the Oxford 3,000 are at a B2, C1 and C2 level so the list might work well with a higher level, too, especially since it also includes about 65% of the words in the Academic Word List.

      Bjorn

  5. Where can I get it? Is it an app? Thanks.

    • Hi Lance,

      You can get a copy of the file here: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/fbe5v57g6ywya86/gXboWQr6IP

      It’s not an app, just a file, but the Numbers file works OK-ish on an iPad. I suggested an Oxford 3,000 iPad app to the OUP about a year ago. I think an Oxford 3,000 iPad app which comes pre-loaded with the vocabulary list but gives students a chance to add their own definitions, examples, collocations, idioms, images and sound would be extremely useful.

      Bjorn

  6. Hi,

    I’ve got the Oxford 3,000 files I’m using here (in both Excel and Numbers format):

    https://www.dropbox.com/sh/fbe5v57g6ywya86/gXboWQr6IP

    Below are also two simple screencasts on using the Oxford 3,000:

    Feel free to use these if you find them useful. They are not apps, but the Numbers file works OK on the iPad.

    Bjorn

  7. Reblogged this on BjornCentral and commented:
    Oxford University Press has published a blog post I’ve written.

  8. Pingback: Who is the Oxford 3,000™ actually for? | ...

  9. Hi Bjorn,

    I looked into your “I know this much of Oxford 3,000″ excel formula and I found
    =COUNT(G2:G3510)/3510*100

    I think the denominator should be “3509” since you start listing up the words from row 2.
    :)

    Regards,
    Didik

  10. It seems the link to the Oxford 3,000 file has been disabled. Here’s a new one:

    https://www.dropbox.com/sh/fbe5v57g6ywya86/AAChVUPkvfixWvnqUF8RISS2a

    • Dear Sir
      I am on Viet Nam, would you hep me?

      what type of Oxford3000_xxx.numbers( which programe can open it).
      I see Oxford3000.xlsx on Dropbox but I don’t how to download to my PC
      Would you send direct them to me. My email: sonthientao@yahoo.com

      Thanks for your support

      • Hello,

        I’ve sent you the two files in an email.

        The .numbers file is for the Numbers application by Apple, and you can use it on Mac computers, iPads and iPhones. The .xlsx file is for Microsoft Excel (PCs).

        Good luck!

        Bjorn

  11. Hi Bjorn, i have already left another email, sorry if I’m being repetitive, it’s just in case you haven’t received the previous one. I saw your youtube video about the oxford 3000 and it seemed very useful to me… so i bought the dictionary thinking that i was buying the exact same dictionary you talked about, and it wasn’t. So, the question is which is exactly the dictionary that you use in which is integrated the software which allows you to practice your vocabulary….
    Well, thanks in advnace!
    Best regards
    Gustavo from Argentina.

    • The dictionary I’m using in the video is the Oxford WordPower Dictionary for Arabic-speaking learners of English (the iPad version). I’m looking at the other Oxford dictionaries that have been released in an iPad format, and the Diccionario Oxford Pocket para estudiantes de inglés looks like it has a similar layout and functionality: https://itunes.apple.com/app/diccionario-oxford-pocket/id514269206?mt=8

      The PC version of the Oxford WordPower Dictionary has quite a lot of practice activities – it comes as a CD-ROM with the paper dictionary (many of these extra vocabulary activities are not included in the iPad version). The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, 8th edition, might be a better option, though. It is an English-English dictionary that also has been published as an iPad app.

      Hope this helps! Feel free to ask more questions if you want to.

      Regards,

      Bjorn

  12. Hello teacher.

    Thank you very much for sharing.
    I did not know which words learned before.

    With your permission! I have a question :

    A1 should be learned before. Because most common..

    learning sequence : A1 then A2 then B1 ….

    Am I right?

    • Hi Jack,

      You’re right. The A1 words are the easiest, and after that you have the A2 words, the B1 words and so on. But sometimes an easy text has a few B1 words or maybe one or two B2 words, so then you probably need to look them up, too.

      All the words in the Oxford 3,000 are important to learn and sometimes you learn some more difficult words together with easier ones.

      Good luck!

      Bjorn

  13. Hi Jack,

    You’re right. The A1 words are the easiest, and after that you have the A2 words, the B1 words and so on. But sometimes an easy text has a few B1 words or maybe one or two B2 words, so then you probably need to look them up, too.

    All the words in the Oxford 3,000 are important to learn and sometimes you learn some more difficult words together with easier ones.

    Good luck!

    Bjorn

  14. I am doing a Cambridge DELTA Module 3 paper on Blended Learning and the focus of my course is lexis. I would be interested in any information about how the Oxford 3000 list relates to previous commonly used lists like the General Service List, the AWL, Nation’s 1,000-word lists. Were these lists used as a starting point, or is the Oxford 3000 list a totally new creation? Is there any link to published material explaining in a bit more detail how the list was developed and its relationship to the aforementioned lists? Thank you.

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