Awarded ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Educational App Store Review of UPGRADE Vocabulary, Mar 2019

From visiting the developer’s website, it explains that this app is aimed at helping students in their preparation for taking the Graduate Record Examination, or GRE. This is a computer-based program that a large number of graduates take in the US and its aim to help gain a better understanding of their potential in the workplace.

Within the test there is quite a large emphasis on the ability to understand and use English language correctly and so this app helps students in this by aiding them in areas such as reading comprehension and the ability to write successful, detailed essays.

The app is described as focusing on the 440 most frequently encountered words on the GRE and its aim is to help those graduates wishing to undertake the test a multisensory approach to this. The app is clearly aimed at this purpose and these reasons however that does not mean that the content and the approach cannot be used to help other users from improving their own abilities in regards to the English Language regardless of whether they are taking the test or not.

Behind the production of this app there is clearly a large amount of knowledge and research that has gone into creating it. The production team that has created the app and forms the development team are award winning educators who among them have a vast understanding of education and the areas in which they specialize. This is all means that the app has been created on this knowledge expertise and this can be seen through the content within the app.

The main aim of the app is to help graduates learn and successfully understand the 440 most common words in the GRE. The GRE is the Graduate Record Examination which many graduates in the United States undertake. As there are so many graduates that undertake such a test, it is clear the developers have been able to tap into this market by creating an app that is simple to use and clear in its aims in helping graduates to achieve in the GRE.

However, it is also worth mentioning that even though the app’s aim is for graduates undertaking the GRE this does not make it the apps only use. The GRE has a big focus on English Language and the 440 most common words are words that will most definitely need to be used in any English-speaking country. Therefore, there would be plenty of students who would be able to access this app, who are not taking the GRE, or live in the US that would benefit from the practice and guidance that it will be able to give them. Other users, who are learning English as a second language could also benefit from such an app too meaning that even though it does have a distinct aim these aims the broad aim of helping people to improve on their understanding and ability in the English language is one that features in a number of education systems around the world.

The app claims to use a multi-sensory approach and this is achieved via a musical theme that runs throughout. Users are encouraged to work their way through lots of different stages of learning, compounding their understanding and abilities as they do. Using a set of piano keys, the user presses a key which produces the correct sound and then sees a word and the definition for that word. If the user clicks on the underlined word, a pronunciation is given, again further compounding their ability to use this word. Throughout the app the developers have looked at ways in which they can use their understanding of learning to produce an app that will help the users learn to the best of their ability. By using different approaches and by continuing to repeat information in different ways, they certainly achieve this.

The user works their way through the 24 different keys where they access sections that include practice, rehearsing, performances and finally a masterclass the help them develop their understanding and learning. From an educator’s perspective this is a highly successful way of achieving optimum learning. There are a number and range of activities that the user accesses and all of this this goes towards creating the best learning environment in the app for the user.

Once they have worked their way through this section, they then go on to using the major and minor keys in the scale with each key containing 8 different vocabulary words. The user works through synonyms and antonyms through different activities which include context work and comprehension.

I am very impressed with the content within the app and this is clearly where a lot of its strengths lie. The knowledge that the developers have poured into the app on learning styles and how students can learn best is clear and by using such an approach it means that the app can be used beyond its main aims of helping graduates take the GRE. Overall this is a strong app through the content and the approaches that it uses.


Awarded ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Educational App Store, 2018

Smart Vocabulary is designed around preparing students for the language component of the SAT. To this end, it covers 440 words selected by their likelihood of appearing on this test. It is a good selection not only for the purposes of the tests but because they are also useful words to know how to use correctly. They aren’t unused relics of an evolving language but the sort of words that writers can use to add nuance and variety to their text. In short, they are words that people should know.

The app has taken an unusual approach to its presentation as it structures the learning around music. Words are learned in octaves with each key of a piano keyboard bringing up a new word. Phases in the learning also have musical-based names such as rehearsal and performance. The musical metaphor is purely an organisational approach that works well but should not be interpreted as one that requires any musical knowledge.

Each word, when it is selected by tapping upon a piano key, brings up a word and a picture. At the same time, there is an audible cue. These can be musical excerpts taken from modern and old pop music, nursery rhymes, folk songs and novelty songs. The pronunciation of each word can be prompted by tapping upon it. Together, these all work well to convey the meaning of the word and to embed it firmly in the mind of the viewer.

Once each octave is completed, a task that is easy to track as the keys have coloured dots that show whether it has been selected or not, a set of consolidation tasks are begun. These involve answering questions about the words’ meanings and appropriate usage with regard to context. Missing word exercises, selecting a word by its similarity or difference to the group within which it is written, and choosing another word which is most similar within a given context are the sort of tasks there to be completed.

These quizzes work well and follow on perfectly from the earlier word introductions. They reinforce the words’ usage and meaning. Most are answered via the device’s on-screen keyboard and, pleasingly, the app responds to this popping up by repositioning the current question so that it remains visible. This is the sort of quality-of-life feature that can quickly make an app’s usage a chore if it is omitted.

These quizzes aren’t a test as such. They allow retries until the correct answer is reached which unlocks the chance to move on to the next. In this regard, the app expects a motivated student who is actively trying to learn rather than just trying to speed through the exercise. A student relying on guesses won’t learn much but they’re unlikely to progress particularly quickly either so it would be a pointless tactic.

At certain points in the app, a pop quiz does appear to assess and test students. These follow a similar format and provide a useful reality check to students as to their current progress.

Any app with as much text in it as this one does is bound to have the occasional typo, and this one does but they are few and rarely encountered. None found in this review made the answering of questions difficult. These tend to be cleared up as an app is updated over time too.

Smart Vocabulary is well designed to meet its objective of expanding students’ vocabulary. Its knowledge-building exercises are effective and useful. Its subsidiary sections, such as the reverse lexicon, and lexicon guides are useful for quick reference too. It works just as well on large-screen tablets as it does on phone-sized screens so its usage can be fitted around any routine at home or on the move. Smart Vocabulary is a smart app to choose.


RP [Ursuline College] 2018

UPGRADE is an innovative integration of techniques designed to improve testing performance while enjoying the process!


WJK – Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, 2018

The Global Vocabulary LLC application (UPGRADE) has aided in my success, as I am currently enrolled in a DO/PhD Dual Degree Program. When I took the GRE last year, I felt prepared for the Verbal Reasoning section largely in part because of the objective and resemblance of this application with the actual exam.  I consider myself to be well educated. Yet, I feel like many others who prepare for the GRE, there will always be atypical words that I do not regularly use in conversation and for that reason an app like this is advantageous. The idea of using multiple senses (auditory and visual) to instill word associations makes it easier to remember the meaning of words. I see this app being popular with individuals preparing for the GRE. This app makes learning the different words more interactive than just reading from a dictionary.