VocabSushi Help

What is VocabSushi?

VocabSushi is a service that helps you learn new vocabulary words through the context of real-world sentences. There are dozens of features in the site that help you achieve your goal of effectively learning new words by reading news and playing games.

Yes, but why sushi?

It's bitesize learning! The VocabSushi philosophy is that you can learn new vocab through short, delicious sentences that use the word in context. Well, that, and we like sushi.

How does it work?

You take a diagnostic test to see at which Vocab Level you'll start, and we set you up with a list of 300 words. All of the features on the site, from streaming audio to sentence completion games, are tied to your unique wordlist. As you use the site and learn words, this list will change over time. We scour hundreds of news websites and pull out thousands of new sentences each day along with the articles they came from. So each day you can find lots of new, interesting stuff to read and games to play.

Need more help?

We invite you to click through and discover the VocabSushi features yourself. But if you run into problems, and the FAQ isn't enough to answer your Qs, please contact us.


Why should I sign up?

Before you even sign up, we offer you a peek inside of one of the neatest features of VocabSushi: its never ending sentence completion and definition matching game. Correct answers advance you to the next Vocab Level with harder words, while incorrect answers will result in easier words. Play as long as you'd like.

But why stop there? There are dozens of things you can do once you sign up:

  • Build and maintain your o'wn customized Vocab List
  • Listen to and download MP3s of words
  • Play sentence completion questions
  • Read interesting articles
  • Chart your progress over time
  • Lookup how any word is used in a sentence
  • And lots more...

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But what about my trusty stack of flash cards?

VocabSushi takes a completely new approach to learning words, and it beats flash cards, hands down. You can play sentence completion games and definition matching games, listen to MP3 audio of words, read the words in sentences to understand usage and manage your own customized wordlist. When you go through flashcards, you usually put them into two piles: words you know and words you don't know. Then you repeat as necessary. VocabSushi handles ALL of that in the background, so the more questions you answer, the more VocabSushi can help point out which words you're struggling with and which ones you seem to know.

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Where are these words coming from? Are they really going to appear on my test?

We have a database of more than 8,000 vocab words that span every standardized test. When you select the test you are studying for, VocabSushi will only draw on the wordlist for that test. Learning vocabulary for a test is tricky. After all, your test will most likely have only a small portion of the words you learned. So while we can't guarantee the words you're learning will be on your test, we are confident that our service will help you improve your vocabulary and reading abilities if used consistently.

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How do I sign up?

Signing up for VocabSushi is quick and easy. We just require your name, e-mail and a password.

During the sign-up process you will be asked which tasks you are studying for. VocabSushi has a specific word list for each standardized test in the US including the independent school entrance Exam, the SAT, and the GRE.

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Are you going to spam me with sushi emails?

We do not spam (after all, we are all about delicious bitesize sushi!) When you sign up, you can check off whether or not you want to receive emails. VocabSushi will occasionally e-mail its users news and other promotional information about the site. This may include helpful information and tips on how to use the site as well as a heads up on any exciting new features that are coming down the pipeline. We won't sell or distribute your email either. You can set your preferences in the "My Account" section when you log in.

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What is a "diagnostic test"? Sounds boring.

The diagnostic test is actually pretty engaging and even addictive. When you click "sign up", you will be directed to a 20-question quiz, similar to the sentence completion game on the front page. It is created using words from the word list from the standardized test you are studying for, and it uses a similar adaptive learning model from the front page - correct answers will advance you to the next Vocab Level, incorrect answers will have no effect on your level.

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I think I failed the diagnostic. Can I retake it?

There is no such thing as failing or "doing poorly" on VocabSushi. The goal here is to learn words you don't know. It's ok if you are on a low level, as long as the words are challenging to you. When you complete the test, your Vocab Level is set and 300 words at that level are added automatically to your Vocab List. If you think you should have scored better, you can retake the diagnostic immediately. You should take a look at your Vocab List and see the words that have been added. If it looks like a list of challenging words then you're off to a great start and can begin using all the features of VocabSushi. However if you look at your list and feel that the words are too easy or not challenging enough, you can always adjust your level at any time by clicking the progress page and select "recalibrate level."

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General Features

What is the "Words" page?

The words page makes up the heart of your VocabSushi experience. It lists out all the words that you are currently learning as well as any words that you have learned. Remember, when you first sign up and you take the diagnostic, VocabSushi automatically adds 300 words from that level into your word list. This list will change over time as you learn words.

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How do I view a definition?

Every vocab word in VocabSushi will either have a definition next to it or will require you to mouse over the word. The definitions always have the word's part of speech as well.

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How do I "learn" a word?

If you think you know a word, you can click the "learn" icon – . That will pop up a quick quiz to see if you actually know the meaning of the word. You can answer correctly or override it and click "skip this". That word will be removed from your "learning" list and placed in your "learned" list. Finally, VocabSushi will automatically replace that word with a new word at your Vocab Level.

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What do the soy sauce bottles mean? What is "progress"?

One of the most powerful features of VocabSushi is its ability to automatically monitor how well you are learning all of your vocab words in your word list. As you use certain features of the site, such as reading example sentences for words and playing the games, VocabSushi learns more and more about which words are giving you the most trouble and which words you seem to be doing really well on.

For example, if you get all the sentence completions right when the answer is "accolade" then it probably means that you are pretty comfortable with the meaning of this word. Therefore the progress meter, the little soy sauce bottle that you'll see throughout the site, gets filled up and means that you're doing really well with this word. If on the other hand every time the word "interminable" comes up and you often get it wrong, then the soy sauce bottle will go down and turn red, signifying that you need to focus a lot more on this word.

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So I just have to use the site and it'll tell me how well I'm doing?

Yes. The more frequently you use the site – whether by answering lots of sentence completion questions, reading through sentences or checking out articles – the more VocabSushi figures out which words you need help on and which words you've nearly learned. Try doing that with flash cards!

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What other features are on the Words page?

There are sample sentences for each word. A little gold star to the left of the word means that this word was added recently. You can click on any of the headers "new", "word" or "progress" to sort the list in ascending or descending order by that field. Clicking on any vocab word will bring you to that word's profile page.

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How do I listen to a word?

Almost every word on has an MP3 that can be played within the site. Nearby every word there is a little green circle with a play button inside it. Clicking this will pop up a small window with an audio stream of the MP3 for that word. What you'll hear is a female voice telling you the word and its definition, and then a male voice saying several example sentences that used the word. This is a really great feature for learning pronunciation as well as for anyone who learns better by listening.

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How do I look up a specific word?

Every word in the VocabSushi database has its own profile page. You can get to it by either clicking on any vocab word, or by looking up a word using the search box on the top right of the page. The word profile page tells you the word, its definition, your progress for the word (if it's on your word list), its difficulty level, and a variety of sentences in which it's used in the news.

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A sentence doesn't make sense. How do I report it?

VocabSushi scours hundreds of news websites and indexes thousands of articles every day, pulling thousands of fresh sentences daily. While we filter content as best as possible, pulling only the best sentences from the most notable news sources, sometimes a "bad" sentence can get through the system.

A sentence may:

  • Not make any sense
  • Contain unacceptable language
  • Isn't using the word correctly (as the word is defined on the site)

If you discover a sentence like this, we urge you to report the sentence by clicking the link that says "sentence problem?" and reporting what type of problem it has. We will review it immediately and determine whether or not to delete it from our database. Your help is much appreciated in maintaining quality content on VocabSushi and we are constantly working on improving our automated indexing system.

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What is the "Article Reader"?

The "Article Reader" will display the original news article but highlight all the vocab words inside it. Clicking on any of these highlighted words will display the definition and some other key info. This makes it much easier to read through an article with lots of difficult vocab in it.

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How do I read an article?

VocabSushi is all about connecting vocabulary to current events and news sites. Thousands of articles are indexed every day so everything you read and see on the site is recent. Every sentence that is displayed on the site contains a source that tells you the headline of the article that the sentence was taken from as well as the news source and the date it was published. Clicking "Read Article" from a headline will open up the article reader.

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Learning Tools

How do I read through sentences that use my vocab words?

VocabSushi believes that learning words through the context of sentences is more effective than just memorizing definitions. Under the "Reviewing Sentences" tab in the Learn page, you can click through as many example sentences as you'd like. All of these sentences use words that are only on your personalized Vocab List. For each sentence, you'll get the source (the headline, news source and date), and other key info. As you read sentences for the words in your list, VocabSushi will be monitoring which words you are reading.

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How do I discover news articles that use words from my Vocab List?

The "Reading Articles" section lets you view several dozen recent articles that contain some of the words in your Vocab List. This feature is great for discovering articles that are both interesting to you (just read the headline and see if it perks your interest) and contain vocab words that you are in the process of learning. The little red icon to the right of the headline tells you the number of your vocab words that are in that article. The green icon tells you how many total VocabSushi words are in that article.

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How do I view sentences from a particular article?

In the "Reading Articles" section you can view articles that contain several of your vocab words. Click the headline to expand and display all of your vocab words in that article as well as the sentences they appeared in.

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How do I add a new word to my current Vocab List?

Anytime you come across a word that is not on your list, you'll see a little plus icon next to it. Click that icon and that word will be added to your list.

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Reading Lists

What is a "Reading List?"

Reading lists are a great way to compile a list of interesting articles that you can read from within the article reader without having to go back and forth to each article.

"My List" is your personal list of articles. Anytime you click "add" next to a headline, this is the list that article is added to. You can click "read it" to read any article from this list, or you can click "remove" to delete the article from the list. Clicking "read all articles" will bring you to our article reader window where the articles are added to a queue and you can read them one at a time without leaving the page. You can also empty the list.

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How do I generate a reading list automatically?

If you want to discover some new articles, just click the "Create a new list" button, and that will generate a list of five articles that have your vocab words in them. It's a great way to find interesting news that you might not have come across otherwise, anything from a Washington Post article about the White House to a Sports Illustrated article about A-Rod.

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Offline Tools

What other tools does VocabSushi provide?

There are a few other ways to learn words when you are not at your computer. You can print quizzes, download mp3s, and subscribe to a podcast to automatically download new word mp3s into your podcast client.

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How do I print a PDF quiz?

You can generate a sentence completion quiz or a list of example sentences by selecting a few options. First, choose whether you want a practice quiz or a list of example sentences. The practice quiz can have sentence completion questions (similar to what you'll find on a standardized test) only, or sentence completions and definition matching. Next, select how many questions you want in your printout, 10, 20 or 40. Finally, use the filter to select which word group you want the questions to come from. Then click "Get PDF" and save or open your file.

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How do I download MP3s of my words?

You can download a zip file with MP3s of your words and load the MP3s on your iPod or any MP3 player. In the "Other Tools" section, click "Download MP3s". Just use the filter to select which group of words you'd like to view.

Select up to 10 words to download at a time, then click "Download" and save the zipfile. You'll need to extract the contents of the file using a zip program. Then copy those MP3s to your mp3 player or into iTunes or queue them up on your media player.

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How do I subscribe to a Podcast of my wordlist?

With a personalized podcast, every new vocab word in your list is downloaded automatically. You will need a program like iTunes (or any podcast client software). Just click the "Subscribe" button or cut and paste the address into your podcast client and you'll be able to download your entire list quickly and easily. It will sync up anytime you add new words to your list. Plus you'll get all the benefits of syncing the VocabSushi podcast with your iPod or any MP3 player that accepts podcasts.

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What kind of games can I play?

There are two types of games at the moment. Sentence completions and Definition matching.

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How does the sentence completion game work?

In this game, you'll need to choose the correct word to fill in the blank in the sentence. These sentences are from articles we found in the daily news. And since we have thousands upon thousands of sentences in our database, you'll be able to continue practicing this game as long as you like.

These questions are very similar to the type you'd find in standardized tests, complete with 5 answer choices. The difference is that the only words that appear in the answers are words from your current wordlist.

There is no limit to the number of questions you can answer, and every day VocabSushi adds thousands of brand new sentences so you'll never see the same sentence twice.

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How does the definition matching game work?

In this game, you'll need to match the definition and the word. Sometimes we'll show you a word and you'll need to pick the right definition for it, and sometimes it'll be the other way around. You'll only be working on words that are in your Vocab List.

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Why should I play the games?

Games are a great way to learn new words and test your knowledge. As you answer questions, your individual word scores will increase with correct answers, or fall with wrong ones. Over time, we'll be able to tell you which words you should practice, and which ones you really seem to know.

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Your score on this game will reflect how well you've done today. If you leave the game and come back, the score will include everything you've done already that day. Tomorrow, your daily score will start over. We encourage you to answer many of these sentence completion questions since your answers help VocabSushi determine which words you are struggling with and which words you seem to know well.

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Can I answer sentence completion questions using words I already learned?

Sure. Even though you learned a word, you always want to review and check if you still know the word. You can play the sentence completion or definition matching games with words you are currently learning from your wordlist, or in review mode, with words you've already learned.

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How do I chart my progress?

You can track your learning over time with the Progress page. As you use VocabSushi, we'll keep track of how many words you're learning and how many you've learned, and show you ways you can shape your learning to be more effective.

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How do I find out which Vocab Levels my words came from?

In the Progress page, we show you how many words you are learning and how many you've learned at each level of VocabSushi. Light green shows the words you're currently learning, and dark green shows those you've learned. You'll only see bars for those levels you've actually had words from.

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I'm only at level 20, but there are 50 levels. Should I be worried?

Not at all. Remember, the goal of the site is not to get to level 50, but to learn a lot of words. There are hundreds of words at each level so if you can go up a few levels you can consider that a success. The purpose of the levels is to get you to an appropriate place so the words are challenging.

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I know all the words in my word list. I think my level is a bit too easy or difficult. How do I change my current level?

If you think your level is a bit too easy or too challenging, you can re-calibrate your level and take the diagnostic test again to hone in on a more appropriate level. Keep in mind, however, if you re-calibrate your level, you will delete your current "Words I'm Learning" wordlist (but you'll still have all your learned words in the "Words I've Learned" list).

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