A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this app.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Vocabulary.com helps teens build their vocabularies by turning learning about words into a game. Although teens must create an account or a login with Facebook to play, they spend most of the game focused less on socializing and more on defining key vocabulary words. The adaptive style of the game helps teens learn words at their level, while still challenging them with new words. As they improve in their understanding, they'll receive more challenging words. Teens may not incorporate all the words into their everyday conversations, but the app strives to provide them with relevant vocabulary. No matter which words they see, they'll also gain an understanding of the parts of speech, the makeup of words, and how to use context clues to determine word meaning.
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What's it about?
VOCABULARY.COM encourages teens to build their vocabulary skills by introducing them to high-level words in a variety of contexts. The adaptive format helps gauge teens' vocab skills and presents words designed to challenge them. They also have the opportunity to study words from subject-specific or literature-specific word lists. However, rather than simply having users study word lists, the app engages players in a game wherein they must guess the meanings of unfamiliar words, insert words into sentences, and identify words to fit given definitions. As they answer questions correctly, the questions increase in difficulty, with the game throwing in a few words for review every so often. When teens have trouble coming up with an answer, they have the opportunity to eliminate half the answers, see a definition, or see the word used in context. All passages contained in hints and contained within the game's questions come from high-quality publications, including Scientific American and The New York Times. The more teens answer questions correctly, the more points they score. They also get the opportunity to track their progress after each round and see how they stack up against the day's top scorers, encouraging them to keep playing and score even higher.
Is it any good?
Although learning new vocabulary words may not appeal to teens, playing a game will. Vocabulary.com turns learning vocabulary into a game for teens by providing them with opportunities to earn points and unlock achievements as they improve their skills. The game lacks some of the animations and sound effects that will reel most teens in, but, if they give it a shot, they may find it to be surprisingly addicting. Instead of answering the same type of question about the same words over and over again, teens will discover different question types and words appearing in a variety of contexts. Specialized word lists also allow teens to practice words they'll find in specific books, historical documents, and academic subjects or on SAT preps. As they play, they'll see which words they master and which need more work, providing some focus for their practice.
Talk to your kids about ...
Pull out a dictionary and find a random word. Read a fake definition along with the real definition and see if other family members can determine which is real.
Choose a new word each day and try to use that word in conversation as much as possible throughout the day.
Make up new words and definitions and incorporate them into conversations.
- Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad
- Subjects: Language & Reading: letter or word recognition, vocabulary
- Skills: Thinking & Reasoning: memorization, thinking critically
Self-Direction: achieving goals, identifying strengths and weaknesses, motivation, work to achieve goals
- Price: $2.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Release date: March 21, 2014
- Category: Education
- Size: 5.10 MB
- Publisher: Vocabulary.com
- Version: 1.0.1
- Minimum software requirements: iOS 6.1 or later
- Last updated: November 11, 2020
Our editors recommend
For kids who love building vocab
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.