Our College-Prep Expert Interview series gives parents and students an opportunity to meet an expert who can help them on their college-bound journey. We ask each expert how they got into the business of college-prep, why their work is so important and to share their biggest tips and tricks!
Company: Tutor Ted, Inc.
Location: Los Angeles, CA (and online)
Catchphrase: Tutor Ted: non-boring test prep since 2000!
Why we interviewed Ted: He provides non-boring SAT and ACT prep! The Tutor Ted philosophy keeps students energized, motivated, and (gasp!) entertained while they study for standardized tests.
Let’s start with the big question, what do you do?
Tutor Ted provides non-boring SAT and ACT prep! Improving your test scores is serious business, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy yourself along the way. Students learn more when they are engaged, so we work to keep our test prep as non-boring, and therefore as productive, as possible.
How long have you been working in the college-prep world?
I started helping others with their entrance exams while I was a senior in college. That was in 2000. I remember the voicemail my first-ever student left after she scored 110 points higher on the Reading on her real SAT. I have been hooked on test prep ever since.
How did you get into this work?
The short answer is that I have always been a natural on these tests. I remember taking a test when I was five years old—it was a kindergarten entrance test—and thinking to myself, “this is fun and easy!” The start of a lifelong journey, I guess. Later, once I’d scored a perfect 1600 on the SAT in high school and gone to Princeton, I had a reputation that allowed me to find students.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned through your experience?
That test prep is as much about anxiety management as it is about knowledge and strategies. I tell students and parents about that component sometimes, but more often we work at it tacitly. Once students know what to expect on the test—the knowledge they need and the strategies to deploy it—that solves the anxiety component.
Why is your work so important?
Students applying to college are making one of their first “grown-up” decisions. It’s our job to support them. That’s a responsibility we take very seriously. We have to give them the most effective prep, and we have to do it now, in order to open as many doors to them as possible.
Who is your typical client?
Our clients are 15 to 18 years old college-bound high school students. Their parents are the customers, I suppose, since they’re pretty much always paying for our services. We provide services to both students and parents too… for the students, it’s test prep, and for the parents, it’s anxiety relief!
What have you found your clients struggle with the most?
Sometimes the road to improvement is rocky! No one, including us, likes to see a disappointing practice test result. When the news isn’t good, we have to all take stock of what’s going on in order to identify the issue. The good news is that we all have the same goal, so we are often able to work together to come up with a solution.
What is the most important piece of advice you give them?
The most important piece of advice I give students is that they are working to get better at taking this particular test. They will get some marginal benefits, like learning how to punctuate a sentence in their own writing, but for the most part they are getting trained to jump through a particular hoop called the SAT or ACT. These are not tests of your intelligence, in other words—rather, they are tests of how good you are at taking that particular test.
Do you have any tips or tricks to share with families on the college-bound journey?
Know your enemy. The goal of test prep is to get to the point that when you open the test booklet, you know EXACTLY what to expect. Put in the time and energy to get to that point—that’s my advice. Oh! And learn the rules of grammar. You might think you know them already, but take a little time to learn the technical aspects. Knowing that stuff will improve your test scores AND make you a better writer.
What is your favorite college-prep resource?
My favorite resources, hands down, are retired practice tests. That makes the official test prep books from College Board and ACT pretty much essential (though you can now get all of College Board’s tests online through Khan Academy). There are also some, ahem, not-necessarily-legal websites that host PDFs of previously administered exams. I am not affiliated with those sites at all, but they do exist and they are helpful.
What is one thing that makes what you do unique?
We care deeply about the “non-boring” aspect of our test prep. That doesn’t mean that working on a test will always be super fun or anything, I should tell you, but it does tell you how important we think engagement is. If you don’t have it, I think you are wasting your time. Time is short, so let’s get engaged with this process!
What’s your favorite thing to do in your free time?
Ooooh! Fun question. I would have to say that music is my top passion outside of work. I know everyone says, “I like all different kinds of music!” Well, I literally do like all different kinds of music. I’m an opera subscriber. I think Kendrick Lamar is a freaking genius. I just bought two vinyl compilations of “country funk” that I can highly recommend. And my favorite genre is contemporary classical. So I am going to boldly claim that I like all different kinds of music.
Anything else we should know?
I think we got it all covered! 🙂