A Cambridge English vocabulary says

The list covers vocabulary appropriate to the B1 level on the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) and includes receptive vocabulary (words that the candidate is expected to understand but which is not the focus of a question) and productive vocabulary (words that the candidate needs to know to answer a question).

If some candidates know only part of the receptive vocabulary, they may guess what the question is; if they know only part of the productive vocabulary, they may have enough vocabulary to constitute the answer.

So, consider only the examinations, does "productive vocabulary" have a higher priority than "receptive vocabulary"?


Well suppose "pinnacle" is part of the receptive vocabulary, and "mountain" is part of the productive vocabulary. This means that you would be expected to understand a question like

When did the climbers reach the pinnacle of the mountain?"

If "pinnacle" is not in your receptive vocabulary then you would not understand the question. You might guess, and you might be right.

However you would not be expected to answer a question using "pinnacle", though no marks would be lost if you use it correctly.

You would also be expected to be able to answer a question like:

What did he do during his vacation?
He climbed a mountain.

If you don't know the word "mountain" you can't answer in this way. If you can think on your feet you might be able to say "He climbed a big hill". So it is possible that you could still answer this question, but not using the precise term can cause you to be marked down.

If a word is in your "productive vocabulary" then it must also be in your "receptive vocabulary". You are expected to be know all the words in the productive list well enough to use them yourself, even though you won't be tested on all the words, you don't know which ones you won't need.

You should know all the words in the "receptive vocabulary" list too, but don't worry about using them, you only need to understand sentences that use these words.

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy