When college-bound high schoolers take a test prep class with Anthony Green, they see an average boost of 350 points to their SAT and 3.7 points to their ACT — enough to make a mediocre student suddenly shine in the eyes of an admissions officer.
That’s why, for years, Green was able to charge $US1,000 an hour for his Skype-based services.
But business started booming — too much.
Green was turning away two students for each one he took on.
He needed a way out.
Green Test Prep is that escape: an Ivy League-level test prep that’s completely online.
In the same way Khan Academy is revolutionising formal education, Green Test Prep distills lessons to their essential elements — and could revolutionise test prep along the way.
Though still a scrappy contender in a multi-billion-dollar industry, the service could be just the refreshing break parents need from the painful process of getting their kids into college.
Green Test Prep costs $US597. That gets kids a lifetime of access to hundreds of lessons in four subjects: science, maths, reading, and English. Whether they sign up as forward-thinking freshmen or seniors looking to cram, the one-time cost is good forever.
Green wants the user experience to be as visual and simple as possible.
When students log on to the site, the first thing they see is their dashboard. There’s a green button to start an exercise and a blue button to start a practice test. Beneath those is a master graph, which shows how the student’s scores have progressed and how many “merits” they have earned. Students earn merits for completing lessons and hitting score milestones on practice tests.
Rather than make the lessons one exhaustive marathon, the program breaks them into individual tasks. If a student only has 10 minutes in the morning, Green says, she can “hop in, do a little bit, complete the task, and earn the merit.” Once enough tasks are completed in the lesson, the next one will unlock.
Guiding that program is a system Green has perfected over the years. It comes in three phases: First he teaches the material, then he applies it to the tests themselves, and finally he puts kids to the test.
“The real lesson right up front is to figure out those things you don’t know, collect them, document them, and dissect them to death,” he says. Few kids are “bad” at any one subject; they might just struggle with a certain fraction of the concepts.
Once kids have a solid foundation for the material, Green moves on to strategy. Standardised tests have a language all their own, and fluency can be a dealbreaker.
Then the pressure builds as students spend the third phase taking timed exams in real testing conditions. They learn to focus on accuracy, but also speed.
Right now the software functions like a Russian gym, Green says — it might not be pretty, but it works. Later this fall, it will move into its more permanent form, both in look and functionality.
Here’s a mock-up of a student’s dashboard:
At the end of all this, if parents are unhappy with how their kids perform, they will get their money back — no questions asked.
“We’re really trying to set ourselves apart from an industry that, for good reason, people really distrust,” Green says.
In March of 2016, College Board will roll out yet another version of the SAT, the New SAT. Multiple choice questions will come with four answers instead of five, the essay portion will be optional, and sentence completion will be a thing of the past, among other minor changes.
“The beautiful thing,” Green says, “is that it will be a much more predictable exam.”
Which is important, even if the scores don’t mean anything the moment after a student earns acceptance.
“These tests don’t actually predict how you’re going to do in life, and everyone already knows this,” Green says. “The problem is that they’re still the best way colleges have of getting an objective separation between students and their ability levels.”
Some schools see that as a problem. New York University, Wesleyan University, Wake Forest University, and many others have started dropping their SAT and ACT requirements, instead focusing on non-academic traits like an applicant’s passion for community service or her love of dance.
Green isn’t worried. He may be helping kids learn science and maths, but what he’s really selling is the chance to get noticed.
“Unless they quintuple their admissions staff,” he says, “there’s always going to be a need to have a really objective numerical way of figuring out a baseline for students’ academic abilities.”
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