The 13 Best Academic English Courses Online

Academic English is a bit different from everyday English. It’s more formal and often uses more advanced vocabulary.

You need to know academic English to write college essays, create a lab report or literature analysis, read and understand college texts and get by in many other areas of college life.

Luckily, you don’t have to go anywhere to improve your college English.

You can just take an online academic English course. Here are my 10 favorite options!


1. A Beginner’s Guide to Writing in English for University Study at the University of Reading 

university of reading

Restrictions: Minimum level of IELTS 4.5 (recommended)

Price: Free

This short course is a great way to become familiar with academic English writing. You’ll learn everything from choosing the right topic for your essay to how to edit and assess your own text.

I like the course because it also teaches specific parts of writing an essay in English, such as the key to writing longer sentences, how to use linking words and subordinators (that, although, because, etc.) and other elements which make your academic writing look more polished. 

 The course requires a weekly commitment of about three hours of study on top of the course content, but you can study at your own pace.

2. IELTS Academic Test Preparation at the University of Queensland, Australia 

university of queensland australia

Restrictions: None

Price: Free

This course is specially designed to help prepare students for the IELTS academic exam. The IELTS is an English exam taken by non-native English speakers who want to study and sometimes immigrate to an English-speaking country. Common countries that require IELTS qualifications for migration include New Zealand, Australia and Canada. 

In fact, many foreign universities also require international students to have a particular level in an IELTS exam before enrolling in a course. Because of this, the IELTS Academic test preparation course is very thorough and goes over every topic you’ll need to know.

In this course, you can expect to improve your English skills (reading, writing, speaking and listening) in a way that’ll help you do well on the exam. Plus, because the focus of the course is on exam preparation.

This course will take about eight weeks and is entirely self-paced, so you can take your time or speed things up if you’re feeling confident. 

3. English for Academic Study at Coventry University

coventry university

Restrictions: None

Price: Free

If you’re a beginner-level learner and you want to develop the very basics of academic English, this is the course for you! The course prepares you for working or studying in an academic English setting by focusing on building, pronouncing and understanding key vocabulary.

The course will even teach you how to use the pronunciation guides in a dictionary effectively, which is something even native speakers struggle with!

What I especially like about the course is the fact that it also explores aspects of academic culture in the United Kingdom. This means you’ll learn what to expect in a UK academic space, and British English pronunciation and vocabulary.

Best of all, unlike most academic courses, this one is beginner-friendly. It may also be a useful academic English course to take if you’re overseas and want to learn a bit more about what study in an English-speaking country is like. In that case, it would supplement a regular English learner course quite well.

Please note that the course is only four weeks long, which makes it great for a quick introduction!

4. Academic English Online at MacMillan English

macmillan english

Restrictions: None

Price: £5-£17 BGP (about $6-$31 USD) per course

You might recognize the name MacMillan for their textbooks, and their online course stays true to the textbook format. This “course” is actually a collection of textbook-style material that you can access from any mobile device. The textbooks are designed to be used by teachers and students, but they can also be used for independent study.

This course isn’t as easy to get as the others on this list, since you need to contact a person to buy it. Because this is a well-known and much-respected company, though, it’s worth your time to do so.

5. Academic English: Writing at Coursera


Restrictions: None

Price: A monthly subscription to Coursera is required to access this course, but you can apply for financial aid

Coursera has gathered five courses that, together, will teach you how to write a fantastic research paper for a college course. Do the full five-course program, or select any individual courses you’re interested in.

6. English for Academic Purposes Online at The Open University

open university

Restrictions: The course takes place once a year every year in October

Price: £1584 GBP (About $2,013 USD). The high price reflects the fact that participants can get credits to use towards their own university completion. (Check with your university to make sure they accept the credits before beginning.)

This course is a combination of independent study and tutor-led study. Each student will have a tutor to help them through the course. Expect lots of reading and writing, and some speaking and listening. The course covers different aspects of an academic English environment, from writing papers to communicating with others in the university.

7. How to Write an Essay at UC Berkeley

university of california berkeley

Restrictions: None.

Price: Free, with the option to get a certificate of completion for a fee

Learn what it’s like to study at a US university by taking this online course, brought to you by the University of Berkeley in California.

This course teaches how to compose a great essay for an academic purpose and how to edit it through many interactive assignments (on topics that you care about!). You’ll learn all the terms and parts of academic essay writing, how to write good sentences and paragraphs, how to edit your own work and more. There’s also a digital workbook you can use for your assignments.

8. Academic English Online at the Queen Mary University of London

queen mary university of london

Restrictions: None

Price: Free

This isn’t so much a “course” as it is a free online resource to help you grasp the basics of academic writing. The topics are categorized under grammar, writing, speaking and reading in an academic context.

You can take the given exercises right away to figure out what you already know about the topic and what you need to work on. You can also scroll down the page, click “Show Review” and click on the given link in the sentence that starts with “The following website contains further explanation and practice…” for a quick refresher on the topic.

9. English for Admission and Achievement at Arizona State University

arizona state university

Restrictions: At least 95% on your placement exam

Price: $475

As you can see from the minimum requirements and the price, this isn’t a program you can just get into by hitting the “Enroll” button.

But if you’re willing to give it a try, you’ll be rewarded with a rigorous (intense) 8-week course where you’ll learn how to write academic papers, listen to academic lectures, test your comprehension of academic text and more. 

10. IELTS Preparation at the British Council

british council

Restrictions: None

Price: Starts at approximately $175

Are you looking for a private, expert tutor to help you pass the IELTS?

Through the British Council’s IELTS Coach program, you can tailor your IELTS course to suit your needs. You can go through the website for a taste of what they have to offer, and if you like what you see, you can choose between their Express, LITE and Intensive packages.

11. Academic English at the Universiteit van Amsterdam

university of amsterdam

Restrictions: Must be at least B2 (upper intermediate) level

Price: €45 (roughly $50)

This academic English course (which you can take both online and on-campus) covers writing, speaking and vocabulary.

You will be assigned essays that are at least 1,000 words long, expand your academic English vocabulary, improve your pronunciation and more. You will also review or learn the differences between formal and informal English so you can adjust the tone of your academic writing accordingly.

12. Academic English Course at Utrecht University

utrecht university

Restrictions: Must be at least intermediate (B1/B2) level

Price: €280 (roughly $308)

Like many of the other courses on the list, this one focuses on academic writing. You will learn how to read and comprehend academic texts, make presentations based on your research findings and be able to differentiate between formal and informal writing.

They recommend that you spend at least two to three hours a week for the course, which runs for eight sessions of nearly two hours each. 

13. Academic Writing at the University of Edinburgh university of edinburgh

Restrictions: None

Price: Free

In this course, you’ll find material about writing a first-year report (an analysis of your first year at university), or an advanced research paper. The course is intended for students with an advanced level of English, so it’s a good resource if you’re applying for a higher education position where you’ll need to write a thesis in English.

What Is an Academic English Course?

In a regular English course, you’ll probably learn grammar, helpful vocabulary, writing and reading, how to speak and pronounce things correctly and other important parts of the English language. In one lesson, you might do spelling drills, practice grammar points or speak with your classmates. 

These skills are all taught so that you can use English in your life and communicate with others in the language.

An academic English course is different.

While you might still learn these essential skills in an academic English course, courses will focus more on the world of academics—universities, colleges and other institutions of higher learning. Because of this, academic English courses are usually more formal and advanced.

For example, you might learn how to write a journal entry or a short story in a regular English class, but an academic course might ask you to write a research paper or an essay.

The most common reason to study academic English is to prepare for study at an English-speaking university or college. Another reason is to improve existing academic English skills for a career in education, science or any other industry that requires knowledge of formal, structured writing and language. 

As you’ve seen above, some additional examples of skills you may learn in an academic English course are:

  • writing formal papers such as case studies and reports
  • reading a text to form an opinion (not just to understand it)
  • learning vocabulary specific to your area of study
  • debating an idea (not just asking and answering questions)
  • listening and note taking to summarize ideas (an activity known as a “dictogloss”)

Should You Take an Academic English Course?

College English involves reading, speaking and—most of all—writing. Online English courses may seem like a great and easy way to learn, and a lot of times they are. But you’ll need to make sure this method of learning is right for you before you begin.

Take an online English course if:

  • You’re an intermediate to advanced English learner. Most courses assume you know basic English grammar, sentence structure and vocabulary.
  • You have the time for it. Online courses require you to dedicate your own free time to studying. Do you have the time for extra lessons in your schedule?
  • You’re planning to go to college soon (or are already in college). Academic English isn’t something you’ll need to know for writing a Facebook post, for example. It’s rarely used outside an academic environment like colleges, institutes, some jobs and a few other places. If you’re not planning to go to any of those places, you might want to study a different kind of English.
  • You learn well on your own. Some online courses have instructors, but students don’t usually receive one-on-one help. Some other courses let you take the course at your own pace, completely on your own. If you have a tutor, or if you study well on your own, an online course is a good idea.

Before You Begin: Tips on Learning Academic English

Whether you take a course on your own, or study along with the instructors and other students, here are some tips that’ll help you make the most of your online course:

  • Create a schedule. Some courses require two hours a week; others require much more. See how much time you’ll need for your course, and create a schedule around your daily life to make sure you actually have time to complete the course.
  • Decide on a pace. Will you follow along with the course schedule, or work on your own?
  • Choose a course based on your style of learning. If you learn best from watching videos, choose a course that uses videos to teach. If you learn best through writing, reading or anything else, find a course that fits your needs.
  • Choose a course based on your English skill level. Not all courses are for the same level of English. You won’t get as much out of a course if you’re struggling to understand the materials. Find a course that challenges you, but doesn’t frustrate you.
  • Choose a focus. Do you want to learn more about how to read, write or speak in an academic English environment? Keep in mind that some courses only cover writing.

Once you understand what you want from an online academic English course, and you know how you plan to study, you’re ready to begin looking for the right course for you.

Enter your e-mail address to get your free PDF!

We hate SPAM and promise to keep your email address safe