Jul 102011

Screenshot of the app

Pinyin is circled because it has already been clicked. Note the box for drawing the tone mark.

UPDATE: The full version of this app is now free. The developer has ceased work on it. Grab it while you can; it’s still a good app (although there is a small glitch in the animation) and works on an iPhone 4S running iOS 5.

Chinese Vocabulary Quiz 123 is a multiple choice quiz, but for each word there are several multiple choice “questions”: you have to select the correct pinyin, draw the correct tone mark (repeating these steps for the other syllables of multi-syllable words), and finally choose the correct meaning.

There is also a simple study mode where you can see a page for each word with all the info for it at once. It was not clear to me at first what the checkmarks and x’s are in this mode, but it seems the app keeps track of how many times you get each word right or wrong. You can also browse a list of each level’s words alphabetically by pinyin.


  • Choice of simplified or traditional characters.
  • 8000+ word database divided into 4 levels of difficulty based on the pre-2010 HSK list (1k, 2k, 2k, and 3.5k words in each).
  • Choice of a 10, 25, 50, or 100 word quiz; great if you just have a few minutes to spend.
  • Smart selection or simply random.
  • Review your missed words (or all the words) after the quiz.
  • Having to draw the tone mark is good motor memory training.

The quiz has several other nice touches:

  • If you linger too long on a page, it gives you an animated hint to swipe for the next.
  • The oversized tone marks draw your attention and avoids straining to see tiny tone marks (I really appreciated this after I saw that all the mistakes in my first quiz were on tones).
  • The app times how long you study.

The dreaded red pen


  • Animations are slow, especially the page turns.
  • In reviewing missed words, the pinyin is crossed out even if only the tone is wrong. This seems unnecessary since the large tone mark is also crossed out; I had to squint to see if I actually got the pinyin wrong.

Possible con for some:

  • The mock paper-and-pen look of this app is kind of cute, but at the end of the quiz you get a grade from A-F “written” on your “quiz paper” in red “ink”. When you review, you also see something like a paper test with your mistakes crossed out, again in red; some people believe that “red pen” is psychologically bad for students, so if you’re sensitive, you may want to think twice about this app.

I find this app very worthwhile for practicing recognition of words and especially for testing whether I actually know their tones. I would love to see an update that tests you on the writing of words, not just recognizing them.

Chinese Vocabulary Quiz 123 is available on the Chinese Vocabulary Quiz 123 - Guillaume Fleury.

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