The 100 most useful acronyms for EFL learners

Summary: The most important acronyms for English language learners to learn

This list includes acronyms for sources of language learning practice, acronyms for electronic communication such as emails, acronyms for talking about language learning and other education, and some very common business and current affairs acronyms that also often come up in everyday life. This site also has a list of the most useful abbreviations for EFL learners which are not acronyms such as “inc.”. 

ABC/ RN – Australian Broadcasting Corporation/ Radio National (a good source of podcasts)

AFAIK – as far as I know (especially useful as a full phrase)

AI – artificial intelligence

ALT – assistant language teacher

a.m./ AM – from Latin “ante meridiem” meaning “before midday” (= “in the morning)

AOB – any other business (= anything else that we need to discuss)

APA – American Psychological Association (a common style guide for academic writing)

asap/ ASAP – as soon as possible

ATB – All the best (closing greeting of an email)

AWL – the Academic Word List (a list of useful academic vocabulary)

B&B – bed and breakfast (a kind of cheap hotel, usually in or similar to a home)

BA/ BEd/ BSc – Bachelor of Arts/ Bachelor of Education/ Bachelor of Science (= a bachelor’s degree/ a first degree/ an undergraduate degree/ a four-year degree)

BBC – British Broadcasting Corporation (with “corporation” having its British meaning of a publically owned company, a useful source of English language learning materials and practice)

BR – Best regards (closing greeting of an email, with the abbreviation making it more casual)

BST – British summer time

btw/ BTW – by the way

BW – Best wishes (informal closing greeting of an email)

CAE – Cambridge Advanced English (a high-level EFL exam)

(B)CC – (blind) carbon copy (also a verb, meaning copy someone in)

(Cambridge) CELTA – Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (a basic teaching qualification that some schools advertise their teachers as possessing)

c/o – care of

CPE – Cambridge Proficiency (in English) (a very high level EFL exam)

CUP – Cambridge University Press (publisher of many EFL materials)

CV – curriculum vitae (= résumé)

(Cambridge) Delta – formerly DELTA and derived from Diploma in English Language Teaching to Adults (a higher teaching qualification from Cambridge University, now no longer exclusive to teaching adults)

DoB – date of birth

EAP – English for academic purposes (such as academic writing courses)

EFL – English as a foreign language

e.g. (from Latin, meaning “for example”, “for instance”, “to give an example”, “an example of that is…”)

ELF/ EIL – English as a lingua franca/ English as an international language (meaning English used between non-native English speakers)

ESL – English as a second language

ESOL – English for speakers of other languages (in the UK mainly meaning English for immigrants)

ESP – extra-sensory perception/ English for Specific Purposes/ English for Special Purposes

ETA – estimated time of arrival (also used for information, etc)

FAO – for the attention of

FAQ – frequently asked questions (for example about an EFL exam or about studying abroad)

FCE/ First Cert/ First Certificate – Cambridge First Certificate in English (a pre-Advanced level general English EFL exam)

FT – Financial Times (a source of business news)

FY – financial year (2018) (as in FY2018)

FYI – (just) for your information

GB – Great Britain (the UK minus Northern Ireland, so England, Scotland and Wales)

(I)GCSE – (International) General Certificate in Secondary Education (the standard national exams at 16 years old in the UK and some international schools)

GMT – Greenwich Mean Time

GP – general practitioner (= family doctor/ local doctor)/ (Formula 1) grand prix

GST/ VAT – general sales tax/ value added tax (a kind of consumption tax)

HQ – headquarters (= head office) (not “headquarter” X)

HR (department) – human resources (department) (= personnel department) (not “human resource” X)

IB – International Baccalaureate (a school leaving qualification that is popular in international schools)

ID (card/ number) – identification (card)

i.e. – (from Latin = “in other words”/ “that is to say”/ “to explain that another way”, also spoken)

IELTS – International English Language Testing System (a test for EFL students, mainly for university entrance)

IM(H)O – in my (honest/ humble) opinion

IPA – international phonetic alphabet (a kind of special script for giving the pronunciation of words)

(Cambridge) KET – Key English Test (a low-level EFL exam)

LA – Los Angeles

LGBT(Q) – lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual (and queer)

LOL – laugh out loud (used to mean that you found something amusing or are just joking, now also a spoken word pronounced “loll”)

MA/ MSc/ MBA/ MEd/ MPhil – Master’s/ Master of Arts/ Master of Science/ Master of Business Administration/ Master of Education/ Master of Philosophy

MP – member of parliament/ military police (officer)

N/A – not applicable/ not available

NB – From Latin “nota bene” meaning “note well” (= “Please note that…”)

NNES(T) – non-native English speaker/ non-native English speaking (teacher)

NYT – New York Times

omg – oh my goodness/ oh my god (the “goodness” version being more polite)

OUP – Oxford University Press (publisher of many EFL materials)

PA – per annum (= per year)/ public address (system)/ personal assistant

PC – police constable/ politically correct (language/ expression)/ personal computer

PE – physical education (= sports in school)

(Cambridge) PET – Preliminary English Test (lower than FCE and higher than KET)

PG – parental guidance (a movie which young children can’t see without their parents)

PGCE – post-graduate certificate in education (the standard UK teaching qualification, especially for teaching kids)

PhD – from the Latin meaning “doctor of philosophy” (= doctorate, of any kind)

PLC – public limited company

PM – prime minister

pm/ p.m./ PM – from Latin “post meridiem” meaning “after midday” (= “in the afternoon”/ “in the evening”/ “at night”)

PP – past participle (as in “Present Perfect = has/ have + PP”)

(P)PS – from the Latin “(post) post scriptum” meaning “after writing”) (= by the way/ just one more thing/ just one more thing before I go)

PTO – please turn over (the page for more information/ for comments)

Q&A (session) – question and answer (session, usually meaning the final part of a presentation)

RP – received pronunciation (an upper class British accent, sometimes called the Queen’s English/ BBC English/ Oxford English)

RSVP – from French “retournez s’il vous plait”, meaning “please reply” (= please let me know if you can come or not)

sb/ so/ st – somebody/ someone/ something (used in grammar explanations like “let s/o do s/t” for “let someone do something”)

SV(O/C) – subject + verb (+ object/ complement)

T/F – true or false (a common comprehension question type)

TA – teaching assistant

TBA/ TBC/ TBD – to be arranged/ to be announced/ to be confirmed/ to be decided

TBH – to be honest

TOEFL – Test of English as a Foreign Language

TOEIC – Test of English for International Communication

TP – teaching practice (sometimes an opportunity for free lessons for students)

TV – television

UK – (The) United Kingdom (of Great Britain and Northern Ireland)

(the) US/ USA/ The US of A – The United States of America

VoA – Voice of America (home of Simple English News)

VR – virtual reality (literally meaning very nearly reality)

WC – water closet (= toilet/ restroom)

WWI – World War One/ The First World War

WWII – World War Two/ The Second World War

Y/N/(NG) – Yes/ No/ (Not given, a question type in IELTS Reading)

YA (fiction/ films) – young adult (fiction/ films)


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Written by Alex Case for Ltd.

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