Lamentably, flashcards are now passé.
Call me old-school, but in my day I spent a lot of time writing vocabulary words on one side of an index card and their definitions on the other side. I would tote around stacks of cards to class, the library and home.
Nowadays, it is all about using your smartphone to study. And why not? Smartphones are portable, easy to use, and fun. A good smartphone app for learning SAT vocabulary can mean no more lugging around flashcards all over the place.
The good news is that there are many very useful SAT Vocabulary apps, some of which are free. The bad news is that few of them mirror the context vs. content approach crucial to the SAT.
First the good news: with so many useful apps available for both iPhones and Androids, students have many portable vocabulary-building options. While I have explored several, including SAT Vocabulary by Du Nguyen and Virtual SAT Tutor by Ivy Standard, my favorite is SAT Vocabulary by Magoosh.
Magoosh offers several test prep applications that all share the same clean layout and easy-to-use interface. The SAT Vocabulary app offers different levels of study: Basic, Intermediate and Advanced. Each level cycles through a series of words that you define by multiple choice. If you get a word wrong, or don’t know it, the words will cycle back several times until you master the definition through repetition. Most importantly, you can track your progress.
Despite the multitude of smartphone apps, there is bad news: none of the apps I researched provide vocabulary questions in context like those found on the SAT. The Sentence Completion questions on the SAT don’t simply task students with defining a word or uncovering the definition via multiple choice. Instead, they are presented with a sentence that has a blank or two blanks. Based on the information in the sentence, students must figure out the missing vocabulary words(s).
Since none of the apps I found offer this style of questioning, something is definitely missing. Even Magoosh, which ultimately provides the vocabulary words in a sentence, does not display this contextual information until after you answer the question.
All in all, there is good news for SAT preparation on the go: many apps will help build vocabulary. The bad news is that few capture the context-based questions that students need to practice for the test.