Shmoop’s Year in Rewind: 2013

2013, man. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was the age of Prince George Alexander Lewis, it was the age of Miley “Twerking” Cyrus. But most importantly, it was the season of studying, which meant it definitely was the season of Shmoop.

A lot’s happened at Shmoop in the past year. We’re not the little learning guide site of yesteryear anymore; we’re bigger, badder, and better than ever, and it’s all thanks to you. If you ask for it, we’ll build it. That’s just how we roll.

So we’ve put together the ultimate list of what you’ve loved this year at Shmoop. Check below to see if your favorites made the list!

College 101

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70% of Americans view college education as very important, and your embracing of our new College 101 guide makes us think y’all are part of that 70%. We wanted to make a resource that helped students at every step of the process, from deciding where to apply to applying for financial aid to deciding on which school to attend, and we’re so excited that you’ve found it to be as happening as we’d hoped. Your fav page? Personal statements. We personally think you all rock.

Here’s hoping you get into all the places you applied to this spring!

Literature Guides

Screen Shot 2013-12-21 at 11.02.32 PMMaybe it was the movie, maybe it was that dystopian lit is still as hot as ever (see below: Courses), but your top Lit picks this year all were from the Hunger Games trilogy. Go Team Katniss!

Top Literature Guides

  1. Catching Fire

  2. The Hunger Games

  3. Mockingjay

Teacher Guides

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Unlike our Lit Guides, your favorite Teacher Guides aren’t trendy. They highlight those well-loved classics that will never leave the classroom—not even if you tried to pry them away from us with a crowbar.

Top Teacher Guides

  1. The Great Gatsby

  2. To Kill a Mockingbird

  3. Romeo and Juliet

Schools & Districts

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One of our favorite parts of Shmoop is that we work closely with students, teachers, and administrators to help make learning possible. We wanted to make it easier than ever for schools and districts to get the information they need and the products they want, so we launched our Enterprise Site and Self-Serve Check-Out. We also launched our Twitter especially for educators, @Shmoop4Schools, to keep you up-to-date with the latest Shmoop stuff and education headlines.

Essay Lab

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We revamped our Essay Lab this year and boy, did you guys notice! Now complete with a Writing Guide, as well as options for writing literature essays or college personal statements, our Essay Lab is better than ever and, most importantly, more popular than ever. Keep on writing!


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One of our biggest projects this year was getting our Online Courses (aka ShMOOCs) into your waiting hands and eager classrooms. We’ve been floored by your response and can’t wait to bring you even more in the new year!

Top Courses

  1. Dystopian Literature

  2. Writing the College Application Essay

  3. Five-Paragraph Essay

Math Shack

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When we were looking at our Test Prep resources, we realized we wanted to make them even more fun and useful. The answer to this realization? Math Shack, an auto-generating, endless math game where you can master topics and gain Shmoints (and, most importantly, glory). We’re rolling it out into a lot more of our test prep, but those of you who have used our SAT and ACT are already active users and dare we say lovers of the Math Shack.


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Your love of our new ShmoopTube makes us think that this moving pictures business might actually become a thing. With hundreds of videos for Test Prep, Literature, Math, History, and much, much more, ShmoopTube has become your favorite place to get your funny fix.

Top Lit Videos

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  1. The Rocking Horse Winner

  2. To Kill a Mockingbird Quotes

  3. Beowulf

Top Math Videos

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  1. Rational/Irrational Numbers

  2. Proving Triangles Congruent

  3. Adding and Subtracting Fractions and Decimals


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This year we finished putting up test prep for every single AP exam. That’s right: whether you wanted to take AP Music Theory or AP Computer Science, Shmoop had the goods. As the AP standards continue to change, you can rely on Shmoop to have your back and give you resources you can trust.

Top APs

  1. AP US History

  2. AP World History

  3. AP Biology

Common Core

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Much like Baby Fish Mouth, the Common Core is sweeping the nation. And given the popularity of our Common Core Resources, you are well off to a great start when it comes to implementing them in the new year. Next year we’ll be breaking down even more Common Core Standards—middle school math, here we come!—so stay tuned.

Did your favorite Shmoop not make the list? Share with us in the comments what you love about Shmoop and what you hope to see in the future. We might just make your dreams come true in 2014!

Who Shmoop’s NOT Inviting to Thanksgiving Dinner This Year

Shmoop counts down the 10 most ungrateful literary characters who are persona non grata for this year’s Thanksgiving feast.

Thanksgiving is a time to put aside all of your familial angst in the name of deliciousness, but after a hard day in the kitchen, Shmoop isn’t about to share with anyone who can’t spare a compliment to the chef.

Since Shmoop prefers its dinners to be low-drama and its guests thankful, here is Shmoop’s list of literary characters who will not be getting an invite this year. Shmoop’s ranked them from 10—allowed in if they bring a green bean casserole—to 1—never allowed in, even with a gourmet brined turkey. No offense, guys. It’s just that Peeta Mellark can both bake bread and say, “Thank you.” Maybe next year!

Ron Weasley

10.     Ron Weasley, Harry Potter

 Every year, Ron Weasley got a new sweater for Christmas, and every year he complained about it, ignoring all the hard work his mom put into creating a gift that would protect him from the chill of snow, if not dementors. Ron would be the kid at Thanksgiving dinner feeding his mom’s sweet potato pie to the dog under the table. No wonder Mrs. Weasley seemed to prefer Harry Potter; at least Harry was appreciative of her knitting exploits.

9.     The Trojans, The Aeneid

After years and years of war against the Greeks, the Trojans woke up one morning to see the Greeks gone and in their place, a beautiful wooden statue of a horse outside their walls. The Trojans were ecstatic to finally win, but were still suspicious of the giant wooden horse. Of course, all it took was a little convincing by a Greek spy and the Trojans brought the horse into their city. Once inside the walls, the horse burst open with Greek soldiers who burned Troy to the ground. Needless to say, the Trojans weren’t very thankful for their gift from the Greeks. Maybe one should look a gift horse in the mouth.

8.     Milo, The Phantom Tollbooth

After a hard day in the number mines, the citizens of Digitopolis like to get their fill of Subtraction Soup. The generous people they are, they even shared this delectable dish with total foreigner Milo. Milo, however, was completely unappreciative of this kind gesture and just started complaining that the soup made him hungrier instead of more full. That put the Digitopolians in a tough spot as they had to explain their completely sensical custom of eating until they’re no longer full. Milo should have known better: when in Digitopolis, do as the Digitopolians do.

7. Ender Wiggin, Ender’s Game

Ender spent the entirety of Ender’s Game talking about how he was going to end the war against the Buggers. When he finally did end the war, though, he started crying about how he didn’t end the war in the right way. Hey, Ender, you gotta remember: the ends justify the means. And Buggers certainly can’t be choosers.


6.     King Lear, King Lear

First rule of parenting: don’t ask children how much they love their parents. King Lear clearly missed this memo. When he asked his three daughters how much they loved him, his first two (arguably straight-up evil) daughters answered with lavish purple praise, while his youngest (and legit good) daughter tempered her response with reality. King Lear was so incensed by her honesty that he banished her. Talk about being ungrateful for getting what he asked for.

5.     Holden Caulfield, The Catcher in the Rye

Holden Caulfield, the original emo teenager, wanted new ice skates, but when his mom finally got them for him, it turned out she bought him hockey skates instead of racing skates. Maybe next time, Holden will be a little clearer about what he wants—although, if the rest of the book is any indication, probably not.

4.     Jason, Medea

So Medea doesn’t quite get a pass here—murdering your kids? Total no-go—but Jason was probably the worst baby daddy known to man. First he seduced Medea to get her to betray her dad and help him succeed in his quest. He promised her that if she helped him secure the golden fleece, he’d marry her and be with her forever. She was so convinced by his charm that she killed her own brother to prevent her dad from capturing her new boyfriend. But what did Jason do to thank Medea? He broke up with her (after they already had kids together!) so he could marry the Princess of Corinth. There’s a reason why Medea is the ultimate woman scorned.

3. Edmund Pevensie, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Pre-Aslan Edmund was the worst possible guest you could ever have. He was a jerk to his siblings and made fun of the kindly Professor who took them in. His sister Lucy introduced him to a magical land called Narnia and instead of thanking her, he told everyone she was making it up. When all the siblings were transported to Narnia, he turned against them by siding with the White Witch just so he could stuff his face with more Turkish delight. Pre-Aslan Edmund would basically be the one staying at home eating all the mashed potatoes while his siblings were helping out at a food kitchen.

 2.     Everyone Except Charlie Bucket, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

 Given that there were only five golden tickets to visit the elusive Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, you’d think that the lucky ticket holders would understand how privileged they were to get the inside scoop. Nope! Other than our protagonist Charlie Bucket, they were all entitled snobs who thankfully ended up getting their just desserts.

1. Oliver, Oliver Twist

Oliver Twist is the poster child for ungratefulness. His catchphrase is literally, “Please, sir, I want some more.” Leave a little turkey for everyone else, eh?

Know another literary character who should be stuck out in the cold this Thanksgiving? Share with us in the comments!

Shmoop Launches New Educational Video Platform Called ShmoopTube

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Shmoop, a digital curriculum and test prep company, is launching ShmoopTube, a brand-new, innovative portal for educational and hilarious videos. ShmoopTube improves upon and replaces the gone-but-not-forgotten Shmoopsterpiece Theater.

Shmoop has created a one-of-a-kind video platform for its growing video content. Featuring hundreds of educational videos with a humorous bent on every subject including math, history, literature, and test prep, ShmoopTube helps teachers incite class discussions and students better understand tough concepts.


ShmoopTube’s user-friendly design expands and innovates upon the previous video platform, Shmoopsterpiece Theater.

ShmoopTube highlights its entertaining videos in an intuitive user-experience which makes it easier and better to use than ever. New features include:

  • Better Tagging. With videos catalogued by subject (e.g. “English”) and subtopics (e.g. “Elementary Algebra”), it’s a breeze to browse and search for the exact video needed to clarify classroom concepts.

  • Better Search Feature. Shmoop’s new search feature is better than ever. Its recommendation engine matches video titles and keywords to a list of potential videos that viewers might be interested in.

  • Playlists. Shmoop has also put together hand-picked playlists in case teachers and students are looking for a crash course in algebra or get a illuminating immersion in American history.

  • Universal Design for Learning Features. Shmoop is also making great strides with incorporating Universal Design for Learning (UDL) measures in order to accommodate all kinds of learners. Shmoop remains committed to providing the best resources to every type of student. In that vein, ShmoopTube features videos in Spanish for ESL students, and also has transcripts for hearing-impaired students.

  • Related Videos. Just finished learning how to solve equations using addition and subtraction? ShmoopTube is there to help students take learning to the next level with Related Videos, which will suggest similar videos that will help students master any topic.

Shmoop will continue to evolve its ShmoopTube with the speed of the Internet and will soon also launch an even more personalized viewing experience. In the coming months, users should watch for new features, like ways to organize their favorite videos on ShmoopTube.

The new ShmoopTube is available for any screen except sunscreen–including computer, mobile phones, and iPads—and can be viewed by its admirers here.

Shmoop and the State of Utah Offer Free ACT Test Prep to High School Students

This is a re-post from the official blog of the Utah State Board of Education and the Utah State Office of Education.

(Salt Lake City, UT) Shmoop, a digital curriculum and test prep company, is partnering with Utah to provide the state’s 11th graders with test prep help to successfully prepare for the ACT exam in March.

Utah, already known as reporting one of the highest statewide ACT scores in the country last year, says it was natural to select Shmoop.

“Although we’ve been providing free ACT exams for Utah students for the last two years, we’re proud to say that this is the first time we’re providing an all-inclusive test prep resource for them to build on their strengths,” says State Superintendent of Public Instruction Martell Menlove.

In addition to diagnostic exams, an infinite number of Math Shack drills, and full-length practice exams, Utah schools will also have access to Shmoop’s premium analytics product. Teachers, principals, and district administrators can understand what’s happening at the individual or school-wide level at a glance, and assign extra drills or review sessions based on a student’s strengths or weaknesses.

“We’re thrilled to give all 125 of Utah’s Local Education Agencies (LEA) a chance to continue their momentum as one of the top test scoring regions in the country,” says Ellen Siminoff, CEO and President of Shmoop. “We hope Shmoop can be a tool that students use to become the best that they can possibly be.”

All Utah schools can sign up for Shmoop’s premium ACT and PLAN test prep guides by visiting this link, free of charge. Utah schools can get their unique account registration information by contacting Shmoop representative Allison Arunski at

About Shmoop

Shmoop is a digital curriculum and test prep company that makes fun, rigorous learning and teaching materials. Shmoop content is written by master teachers and Ph.D. students from Stanford, Harvard, UC Berkeley, and other top universities. Shmoop Learning Guides, Test Prep, College Resources, and Teacher’s Editions balance a teen-friendly, approachable style with academically rigorous materials to help teachers help students understand how subjects relate to their daily lives. Shmoop sees over 7 million unique visitors a month on its site, and offers more than 7,000 titles across the Web, iPhone, Android devices, iPad, Kindle, Nook, and Sony Reader. The company has been honored twice by the Webby Awards, named “Best in Tech” for 2010 and 2011 by Scholastic Administrator, and awarded with two Annual Education Software Review Awards (EDDIES) in 2013. Launched in 2008, Shmoop is headquartered in a labradoodle-patrolled office in Mountain View, California.

*SAT and AP are registered trademarks of the College Board, which was not involved in the production of and does not endorse this product.

*ACT is a federally registered trademark of ACT, Inc. Shmoop University is not affiliated with or endorsed by ACT, Inc.

10 Spookiest Literary Places to Visit on Halloween

All Hallow’s Eve is the spookiest night,

It’s filled with the scariest feelings of fright.

And what’s it all for with no stories to tell?

Shmoop’s got the goods since they know books so well.

For students who’re looking for candy to eat:

Shmoop’s Top Ten Places to Not Trick-or-Treat.

Public Domain from Wikimedia Commons.

  1. Miss Havisham’s House, Great Expectations. More like Great Exspooktations. Nineteenth-century England is dreary enough as is. Add a crazy lady with coping issues to the mix, and the result is a place meant to be skipped during trick-or-treating.

Public Domain from Wikimedia Commons.

  1. Coraline’s House, Coraline. A world where people have buttons for eyes? Creepy point proven. But what makes Coraline’s house in the “other” world so especially sinister is that it seems nice at first glance. Never trust appearances on Halloween.

Public Domain from Wikimedia Commons.

  1. The Bottomless Pit, The Bible. The Bottomless Pit of the Bible’s final book features smoke, locusts, and an evil angel. In case that’s not enough, the Devil joins the party, too. The Pit is the pits every day of the year, but Halloween is sure to bring out its true stench.

Public Domain from Wikimedia Commons.

  1. The Inferno, Dante’s Inferno. Medieval punishments were the best (read: worst), and Dante sure knew how to dole ‘em out. Unfortunately, those souls experiencing eternal pain aren’t just a cheap Haunted House decoration. Probably best to skip this one in favor of one of Dante’s less horrifying places, such as Paradiso.

  1. One of Coleridge’s Drug Trips, “Kubla Khan“. Shmoop just says no to drugs—but not to trippy literature. Coleridge’s adventures in la-la land are the stuff of ultimate ghost stories.

Source: Universal Pictures

Public Domain from Wikimedia Commons.

  1. The Post-Thneed Truffula Forest, The Lorax. Dr. Seuss’s worlds are usually filled with color and delight, but the decimated Truffula forest is as eerie as they come. The ghosts of trees past are not ones to mess with.

Public Domain from Wikimedia Commons.

  1. A River with Marlow, Heart of Darkness. Floating down a river with Marlow on Halloween is like riding a ship straight into post-colonial hell. The horror! The horror!

Public Domain from Wikimedia Commons.

  1. The Veldt, The Veldt. Dystopian literature presents a world in which every day is spooky. Bradbury’s virtual reality kill-fest definitely makes Shmoop thankful for the other 364 days of normal.

Public Domain from Wikimedia Commons.

  1. Room 101, 1984. For Winston, it’s rats. For Shmoop, it’s bad grammar. Room 101 contains everyone’s biggest fear, so it’s best not to test the waters on the scariest day of the year. Oh, the split infinitives!

Public domain from Wikimedia Commons.

  1. Everywhere, A Clockwork Orange. Even the the bravest faux Batman will quiver at the cover of Anthony Burgess’s classic. With blood, violence, brain zapping, and forcing-you-to-watch-violence-until-you-break torture, this book is definitely chill-inducing and boot-quivering.

Stay away from these places on All Hallow’s Eve.

Unless you find them within a book’s leaves.

What other lit locales deliver a spook?

Let Shmoop know by Tweet or Facebook.

Shmoop Launches College 101 Updates To Help Students With 2013-2014 College Admissions Process

Free guides and resources now available to help high school students get into high gear in time to apply to the colleges of their dreams

(Mountain View, CA) Oct. 15, 2013 – For most students, the changing leaves and smell of pumpkins signify the start of holiday-flavored lattes, trick-or-treating, and other seasonal shenanigans. Unfortunately for high school seniors, October is also now synonymous with looming college application deadlines. Early decision applications are due in November and FAFSA becomes available in January, which means college bound seniors need to start shaping up their essays, test scores, and grades – stat. It’s a lot to process, but luckily Shmoop, one of the world’s largest digital publisher of educational guides and resources, launched its newly revamped College 101 just in time to take students’ sweaty-palmed hands through this all-important decision.

Shmoop’s updated sections now feature a newly-updated College Essay Lab, checklists for every step of the admissions process, financial aid advice, and a ‘mad libs’ style assessment quiz that recommends relevant articles for you.

College Essay Lab

Writer’s block is bad enough, but having writer’s block two hours before the ‘application-to-determine-the-rest-of-your-life’ is due really sucks. Shmoop’s new College Essay Lab is designed to prevent this from happening for students, whether it’s warming up their creative juices with dozens of brainstorming exercises and personal statement examples, or narrowing down their focus so their essay really shines in front of those stone-faced admissions officers. All essay prompts are also adjusted to include the 2013 – 2014 Common Application prompts so students can actually use it when it’s time for the real thing!

Essay Lab

Master Checklists

For students who want to up their game before they become seniors, Shmoop has checklists by grade level written by students and experts who provide excellent guidance. (The main takeaway for middle school students – take a breather and relax!) For the more imminent tasks related to college admissions, students of all ages can take a sneak peek at the Senior Year Checklist to see what standardized tests to take, what the top deciding factors for choosing a college are, or what the the difference between early action vs. regular admissions is (other than, early action is, well, earlier). After all that work is done, they’ll finally be able to check off the last item on the list after they’re admitted: how to prepare for college!

Financial Aid/Scholarships

Once students complete these steps, they’re ready to ask the million dollar question – how much does it really cost to go to college? What is the difference between grants, loans, and scholarships and how can they get one? Shmoop gives the real deal with the Real Costs of College page and lays down a comprehensive guide to teach students how to hack the FAFSA, apply for financial aid, and apply to more scholarships than you can dream of (there’s even one for designing the best duct tape prom dress). Shmoop even has a section on how to be smart with money once students are actually in college so they don’t go broke buying energy drinks to pull all-nighters. (Note: Shmoop is pro-sleep and is therefore not endorsed by any energy drink companies.)

Shmoop’s College Assessment

If students are feeling overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, Shmoop’s created a fun, ‘madlibs’ style fill-in-the-blank quiz that personalizes and recommends content to help them on their totally clutch collegiate campaign. Whether students are juniors who want to get recruited for Division 1 fencing or a freshman who is freaking out, the quiz helps them get organized, narrow down their focus, and generate relevant recommended articles that will help them figure out that pesky future business in no time at all.

College 101 Quiz

So wipe those palms, roll up those sleeves, and get started on the college journey by visiting today!

Shmoop Launches Updated Guides to the AP® Chemistry and Spanish Language and Culture Exams

Shmoop equips students with the right stuff to keep up with new changes to the AP exams

Since there’s no point in students studying for the wrong exam, Shmoop, a publisher of digital curriculum and test prep (including all 30+ AP exams), announces the launch of newly updated teacher guides and student diagnostic and practice exams for two Advanced Placement exams: the AP Spanish Language and Culture and AP Chemistry exams.

Guide to the AP Spanish Language and Culture Exam

Imagine a world where people only needed to know seven questions to get by in a Spanish-speaking country:

  • Where’s the bathroom?
  • Can I have a fork?
  • I would like two apples.
  • This is her cat.
  • Where did the spider go?
  • Turn left and walk past the post office to arrive at the library.
  • Seriously, where’s the bathroom?

If real life isn’t restricted to questions of the mundane and practical, exams shouldn’t be either, no? The College Board doesn’t think so either, which is why they’re introducing a new AP exam format for the Spanish Language and Culture exam. The updates include free response questions that focus on specific interpersonal and presentational communication skills so that students will actually be able to chat with real, native Spanish-speaking people in the not-so-distant future. The written section asks students to write an email and a persuasive essay, and the speaking section will require students to carry on a conversation and present on a cultural comparison…but don’t count on it to help you sound less awkward asking out that chica muy bonita.

The revamped AP Spanish Language and Culture exam features six course themes that range from technology to aesthetics. Students can bet that a selection about a family in a community will have something to do with the theme of la familias y las comunidades—and Shmoop is here to make sure they’re equipped with all the information they need to take that subject and run with it.

Guide to the AP Chemistry Exam

Since chemistry is really all about studying and understanding the building blocks of all materials on Earth and beyond, the AP exam is now focusing on laying down strong foundations in six guided inquiry investigations called “Big Ideas.” Gone are the days of memorizing exceptions to the Aufbau Principle and specific crystal structures. Instead, the exam is all about understanding chemistry—giving students the tools they need to solve problems and think about what is really happening in the lab.

As a perfect complement to completing hands-on chemistry labs in the classroom, Shmoop’s AP Chemistry guide, drills, and practice exams will give students the practice they need to succeed.

Ready? Let’s get started.

*AP® is a trademark registered registered and/or owned by the College Board, which was not involved in the production of, and does not endorse, this product.