“Play this free game to build your vocabulary with 1200 words from Magoosh :) “ (Yes, the smiley face emojii is part of the description on the Play Store.)
Magoosh is a test preparation company started by Hansoo Lee, Bhavin Parikh, and Pejman Pour-Moezzi, three students from UC Berkley, in 2009. The company was created as a “new test prep idea” for the GMAT and GRE, and grew to include most of the other major high school exams, as well as some higher education certification tests. In 2014 they released the Vocabulary Builder app as a free way for students taking the GRE, SAT, and ACT to prepare for some of the vocabulary based questions on those tests. They are an award winning company, but it should be noted all the awards listed on their wikipedia page are based on their business success, not educational achievement. It should be noted that they have done some very helpful things for struggling students, such as providing 90% off software to Tennessee in light of a statewide retake (Knocking the price down from $79-$99 to $8-$10).
I went into this app expecting a vocabulary builder, not an app for test preparation. Although it can do the first, it was definitely intended as the latter.
For those that don’t know, I’ll grade this app on 3 distinct areas:
-Design (Good to look at, easy to use)
-Fun (Does it feel like a chore to do, or like a game)
-Worth (Does it help you do the thing it says it will help you do)
Obviously not everything worth doing is fun, not everything fun is easy to do, and not everything pretty is substantive.
There’s always something to be said about simplicity. This app knows its purpose, and is designed exclusively around it. Choose your test. Choose your difficulty level. Choose a quiz. Take the quiz. Each word on the quiz is a multiple choice question with 5 choices and a notification if you’ve seen the word before or not. Gray means you haven’t seen it before, green means you got it right last time, red means you missed it last time, yellow means you got it right, but it will be brought up again for further testing. The questions themselves are all synonym based. Click the word that means the same thing as the word in question. Right or wrong it will provide you with an example sentence and a progress bar.
The worst part of the design is in how these words are sorted. The first quiz is 10 questions. The second 20. The third 30. And so on until you are doing a quiz of 70 words. Like I mentioned in my Geography App review, more questions isn’t an element of good design, especially when it would have been easy to split them up into more, easily manageable, tests.
Simple, clean, but with a devil in the details: A-
Multiple choice quizzes are not fun, especially when they are presented as a multiple choice quiz. There are ways to make a multiple choice quiz interesting, such as providing a story in which you must place the correct words from a word bank into where they would make the most sense, but this App chooses to go the standard route. All context is removed except for four words and an “I don’t know” button, with the only saving grace being that it forces you to get every question right before progression, meaning you must learn it to advance. My problems with “testing as education” are compounded further with the growth of the quizzes, as what wasn’t fun at 10 questions is unbearable at 70. It does help that the questions themselves are one word to one word association, which does make answering the questions a quick and painless experience.
In addition to this, the only gamification used are the progress bars that indicate how close you are to finishing the lessons. It is satisfying to complete them, but there is no reward, or reason to go on, except for your own interest in the subject matter.
It’s easy, and quick, but you’re still glad when it’s over: C-
Without context the words mean so very little to me. You will read the word, you’ll read the sentence, but you won’t use it in a sentence. It also suffers from the growth of language, and how words have taken on slightly different meanings. For example, Facetious has the choices “Bitterly sarcastic” and “Humorous”. The correct answer is “Humorous”, but the dictionary definition of facetious is “treating serious issues with deliberately inappropriate humor”, and in many cases sarcastic would fit that definition. In language context matters, and this app doesn’t provide you with context. Even putting the word in a sentence, and then asking for it to be replaced by a synonym, would be better at enforcing the words meaning.
But, that’s because this app is meant as a test preparer. This app is teaching you words to be used on a test, by the tests definition, for the tests questions. And that’s ok, but it doesn’t make you learn the use of a word. Learning how to use a word is as important as learning the meaning of a word, and it’s the only way to truly understand it. This app is a great place to become introduce to words you might not run into anyplace else, but reading a book with the word would give you a much better understanding.
Will help you with a test, but probably not your diction: C+
It’s a free app to help you take your SAT. If you are looking to really improve your vocab, download audible and read a new book in the time you’d spend on this app. It’s promise was to improve your vocabulary, but its intent is clearly to help you with your tests. If you’re taking the SAT, it’s a great resource, if you’re not, skip it: C+