If you're like me and your frame of reference for the SAT is that a 1600 is a perfect score (not that I came close to achieving a perfect score) then on March 5 college testing will once again seem familiar when it shifts back 2400 being a perfect score back to the more familiar 1600 scale.
That's both bad news and good news for Shaan Patel and, by extension, Mark Cuban.
Shaan grew up in Las Vegas and attended a public school with a 40% dropout rate. After receiving an average score on his first practice SAT, he virtually lived in the library and spent hundreds of hours preparing for the SAT. Eventually he raised his score to a perfect 2400; out of 15 million students who have taken the 2400-version, only 3,000 achieved a perfect score (making him a .02-percenter.)
"My SAT score changed my life," Shaan says. "I was accepted by prestigious universities, won a quarter million dollars in college scholarships, and even got to meet the President of the United States."
While in college he decided to write an SAT prep book to help other students prepare for the SAT the same way he did. But after his book proposal was rejected by over one hundred literary agents and publishers he decided to start 2400 Expert, a test-preparation company that offers 6-week SAT & ACT prep courses to help students improve their scores.
After his pilot course resulted in an average SAT score improvement of 376 points, demand for the service skyrocketed. So he trained instructors and hired staff to continue to run his courses while he attended medical school at the University of Southern California.
Ironically, after McGraw-Hill, the world's largest education publisher (and one of the many that had rejected his initial book proposal) saw what he was doing with 2400 Expert, they offered him a book deal and SAT 2400 In Just 7 Steps went on to sell over 20,000 copies and become a #1 bestseller on Amazon for SAT prep.
The success of 2400 expert helped him decide to take a two-year leave of absence from USC med school so he could enter Yale's business school and learn how to grow his company.
And last year he auditioned for Shark Tank, made the show, and closed a deal with Mark Cuban for $250,000 in exchange for 20% equity in his company.
Swimming in the Shark Tank
"I went into the Tank overconfident, even cocky," Shaan says. "I was certain that I'd get multiple offers from the Sharks."
But he came back to reality very quickly.
"While it wasn't aired on the show, Cuban was actually the first Shark to tear me apart. 'You're 25 now,' he said. 'But what about when you're 45? There's going to be a new guy. And that guy is going to outwork you.'"
"So I was bummed from the minute I walked in," Shaan says, "because Mark was the Shark I really wanted to partner with."
Soon the other Sharks dropped out, mostly due to concerns that Shaan was attending school while running a business.
"My initial confidence was totally gone," Shaan says. "And since Mark hadn't spoken for about an hour I was sure he was out. But suddenly he showed interest not only in investing in this business but in future businesses, too.
"I couldn't have asked for a better - or more dramatic - experience in the Tank."
Once the deal closed, Cuban's investment and strategic partnerships have helped Shaan grow the company to 20 cities as well as online.
"The great thing about Mark is that he has an entire team set up to help support you," Shaan says. "His web team made sure our site didn't crash when the show aired, his accounting team has taken over our books, and his business team provides strategic and marketing advice.
"Plus Mark makes himself readily accessible. I can contact him any time on e-mail or Cyber Dust and get an almost immediate response."
How and Why the SAT Is Changing
On March 5th, the SAT goes back to a 1600 format, the scoring scale it is famously known for. But there are other changes too.
While the subjects tested remain the same (math, reading, writing, and an essay), many of the changes are designed to benefit students:
· the elimination of obscure vocabulary words
· no penalty for wrong answers
· four answer choices instead of five
· more time per question
· the essay portion is optional
Why has the College Board made those changes? They claim the new SAT will better measure what high school students have learned, but Patel doesn't feel that's the whole story.
"If there's one rule in business, it's follow the money," Patel says. "In 2012, for the first time ever, more students took the ACT (1.67 million) than the SAT (1.66 million) because there was a perception among students that the ACT was easier than the SAT. The timing of the announcement is ironic: in December 2012, the College Board learned that more students took the ACT, and in February 2013 they announced the SAT will be changing.
"Many of the changes to the new SAT are designed to make it an easier exam, and those changes should lead to more students taking the new SAT once they realize it's easier than the ACT."
But Returning to the 1600 Scale Requires a Rebrand
"The major benefit of changing our name," Shaan says, "is that "Prep Expert" allows us to be more flexible when we expand into providing test preparation for other tests like ACT, GMAT, MCAT, GRE, etc.
"The major drawback of changing our name is that had built quite a brand under 2400 Expert, especially since we appeared on Shark Tank under that name. I'm also concerned about our SEO taking a hit as we shift our domain from 2400expert.com to prepexpert.com."
How to Succeed on the New SAT
No SAT-related article is complete without tips for preparation. Here are Shaan's:
1. SAT General Strategy
Follow the 1,000 question rule. To excel, practice with 1,000 SAT questions. You should also review those 1,000 SAT questions because just as as the practice itself is understanding why you got certain questions wrong and what you can do the next time to make sure you don't get similar problems wrong.
The College Board only has a limited number of concepts and question types it can ask on the SAT. If you practice and review 1,000 questions, you will be sufficiently prepared for test day.
2. SAT Math Strategy
Remember SAT: Substitute Abstracts (with) Tangibles. To avoid doing algebra on the SAT, create your own numbers (tangibles) to plug in for variables (abstracts).
This strategy is applicable to algebra, geometry, proportions, etc. Our minds prefer working with tangibles (numbers) over abstracts (variables). The number 2 is often a simple and easy number to plug in.
3. SAT Reading Strategy
Watch out for extreme language. Extreme answer choices are typically incorrect on the SAT Reading test because test question writers must be able to defend why correct answers are in fact correct. Answer choices with milder language are easier to defend than answer choices with extreme language.
Here are some examples of extreme language:
· throughout history
· throughout the ages
Answer choices that include the words and phrases above are generally - not always, but generally - incorrect.
4. SAT Writing Strategy
Watch out for "99% wrong words and phrases." There are certain words and phrases that are almost always (99% of the time) incorrect on the SAT grammar section, including:
· for the reason
· is because
· is the reason why
· is why
The above are typically incorrect because they create passive voice or redundancy issues.
5. SAT Essay Strategy
Although the essay section is technically optional, many competitive colleges will require students to submit their new SAT score with the essay. The New SAT requires students to write an analysis essay based on an argumentative passage that they read.
To have a competitive advantage over other students on the SAT Essay, use the acronym CREW SAID to recall eight common argumentative tools that authors use to support their arguments. By analyzing the SAT Essay passage using CREW SAID, you take a lot of the guesswork out of determining how to build your argument on test day.
C - Contrast: when an author highlights differences between two items
R - Repercussions: when an author points out the far-reaching consequences of his/her argument
E - Emotion: when an author attempts to make an emotional appeal to the reader
W - Word Choice: when an author purposefully uses certain language in order to build his or her argument
S - Similarity: when an author highlights similarities between two items
A - Authority: when an author cites an expert or influencer to add clout to his or argument
I - Imagery: when an author paints a picture using words
D - Data: when an author uses statistics or numerical evidence