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Academic English Skills

Resources to Assist with Improving Academic English and Study Skills


English Language Resources

10 of the top websites and online resources for learning English​.

Practice Listening

Practice your English listening skills with the following recommendations:

  1. Good listening materials
  2. Background information
    • Think about / Research the topic ahead of time
    • Think about / Look up vocabulary you might encounter
    • Predict what language and information you might here
  3. Techniques for practice
    • Listen for general meaning the first time round
    • Listen again for specific details
    • Have a purpose or something to listen for
    • Listen a third time to review what you have learnt

Suggestions for International Students

Learning a language is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ kind of thing: no single style of learning will appeal to all learners. Use this guide to explore options that can help you improve your English language skills.

Key Resources

Frequently Confused Words

The following is a list of look-alike and sound-alike words that are commonly mixed up in English. This list presents the difference between the words, and provides an example of each word used in content.

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accept / except accept: (verb) to receive, to agree except: (preposition/conjunction) exclude, but, apart from
The terms of the contract were accepted. All conditions apply, except the last point.
ad / add ad: (noun) abbreviation for advertisement add: (verb) to perform a mathematical procedure, to increase
The ad was clearly placed in the shop window. Please add 6% sales tax to the purchase price
addition / edition addition: (noun) also; mathematical procedure edition: (noun) a particular version of a document
In addition, it can be argued that consumer dissatisfaction arises from an inability to aim advertising at only the likely buyers.  This is the third edition of the textbook.
advice / advise advice: (noun) recommendation, guidance advise: (verb) to recommend, to suggest
The lawyer gave his client some advice. The client was advised by the lawyer.
affect / effect affect: (verb) to influence effect: (noun) an accomplishment; to bring about; being in full force
Globalisation has affected cultural identity. The experience of the East Asian ecomonies demonstrates the positive effect of globalisation on economic growth.
aid / aide aid: (verb) the act of helping aide: (noun) a person acting as an assistant
The instructions will aid you in completing the test. The political candidates brought their campaign aides to the meeting.
all ready / already all ready: (word phrase) completed already: (adverb) before, so soon
The order is all ready to send. The company has already sent the invoice.
bare / bear

bare: (adjective)

1. naked; without; lacking

2. basic and simple; without essentials



1. a type of animal


2.  to support, to hold up; to be accountable for 

3. endure (an ordeal or difficulty)

4. turn and proceed in a different direction

1. The man was bare from the waist up.

2. He outlined the bare essentials of the story.

1. Bears have thick fur and a short tail.

2. We cannot bear the responsibility for misuse.

3. I cannot bear the pain.

4. Bear left at the next traffic light and follow the road to the end.

be / bee

be: (verb

1. to exist; to occur;  

2. used with a present participle to form continuous tenses;

3. used with past participle to form the passive voice

bee: (noun) an insect

1. There are no easy answers.

2. The new boss is starting today. 

3. The project was done by all members of the group.

Customers enjoy our honey made by wild bees
beside / besides beside: (preposition of place) next to besides: (preposition/adverb) in addition to; apart from
The price appears beside the product description. I have no other family besides my parents.
billed / build billed: (verb) to present a statement of costs or charges build: (verb) to construct
You have been billed for your entire order. All the parts are in the box, but you have to build it yourself.
brake / break brake: (noun) a device for stopping or slowing motion


1. (verb) to separate into parts; to smash

2. (noun) a pause 

We are recalling all 2000 models because of a problem with the brake.

1. The glass will break if you drop it.

2. I need to take a break for 30 minutes.

buy / by buy: (verb) to purchase


1. (preposition) identifies the agent performing an action; indicates the means of achieving something

2. (adverb) so as to go past

I need to buy the ink cartridges for the printer.

1. The man was arrested by the police. / Malaria can be controlled by attacking the parasite.

2. A man walked by on the other side of the 

choose / chose choose: (verb) to select chose: (verb) past tense of 'choose'
Students can choose up to four subjects per semester. The student chose to study accounting.
complement / compliment complement: (verb) to complete; add extra features compliment: (verb / noun) to praise / an expression of praise
The red shoes will complement the outfit. I'd like to compliment you for your good work.
continuously / continually continuously: (adjective) uninterrupted or constant continually: (adverb) reoccurring often
The video is played continuously. We continually review and update our policies. 
do / due do: (verb) to perform or execute due: (adjective) owed as a debt; expected
I was unable to do the assignment in time.  Payment is due upon acceptance.
envelop / envelope envelop: (verb) to surround envelope: (noun) container for a letter
We envelop the glass bottle with foam to prevent breakage.  Return your payment in the envelope provided.
ensure / insure ensure: (verb) to make certain insure: (verb) to protect against financial loss
We do everything to ensure your satisfaction.  You can insure the building against fire damage.
for / four for: (preposition) used to indicate aim object, purpose, or recipient of an action four: (noun) number
I run for health purposes. You must study for four semesters to pass the course. 
hear / here hear: (verb) to perceive sound here: (adverb) at or in this place
The students find it hard to hear the lecturer.  Here is your pen. 
hole / whole hole: (noun) an opening whole: (adjective) entire; complete
To attach, insert the string in the hole I will tell you the whole story.
knew / new knew: (verb) past tense of 'to know'; was aware of new: (adjective) recent, unfamiliar (opposite to old)
He knew of the product defect. The MAP is a new addition to our programs offered.
loose / lose loose: (adjective) not tight; not fastened lose: (verb) to misplace
The knot is too loose. I frequently lose my keys.
made / maid made: (verb) past tense of 'make'; constructed maid: (noun) a servant
All of our products are made in Australia.  A maid is a female person employed in domestic services.
mail / male mail: (noun) postal material male: (noun) a man or a boy
The mail is delivered in the morning. Please indicate whether the applicant is male or female.
morning / mourning morning: (noun) time of day before noon mourning: (noun) period of grieving
The meeting will be held tomorrow morning at 10am.  The nation is mourning the death of the president.
no / know no: (exclamation/determiner) negative; not any know: (verb) to have knowledge of
There is no excuse for your behaviour. He knows the basic information.
overdo / overdue overdo: (verb) to do too much overdue: (adjective) beyond the expected time
If you overdo it at the gym, your muscles will be sore Your assignment is a week overdue.
pair / pear pair: (noun) two of a kind pear: (noun) a fruit
I need to buy a new pair socks. The pear is not ripe.
passed / past passed: (verb) past tense of 'pass'; overtook, moved ahead; went beyond, surpassed past: (noun) an earlier time
The car passed a big truck. There have never been any problems with the software in the past.
personal / personnel personal: (adjective) private personnel: (noun) employees
Medical history is a personal matter. All of our marketing personnel will work on the project.
plain / plane plain: (adjective) simple plane: (noun) airplane/aeroplane
Please write the instructions in plain terms. The plane will arrive in 30 minutes.
precede / proceed precede: (verb) to go before proceed: (verb) to continue
A short speech will preceed the dinner. I got permission to proceed with the transaction.
principle / principal principle: (noun) a rule; standard of good behaviour


1. (nounhead of a school

2. (adjectivemost important

The decision was based on principle, not profit.

1. There is a new principal at the High School.

2. Vegetables are the principal ingredient in the soup.

sale / sail sale:  (noun) the exchange of goods and services for money; disposal of goods at a lower price sail: (verb) to travel by water
You can buy a computer in the end of year sales The ship will set sail on Monday. 
scene / seen scene: (noun) the place where an incident occurs  seen: (verb) past participle of 'see'; perceived with the eye
The emergency team were first on the scene. The shoplifter was seen by the store assistant.
seams / seems seams: (noun) lines formed by sewing fabric together seems: (verb) appears
This sewing machine will guide you to sew straight seams. Resolving the problem seems simple.
sew / so sew: (verb) to stitch so: (conjunction) therefore
I like to sew my own clothes. He left a message, so I need to return his call.
site / cite site: (noun) a location cite: (verb) to quote; to reference in-text
This is a good site for school. Please cite all of your sources of information.
stationary / stationery stationary: (adjective) not moving stationery: (noun) office supplies
The train has been stationary for a long time, there must be a problem on the tracks. We need to order stationery for the new interns.
than / then than: (conjunction & preposition) compared with

then: (adverb)

1. at that time

2. after that

Psychology degrees are more popular than philosophy degrees. First, this essay will talk about the advantages of globalisation, then it will address the disadvantages.
their / there their: (possessive pronoun) belonging to them there: (adverb) in that place
I used their research in my assignment. Place your assignments over there, on my desk. 
through / threw through: (preposition & adverb) from beginning to the end; moving from one side to the other threw: (verb) past tense of 'throw'; tossed
We must make our way through the whole book by the end of the semester. The window broke because the boy threw the ball through it.
to / too to: (preposition) in the direction of

too: (adverb)

1. also

2. excessively

I gave my assignment to the tutor.

1. There are many disadvantages too.

2. He was driving too fast.

undo / undue

undo: (verb)

1. to untie; to unfasten

2. to cancel or reverse the effects or results

undue: (adjective) excessive; inappropriate

1. The knot was difficult to undo.

2. I'm sorry that we can't undo our error.

We determined the damage was cause by undue force.
waist / waste waist: (noun) middle of the body


1. (verb) to consume carelessly

2. (noun) unwanted or unusable material

The size 10 dress has a 32-inch waist.

1. We can't afford to waste electricity.

2. Through your waste into the rubbish bin.

wait / weight wait: (verb) rest in anticipation weight: (noun) the heaviness of a person or thing
You must wait until July for your exam results. The shipping fees are based on the weight of the package.
where / wear where: (adverb) the place or situation in which wear: (verb) to dress in
1. Where do you live? What shoe size do you normally wear?
weather / whether

weather: (noun) the state of the atmosphere at a particular place and time with regards to heat, cloudiness, dryness, sunshine, wind, rain, etc.

whether: (conjunction) if
If the weather is good ,we can go to the beach. I am wondering whether I can return the items I bought online.
we're / were we're: (contraction) we are were: (verb) past tense of 'to be'; was in existence
We're the leader in private education.  Both companies were founded in 1991.
wood / would wood: (noun) lumber; material from trees used for fuel or timber

would: (verb)

1. past tense of 'will'

2. indicating the consequence of an imaginary event or situation

The entire chair is made from wood

1. He said he would give us back our assignments on Monday.

2. He would lose his job if he were caught.

write / right write: (verb) to form letters/words


1. (adjective/adverb) correct

2. (noun) a direction

You must write your exam answers in pen.

1. I'm not sure I know the right answer.

2. Turn right at the next stop sign.

your / you're your: (possessive pronoun) belonging to you you're: (contraction) you are
Bring your identification when you register. You're expected to arrive on time.

Pronunciation Tips

'ed' at the end of a regular verb

It's difficult to know how to pronounce 'ed' in English because it's pronounced in three different ways. However, there are simple rules to help you get it right every time.

Which pronunciation to use depends on the final sound of the word before the 'ed'. Be careful - it's the final sound, not the letter!

The three pronunciations are:

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like in ‘painted’ – ‘paint-id’

If the verb ends with a ‘d’ or ‘t’ sound, the ‘ed’ is pronounced [id].

Be careful! It’s the final sound, not the letter. E.g. ‘decide’ ends in the letter ‘e’, but the final sound is ‘d’ (the ‘e’ is silent)









like in ‘hoped’ – ‘hope-t’

If the verb ends with the following sounds, the 'ed' is pronounced [t]:

'c', 'f', 'k', 'p', 's', 'x', 'ch', 'sh', 'gh'


'c' - danced

'f' - sniffed

'k' - walked

'p' - stopped

's' - promised

'x' - fixed

'ch' - watched

'sh' - finished

'gh' - laughed


like in ‘played’ – ‘play-d’

THE RULE For all vowel sounds (e.g. 'ay', 'ow', 'e', 'ie', 'oe', 'ue') and all other sounds that do not fit the other rules, the 'ed' is pronounced [d]. 








's' at the end of a word

There are many words in English that end in the letter 's', such as:

  • Plural nouns (books, lecturers, pens)
  • Verbs in the third person (loves, likes, wants)
  • Possessive cases (Lilly's pen, Harry's bag, Jacob's book)

Just like the 'ed' pronunciation in English, it can sometimes be hard to know how to pronounce 's' at the end of a word. Which pronunciation to use depends on the sound before the 's' . Be careful - it's the sound, not the letter!

The three pronunciations are:

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like in ‘books’ – ‘book-s’

Voiceless - Any time a word has a sound before the 's' that has NO vibration in the vocal chords, the 's' will continue the lack of vibration and sound like an [s].

Voiceless sounds include:

'p', 't', 'k', 'f', 'ph', 'gh', 'th'


'p' - stops

't' - hats

'k' - hooks

'f' - beliefs

'gh' - laughs

'ph' - graphs

'th' - moths


like in ‘gloves’ – ‘glove-z’

Voiced - Any time a word has a shound just before the 's' that has the vibration, the vibration will carry forward and transform the letter 's' into the [z] sound. This ending is also used when the word ends in a vowel sound.

Voiced sounds include:

'b', 'd', 'g', 'l', 'm', 'n', 'ng', 'r', 'v', 'w', 'y', 'the'


'b' - crabs

'd' - words

'g' - bags

'l' - deals

'n' - pens

'ng' - kings

'r' - wears

'v' - drives

'y' - plays

'the' - clothes

vowel sounds - sees, flies


like in ‘bridges’ – ‘bridge-iz’


Sibilant - Any time a word has a sound just before the 's' that is produced by forcing air out toward your teeth (a hissing or buzzing), an extra syllable is required in order to articulate the sounds. In these words, the 's' is pronounced [iz]

These sounds include:

'c', 's', 'x', 'z', 'ss', 'ch', 'sh', 'ge'


'c' - races

's' - pauses

'x' - boxes

'z' - quizzes

'ss' - misses

'ch' - teaches

'sh' - wishes

'ge' - changes

Video English Lessons

Communication Etiquette

Learn the basics about how to successfully communicate with lecturers, tutors and other members of staff. These basic guidelines can be applied to any professional setting!

Email Ettiquette




  • Don't use an unprofessional email address  (using your TOP email will ensure your email doesn't go to spam)

  • Start with a new e-mail. Avoid replying to an old-email thread, especially when addressing a new issue.
  • Include an appropriate subject heading. It should highlight the main focus of the e-mail.

​ "Booking a consultation time”                         Leave it blank

 "Absence from class"                                     Hi

  • Write a salutation. Address academic staff appropriately and politely. Be formal and avoid familiarity.

 Dear / Hello Kate                                             Miss/Mrs

 Dear / Hello Dr/Prof/Mr/Ms Smith                    Hey / Yo!

  • Write well! Try to use more formal language in the e-mail (definitely avoid slang and abbreviations)

​​ TTYL           i           u           cuz           lol           wanna          dunno           gotta      

  • Provide context and background information. Lecturers teach many students, you need to be helpful and remind them what you are talking about. Do not assume they remember a previous conversation you may have had or your assignment amongst the dozens sitting on their desk!
  • Write a clear and concise message. Avoid lengthy explanations; get to the point. The following format is advised:
    • State the problem by being specific and detailed
    • Include the question relevant to the problem
    • Justify why an answer is needed
    • If a response is required, politely ask for one
  • Sign your name. You need to say who you are, especially if your email address does not include it. If the name you go by is not your official name, include both! This will ensure the lecturer knows who you are and can also search for any records that are stored using your official name. It is also good to add your student number.
  • Proofread the e-mail. Never click send before proof-reading
  • Allow adequate time for a reply. Do not expect an immediate response!

Additional Resource

Online Graphic Dictionary

Australian Cultural Dictionary

Recommended Apps

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