A guide to starting with Quizlet

attic basementquizlet in spaceQuizlet

Quizlet is our starting point. I’ve been using it for five years, and despite the fact that I used to use it every week I know there is more to done with it. I started using it with primary level learners and I’ve used it with adult learners too, mainly for vocabulary.

With younger learners I attempted to use it to help them learn grammar and vocabulary with mixed results (and I’ll explain how SLA – Second Language Acquisition – theories and research explain those mixed results later on).

Quizlet started as online flashcard software developed by a school student to help him memorise facts for exams. You can choose from ready made sets, adapt the ready made sets or make your own from scratch. Its roots as a software version of paper flashcards are most obvious when it is used in the flashcard mode.

EdTech review site EdShelf gives Quizlet a rating of 5 out of 5 in terms of ease of use for new users. This is one of the main attractions of Quizlet, the ease of creating a set of flashcards, text can be imported and formatted for use easily.

The other plus for Quizlet is the ease with which pictures and images can be added. and as you can read here, images are vital for retention of new information as revealed by research about how the brain uses different types of memory. There’s a video here and an an article here. It also explains the very conversational style of this blog! If you want to get into the SLA research side of things try this.

So, back to how you do it.

Let’s go to Quizlet.com, type what you want in the search box. I’m going for Present Simple.

Quizlet search box present simple

Our results look like this (remember to hit your enter key when you search clicking on the magnifying glass gets you nothing but deletion of what you have so carefully entered):


Do you like it? If you do  – you can take it, copy it,  adapt it, add your own images if you don’t like the images.

But you can refine it.

For all searches I recommend selecting the turquoise options box in the top right-hand corner and this box appears:

quizlet search options

Tick image sets only to save you time and if you have a paid subscription choose teacher-created sets to increase the quality of the selection. However this does not guarantee that the sets will meet your needs or be error-free.

Check anything you choose, then check it again, there is nothing more embarrassing than grammar or spelling mistakes on your Quizlet set! Make sure you click on the update results bar.

This set is not perfect but it’s good to show what you can do when you copy a set.

copying a Q set

Click on the copy button , if you haven’t signed up yet you  have a another chance to do it now. I recommend that you create an email address just for Quizlet use rather than use your own, and don’t sign up with Facebook

sign up to copy this set

Once you have signed up you can create a new study set from the one you have copied.

Create a new study set

There are a number of options on the screen, on the far right is add description

add description

You can also a list of keyboard  shortcuts  if that’s your thing.

keyboard shortcuts

The visible to everyone option allow you to choose who sees your sets. Editable by means you can allow students or colleague or whoever you select to edit your sets.

visible to

The more information you put in the easier it will be for other people to find your sets. You could also put your school name here and/or in the title to make it easier to find. I’ve gone for the short and simple option here.

description box filled in


Press save then press create.

From a language teachers perspective I think there are number of changes that could be made.


What changes would you make to the Present Simple set? Why?

See my suggestions at the bottom of this section.

Click here to open the Quizlet

Watch the video then take time to work through the Present Simple set using Flashcards, Learn, Spell, Write, Match, Test and Gravity. Don’t worry about Quizlet Live, there’s another section dedicated to that.


Key Quizlet features for learners and teachers of English

  • Quizlet will tell you the meanings of words

You can use the built in definitions in Quizlet but these can be very mixed in the quality of results, as you can see below.

quizlet definition burglar

Here the distinction between burglar and thief is significant. However you do usually get about ten definitions to choose from.

There will be times when you won’t find an exact phrase or word in the online OALD (Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary) which is my first choice, or you don’t like the definition, especially when working at higher levels, in that case I just use online Macmillan, online Collins, or even dictionary.com.

  • Quizlet will let you choose which items you need to study

On any Quizlet set you can click on the yellow star to select

attic basement

So if you know attic , but need to practice basement and bungalow you can selectattic basement starredlike this, and this will carry through in all Quizlet’s study modes.

Learn mode uses spaced repetition  to present items at decreasing intervals to help with transfer to long  term memory.



Task suggestions and questions

As you may have noticed I changed the dashes from the original so that the number dashes matches the number of letters in the term, which on the original had an apparently arbitrary number of dashes which may have confused students

Do you teach contraction as the usual form?  Which sounds more natural? Elephants don’t swim or Elephants do not swim? Actually I’d use Elephants can’t swim and not Elephants can not swim. Elephants don’t swim or Elephants do not swim have different meanings in spoken English, with the latter more likely to be a contradictory response or disagreement depending on where the stress is placed.

Here’s an article on teaching contractions.

A question: why are there different forms of the verb in the terms? It may be that the teacher wanted to provide a spread of options based on learner’s needs. This may also account for the use of adverbs of frequency in some definitions and not others.

For more on how to use Quizlet watch this  video in short segments and practice the skills