Monday, May 26, 2014

Research supporting VocabSlam

Lots of research stands behind VocabSlam's core concepts of peer-to-peer, affective, and contextual learning. Here's a summary of that research, which we recently presented at Columbia University.

Friday, December 20, 2013


The year 2013 was a great one for VocabSlam and the students who use our website to score big on the SAT and GRE. Our banned word list of 2012 proved prescient as even David Brooks at the New York Times agreed that the word "space" was hackneyed.

As we've said before, VocabSlam is all about NOT wasting your time on unnecessary words, which is why we’ve narrowed down the list of most frequently occurring words to the top 300+ SAT words and 400+ GRE words. Don't waste your 2014 brainspace on the following words, people!

This stands for "massive open online course", a fancy term for a college lecture on YouTube that you can watch in you pajamas (and you Might Overindulge On Cheetos). Is it Mediocre Overly-Hyped Online Crap? Well, VocabSlam crew member Nick wrote about the usefulness of MOOCs and we generally wondered why anyone would want their educational product to sound so phonetically similar to the pejorative term "mook".
Ey oh! Ya banned, getouttahere!

Isn't it just a more banal version of daggering?
Boom, succinctly slammed.

Talk about ubiquitous! (OK, these guys will...)

"Hack" got waaay overplayed in 2013, like the Bennifer of today. It used to refer to modification of something, like a computer, to suit one's own (often nefarious) needs. Those who hacked tended to look like this guy:

But by 2013, "hack" transitioned from the esoteric to the popular and you could hack anything. You could hack a date, hack your kids, or hack your breakfast. All you needed was less gluten! (Look out in 2014, gluten).

On the one hand, we note how most words on this year's banned word list are used as verbal crutches. They're replacements for other words and can serve as heuristics or mental shortcuts. This could have the effect of decreasing your overall vocabulary-- not so VocabSlammy. On the other hand, we like the use of mnemonic devices to help you remember words. So, when you see "hackneyed" you will now always think of hack.
Boom, thoughtfully banned.

The word sounds so much like "selfish" that its meaning is pretty self-evident. It's annoying when Bieber does it but hilarious when pets do it.
We're just thankful that the Selfie Revolution didn't overlap too much with 2010's duckface-mageddon.

As Twitter grew into its third incarnation toward becoming Skynet and continued to penetrate our vernacular with neologisms, people in 2013 began adding "hashtag" to the end of real-life situations.  Like, "OMG Tommy, I can't believe that you ate that whole box of Twinkees! HASHTAG YOUFAT." This movement from the virtual-to-the-real-world is analogous to how Words With Friends became a board game.
This is some weird chicken-and-egg sh*t!
Hashtag, Banned!

We think that the 3D craze started with 3D Doritos.
Before that, were Doritos impossibly thin and existed on two axes, like the Kate Moss of junk foods? Today, they're 3-Difying EVERYTHING.  Shampoo. Toothpaste. Deodorant??
In 2013, it was all about 3D printers. They've been heralded as the panacea for everything from jet engine parts to umbilical cord clamps in Haiti (reminds us of dropping iPads in Africa). Maybe just print up more iPads? Or why not just print more 3D printers, like when you ask a genie for infinite wishes?  How much does that ink cost anyway?

Newsflash: everything's 3D. Boom, slammed. See you in the 4th Dimension, 2014!

Friday, August 23, 2013

VocabSlam Twitter Contest!!

VocabSlam, the test-prep company that gives you the most frequently occurring SAT and GRE words and lets YOU have fun using them, has just posted its 250th video of real people using vocab words in their own sentences. To celebrate, we are challenging our users by launching a VocabSlam contest on Twitter! The contest will reward the most creative and popular usage of an SAT or GRE word. The winner will receive a $25 gift card to Barnes & Noble.

The contest will be held from Monday August 26 to Monday September 2.

Here's how it will all go down:

• At 9 a.m. on Monday August 26 we will post a word and video to our Twitter page:
• Participants can then start posting sentence examples using the word with the hashtag #vocabslam
• Whoever gets the most retweets by 5 p.m. on Monday September 2 will win the gift card!

Here are the contest rules:
• To win, the word must have the highest number of retweets and must be used properly in a sentence as judged by the VocabSlam team
• The sentence must not be derogatory or overly profane
• There is no limit to how many examples one user can post

Be sure to like our Twitter page so you can get first dibs at offering a sentence example when we announce it Monday morning!

Good luck! And remember: Studying Doesn’t Have to Suck!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

VocabSlam Tutors

VocabSlam is happy to offer tutoring services in New York City beginning in June, 2013. Our team of highly experienced tutors can help you study for the SAT & GRE (all sections), as well as other exams.  If you are interested, please fill out the New Student Questionnaire and a team member will contact you. Email us at with any questions.

Meet our tutors:

Matthew Camp
Matthew Camp is the founder and CEO of PrepSlam, LLC, the parent company of VocabSlam and VocabSlam Tutors.  Matt is a PhD candidate at Columbia University, studying Politics & Education.  He has taught SAT courses for Kaplan and Test Takers, Inc., and has held employment in higher education and public relations for more than 10 years.

Matt specializes in showing students the underlying patterns of standardized exams, building on their existing knowledge, and helping students manage time and stress. Matt received a MA in Public Policy from Rutgers University and double majored in political science and psychology at the University of Delaware.  He likes the Beach Boys and biking around New York City (with a helmet!).

Joshua Haimowitz
Joshua Haimowitz graduated Columbia University with an M.A. in Physics Education after graduating from Rutgers University with a B.S. in Evolutionary Anthropology and Physics. He has passionately pursued various interests within education for over seven years. These include experiences tutoring a variety of standardized tests, high school math and sciences, as well as instructing guitar, bass, and other musical instruments. In addition, he has spent time abroad, in Asia, teaching ESL (English as a Second Language) classes.

Joshua utilizes a goal-oriented approach to tutoring in which specific weaknesses must first be identified, and then targeted for improvement. Metacognitive habits and practices are encouraged using think-aloud strategies in order for the student to have awareness of their own approach to the problem or content. This fosters a keener perception of the tricks employed by the writers of the exam and ways for the student to avoid common pitfalls. A combined strategy of improvement in fundamental skills with an advanced understanding of the specific aspects of the test generates a very powerful and effective approach to score enhancement.

Nick Kurian 
Nicholas Kurian is studying economics, with a focus on education policy, at Columbia University. Nick has over 10 years experience with the SAT, GRE, GMAT, LSAT, SHSAT, and a wide variety of New York State Regents exams.  A Wesleyan University graduate, he served in the United States Peace Corps in French-speaking West Africa.  On his return, he worked for several test prep companies, both boutique and corporate, as a teacher, teacher trainer, and curriculum developer.  He taught a wide variety of students, from public schools to independent schools to Catholic schools, and a wide variety of ages, from middle school to mid-life crisis.

He spent a three years teaching World History and AP Statistics at the Bronx Aerospace Academy.  After, he founded his own business, Kurian Consulting, and has written an SAT course aimed at the public high schools: The SAT Genius.  Also aimed at the public high schools and middle schools is a course, From Rebel to Ruler, which gets students ready for college and careers. He is using a tweaked version of the course to structure the peer mentoring programs of Mercy College and BMCC.  Nick enjoys drawing, reading, and working out.  He is the head trainer at MovNat NYC, which aims to get people to work out in nature by crawling, climbing trees, lifting rocks, carrying logs, bounding down trails, and being generally crazy.  He has run 4 marathons.

Joseph Luesse 
Joe Luesse is the Evaluation and Assessment Manager for Harlem RBI and DREAM Charter School. He received a Master’s degree in Education from Teachers College, Columbia University, and previously taught high school English for 10 years in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Detroit.  He likes to get down to Krautrock and Alice Coltrane.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Taking Control of YOUR Vocabulary: Music Edition

By Dan Altano

If you’re like me, you learn best when you can relate to the subject you're studying. Sure, we can cram for a test and then regurgitate answers the next morning for a decent grade, but when it comes to truly retaining something new, we like things to be in contexts that make sense to our lives. That’s why it can be challenging for us to learn difficult vocabulary from a flashcard with no examples, or perhaps worse, from boring examples that don't relate to everyday life.
That’s where VocabSlam comes in. Think of it like an Etch-A-Sketch for vocabulary. We supply you with the knobs (the word and definition), but how you design your sentence is entirely up to you. 
One thing we noticed from the plethora of sentence examples submitted by VocabSlam users over the past several months is how often people combine difficult vocabulary with what they already know, resulting in clever and memorable sentences.

VocabSlam and Music  

In the second installment of this three-part blog about taking control of your vocabulary (read part 1 here), we feature VocabSlam user submissions that merge music with vocabulary. Columbia University Professor Christopher Emdin has done this with science education to great success, and studies show how such a combination has proved successful. Check out how VocabSlammers use their voices and their instruments to etch the meanings of difficult vocabulary words into their brains. 

Freestyle Master
Word: Emulate (Verb); to strive to equal or excel; IMITATE

This up-and-coming MC freestyles his way to a better test score using the word emulate:

Owning It
Word: Incoherent (adjective); lacking clarity, cohesion, or intelligibility
Okay so maybe this guy won't be filling in on drums for RUSH any time soon, but who cares? Here he turns his limitations into an opportunity to learn some new vocab and to make us laugh:

Diligence Rewarded

Word: Diligent (adjective); characterized by steady, earnest, and energetic effort

This one is simply incredible. Watch this VocabSlammer show what diligence can do when learning a unique skill:

Jam off Slam Off
Word: Callous (adjective); feeling or showing no sympathy for others

In this video, multiple VocabSlammers use music to vent their frustrations with callous people:

Plethora of Jams!
Word: Plethora (noun); a super abundance; an excess

The street musician at the end of this video creates a song on the spot to tell us about the plethora of jams he has to offer. We dare you to try getting this jingle out of your head once you hear it:

Rocking Redemption
Word: Discredit (verb); to refuse to accept as true or accurate

This VocabSlammer aims to prove the haters wrong by rocking out on her guitar:

Say Cello!
Word: Jubilation (noun); an expression of great joy

A cello player shows her jubilation through song:

Benevolent Beats
Word: Benevolent (adjective); marked by or disposed to doing good
This hip hop drummer doesn't skip a beat when it comes to vocab:
Behind the Vocab
Word: Compassion (noun); sympathetic awareness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it

This VocabSlammer uses the word compassion to tell an inspiring story:

That Good Old Feeling
Word: Effusive (adjective); marked by the expression of great or excessive emotion or enthusiasm

Famous Italian guitarist Davide Citrolo effusively jams on his favorite song:

I hope your ears and minds were pleased with these examples. Remember: taking control of your vocabulary starts with YOU. Now it's your turn to come up with some sentences of your own. Can't play an instrument or sing? So what? Grab some pots and pans, strum the back of a tennis racket, or use the back of a comb as a microphone and rock out to some vocab! Be sure to post them on

About the author:  Dan Altano is Marketing Director at VocabSlam. He also teaches in the English Department at the City College of New York and is the front man of the New York City based band, Withersby. You can reach him at

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

An Experience is Worth a Thousand Words

We again welcome Dr. Ebner to discuss the reseach underlying VocabSlam. Today she talks about learning using all of your senses.

An Experience is Worth a Thousand Words

By Rachel Ebner, Ph.D.

To truly learn a word, you’ve got to experience it.  This is called “experiential learning,” and it involves deriving meaning from direct, multisensory experiences. It’s one of the most powerful forms of learning. It goes beyond just passively absorbing information (known as “surface-level learning”).  Instead, experiential learning requires a student to actively internalize knowledge (this is known as “deep-level learning”).

Educators have not paid much attention to how important experiential learning is for helping high school and college students expand their vocabularies. This is surprising, especially since it’s widely known that young children rapidly acquire their first words through the direct experience of hearing words paired with what they see and do every day—a process called “fast mapping.” Through this type of direct multidimensional experiences with words, young children eventually develop comprehensive knowledge about a word’s meanings and uses within particular contexts.  This form of word learning is so powerful because it transforms a word from an abstract sound or written symbol into something that is meaningful and concrete.

Unfortunately, rather than pursuing experiential word learning, most older students’ vocabulary acquisition tends to entail passive forms of word learning such as memorizing dictionary definitions.  Learning vocabulary in this one-dimensional way (i.e., only by reading a word’s definition) not only is artificial, but also often is frustrating and ineffective.  With this type of passive learning, a word remains relatively abstract. No matter how many words, or which words or combination of words, are used to define a word, meaningful vocabulary development will not occur if a student doesn’t have opportunities to experience what the word represents though their multiple senses (seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, etc.) For example, I once had a student from Brazil who told me that before she came to America, everyone kept raving about American cupcakes, something that was not available to her in Brazil.  She said that no matter how times or ways her fellow friends tried to describe to her what an American cupcake was like, including how it looked, smelled, and tasted, she just “never got it!”  It was not until she came to America and experienced firsthand the look, smell, texture, and taste of her first cupcake, that she finally “got it.”

Just like my Brazilian student, and as with young children, to truly know a word, you must interact with it by engaging your multiple senses. In other words, memorizing a thousand written words in a dictionary cannot replace the deep learning that comes from truly experiencing a single word!

About the author: Dr. Rachel Ebner is an expert on student learning. She has an M.A. from Columbia Teachers College, an Ed.M. from Harvard, and a doctorate from the City University of New York.  Dr. Ebner brings her research cred to VocabSlam and will explain the research behind what we're doing.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Taking Control of YOUR Vocabulary: Comedy Edition

By Dan Altano

Preparing for the verbal sections of the SAT or GRE can be overwhelming. The day finally comes when you decide to quit procrastinating and buckle down on studying, but before you know it you're staring helplessly at a massive list of big words that you don't use on a daily basis. "Now what?" you ask yourself once your head stops spinning. Well, unfortunately, there aren't many ways around itto get a good SAT and GRE score you need to know your vocabulary. But how to begin?

The answer to your question may be in an unexpected place: your funny bone. Laughter may not be the first thing that springs to mind when you're thinking about SAT and GRE vocabulary retention, but for lots of VocabSlammers, comedy and vocabulary is a match made in test score heaven. Having fun with words lightens the burden of studying and makes the whole process much more enjoyable.

VocabSlam and Comedy

No matter what kind of sense of humor you have, making yourself laugh can be instrumental to retaining vocabulary. Maybe you like slapstick comedy where people smash into walls and slip on banana peels or maybe you have more of a sarcastic wit. Either way, It all boils down to coming up with examples that will help the words stick in your mind. Take a look at some VocabSlam submissions that leave us laughing and learning at the same time!

A Spray for the Ages
WordNonchalant (adjective); having an air of easy unconcern or indifference  

YouTube sensation LA Beast is famous for his bizarre and hilarious eating habits. But did you know he also has an appetite for vocabulary? In one of the most outrageous VocabSlam submissions ever, the LA Beast tries to stay nonchalant under some extreme circumstances. Don't try this at home:

Sit and Learn
Word: Penchant (noun); a strong and continued inclination 

When stand-up comedian Will Garre isn't making people spit out their drinks with laughter at comedy clubs around New York City, he's spending time with his other love: seat pads...

May the SLAM be with you 
Word: Quibble (verb); to bicker

Friends quibble over their differences while foes settle their quibbles the George Lucas way:

Cigarettes and Paychecks
Word: Squander (verb); to spend extravagantly or foolishly  

A group of VocabSlammers teach us about all the things you can squander:

The Finer Things
Word: Assimilate (verb); to absorb into the culture or mores of a population or group

This guy does not assimilate with the Occupy Wall Street crowd and he's proud of it:

SLAM Horse
Refulgent (adjective); a radiant or resplendent quality or state :  brilliance 

Funnyman Marc T. Engberg is a comedian on the rise, but here he puts on his critic hat to review a stand out performance in the Oscar nominated movie War Horse:

Minute Men
Brevity (noun): shortness of duration

This VocabSlammer tries to find a variety of examples for the word brevity but it seems that some people only want to talk about one thing:

Word: Skeptic (noun); a person holding an attitude of doubt or a disposition to incredulity

Not everyone sees pro wrestling the same way:

"The movie was terrible"
Word: Disdain (noun); a feeling of contempt for someone or something regarded as unworthy or inferior ; scorn

The Twilight Saga, television personality Nicole Scherzinger, cheating girlfriends, and the Parks Department are all targets of disdain in this submission compilation:

Keeping it Civil
Word: Contentious (adjective); likely to cause disagreement or argument

This VocabSlammer offers up some helpful dating advice:

When you tailor sentences to your own unique sense of humor, you take control of the learning process. Personalizing vocabulary can be essential to retaining words and there's no better way to do that than to make it fun. As long as you are using the word in the correct way, there is no reason to settle for a bland example.

Now it's your turn to give it a shot. Channel your inner comedian and write some funny sentences with words you didn't know before you started studying and see if it works for you. And remember: studying doesn't have to suck!

About the author:  Dan Altano is Marketing Director at VocabSlam. He also teaches in the English Department at the City College of New York. You can reach him at