Quizlet’s Shift to Quizlet Plus

Photo credit: Quizlet.com

Photo credit: Quizlet.com

Jessica Southwick, Writer

Quizlet is a learning site that uses premade sets of terms and definitions that help you study. Almost all students know about it, and many students use it to memorize important concepts from class or words in world language classes. There are many features for studying on the site. Students have come to rely on Quizlet as a studying resource, so when many of the features students have come to love were put behind a paywall people were understandably upset. 

Quizlet was founded in 2005 by Andrew Sutherland. He made it as a studying resource for an upcoming French test. When he aced the test he started to share it around to his friends. Quizlet took off from there. The site now has 60 million monthly learners worldwide and two-thirds of all United States high school students use it. According to Quizlet on their mission statement page, “At Quizlet, we believe that anyone can learn anything.”

However, since 2005, many things have changed. Loyal Quizlet users will remember that there used to be unlimited access to all features and no ads. Then there was an update when ads were instituted, but underneath the ad, it said “Please watch this short ad to keep Quizlet free for everyone.”  Now, in the most recent update, they launched QuizletPlus. 

QuizletPlus is a subscription service that users can get for $35.99 a year, which equates to about $2.99 a month. However, the monthly subscription is much more expensive at $7.99 a month. If users would like to continue to use Quizlet for free, there are limited features still available. 

The “flashcards” feature is still available for unlimited use for everyone. This feature is just like flashcards that one could cut out and make but digital. 

The “match” feature is also available for unlimited use. The “match” feature is a game that has you match a term and its definition quickly to try to beat your past time. 

The rest of the features are limited. The “learn” feature is available for five rounds per study set. It starts with multiple choice questions and then phases these questions into writing questions where you need to write the correct answer for a more challenging experience to improve your recall of the term. The “test” feature is available once per study set for non-QuizletPlus subscribers. This feature is a test of your knowledge using multiple choice, written answers, true or false and flashcard questions.

The QuizletPlus users have unlimited access to all of these features, previously available for free, and more. Some of the new features include textbook solutions, homework help, problem-solving each step at a time, notes, diagrams, pictures, audio clips and the ability to highlight words. Plus subscribers are also ad-free and can download study sets to study offline. 

Both QuizletPlus subscribers and free users have noticed the absence of many features they used to see such as “spell”, “write” and “gravity.”  “Spell” and “write” have now moved locations and are hidden in the settings section of “learn” making these features less used and harder to find. “Gravity,” however, a fun study game, has been removed completely from Quizlet. 

Quizlet said, “While Gravity was a fun game, it wasn’t used as much as other study modes, so we made the decision to focus on making the core activities that we know most students use more engaging and efficient.” This leaves one to question whether these newly focused efforts will be made on improving Quizlet for all students or just for Plus subscribers. 

In a survey released by The Mercury on students’ use of Quizlet, students of Bellows Free Academy note that they have noticed the difference, and their studying habits have changed. There was a considerable drop in time spent on Quizlet, with at least 23.5% of students saying that they studied less after the update.* In terms of features, the usage of “learn,” formerly the most favored tool, dropped to almost half of what it was, from 85.3% to just 48.4%. “Flashcards” are the only feature with continued strong use because it is the only feature that was unchanged by the update that is an effective studying tool. 

One student, Rachel Ledoux (‘24), felt that this is an issue of equality for students of all economic statuses: “I think it’s absolutely ridiculous and really harmful that they’re doing this now. Putting educational resources behind a paywall is the quickest way to harm lower-income students, and it makes it harder for everyone to get the education they deserve.” 

Quizlet is a for-profit company. A fact very hard to find, especially on its website. If you search “is Quizlet a for-profit company,” the first 50 or so results will be of Quizlet sets, teaching the difference between for-profit and non-for-profit companies. 

Madison Gagner (‘23) captures the emotions many have when it comes to apps, especially educational apps, switching to a subscription-based model, “Although I’m very disappointed that more and more apps and sites are implementing updates like this, I understand the need for financial growth. It just sucks for independent students who were using Quizlet’s previously free features that now have to pay.”

Quizlet is a business, and QuizletPlus is just one way that they make money. The other way is through advertising. Quizlet studiers serve two purposes to Quizlet. The first is paying subscriptions, the second is serving as an audience to use to attract and appeal to advertisers. Quizlet users are young, eager to achieve, and diverse. 

Quizlet boasts that it is “the premier digital advertising partner” and it can “connec[t] brands with a diverse audience… 90% of whom are Gen Z and Millennials.” They claim to “serv[e] both [their] users and partners.” 

The cost appears to be an issue for BFA students, as none of the students surveyed have chosen to pay for QuizletPlus, which is a superior product to the free version. So what is the solution to using, or not using the inferior product? Quizlet does offer group packages for QuizletPlus subscriptions, so should they invest in this for students? 

Quinn Stanley (‘24) said no. 

“I feel like it would be a waste of money for the school to buy Quizlet Plus for students,” Stanley said.

There is a free option that gives students back all of the “learn” and “test” features, but Quizlet doesn’t openly advertise it. If a teacher, using their teacher account, makes a classroom on Quizlet and adds the study sets that students need, they can grant both the learn and test features that are unavailable in the free version. This may take a few minutes for teachers to set up, but it makes it like the Plus update never happened for free. 

The few minutes it takes can be well worth it as many students are suffering the effects of the QuizletPlus update. 

As Amanda Wallace (‘25) put it, “I think Quizlet is a very valuable resource for students, and it’s truly a shame that the ‘learn’ and ‘test’ abilities now come at a cost. Practicing for French tests has become substantially harder, and I’ve resorted to other lower-quality sources that sometimes don’t even pick up on essential accents in words when I practice.”

*Before the update, out of the 34 students polled, 50% of students said that they studied one to two times per week, 29.4% said that they studied three to four times, 11.7% said that they studied more than that per week, and only 8.8% said that they never studied using Quizlet. After the update, 64.7% of students said that they studied one to two times per week, 17.6% said that they studied three to four times, and 17.6% of students said that they never studied using Quizlet.