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SAT Prep: An Interview with Shaan Patel, Founder of Prep Expert and Shark Tank Winner

03/23/2016 04:40 pm ET | Updated Mar 23, 2016

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Have you ever wondered how to achieve higher SAT scores?

I had the pleasure to interview Shaan Patel, founder of Prep Expert (formerly known as 2400 Expert SAT Prep), and winner of ABC's Shark Tank. Mark Cuban signed a deal with Shaan just in time for the release of the new SAT.

Big changes abound for the new SAT, and many are beneficial for incoming college students.

Shaan, I love a great story. Please tell me a bit about your background:

My parents immigrated to the United States from India in the mid-1980's. Before I was born, they landed in Chicago, in hopes my father could work as a pharmacist-transferring his pharmaceutical degree. However, the requirements to work as a pharmacist in Chicago were not equivalent to those in India. Therefore, they moved to Las Vegas and purchased a budget motel. I grew up in my parent's motel and attended local urban public schools, which had a dropout rate of 40 percent. As a young child living in a budget motel, I observed many parents who struggled on a daily basis. I also noticed how many students lost opportunities. Following my father's work ethic, I knew I had to work hard to succeed and to give back the way my parents gave to me.

People called me a genius. I never considered myself a genius; I was and still am motivated and determined to succeed.

Please tell me about your personal SAT experience. How did things transition for you from high school valedictorian to becoming a student at Yale and USC?

My plan was to do my best on the SAT so I could get into the university of my choice. My career goal was, and still is today, to become a physician. I needed a very high SAT score to achieve this mission. The first time I took the SAT, I received a score of 1760. After hours of studying in the library, preparing and identifying patterns for the test, I was able to improve my score from 1760 to a perfect 2400. I was admitted to the most prestigious universities and I won nearly $250,000 in scholarships. I also met the President of the United States. In addition to my work as an entrepreneur, I am currently an MD/MBA student.

Congratulations on your success. Please tell me about the motivation behind your first SAT prep book.

I wanted to give back and help other students. Living in a motel, I knew I could make a difference. Many students who stayed in our motels, dropped out of school to work at casinos on the Vegas Strip. I knew these kids were capable of much more and deserved a chance to rise out of poverty. Before I created 2400 Expert SAT Prep, I tried to sell an SAT manuscript to over 100 agents and publishers; and the manuscript was constantly rejected. However, I never gave up. I piloted a few SAT prep courses in Las Vegas, which resulted in an improvement of 376 points. At first, the courses were challenging to fill, but as word of mouth spread about the increase in test scores, parents began contacting me with requests to build more courses. McGraw-Hill noticed what I was doing and offered me a book deal. Although they originally rejected my first manuscript, they published my first SAT prep book, SAT 2400 in Just 7 Steps.

SAT 2400 in Just 7 Steps has sold over 20,000 copies and has been a #1 bestseller on Amazon for SAT Prep.

You are a big fan of Shark Tank. How did the idea to propose your book and courses to the Sharks arise?

Actually, my roommates at Yale told me I should apply, and I decided to try out. I stood in line for nine hours, among hundreds of other entrepreneurs. A few weeks after the first meeting, Shark Tank called me with a request to send in an eye-catching and creative video pitch. After the video, they invited me to participate in the show.

Please tell me about your experience with Shark Tank and working with Mark Cuban.

It was an overwhelming experience. The initial recording was approximately one hour and thirty minutes. Out of that time, 10 minutes of air-time is actually played out on television. I closed a deal with Mark for $250,000 in exchange for a 20 percent equity stake in my test-prep company. Since working with Mark, the company has expanded into 20 new sites throughout the country. We have grown both online and offline.

Working with Mark is nothing less than amazing. As busy as he is, he takes time to make himself accessible through various means. I can drop him an email or text him through his Cyber Dust application. He is very responsive. He also set me up with a supportive team to make sure our site didn't crash when the show aired. His accounting team takes care of our numbers and books while his business team provides vast marketing and strategic advice for growth. I am very lucky and grateful to have a partner like him.

Shaan, what is one of the best things you've personally experienced with your company?
When students contact me to let me know they were admitted into their desired university, and it was due to the services we provided. There is nothing more spectacular than knowing we are making life-changing differences for young adults, and for our future.
Thriving SAT scores: Further Information

Shaan, can you give us some helpful tips for students who are about to take the new SAT?

Yes, as you know, many students took the redesigned New SAT on March 5th. For the first time in over a decade, the College Board made major changes to the SAT, including going back to a 1600-point scale (instead of 2400).

SAT Scores: Last Minute SAT Prep Tips for the New Test

SAT General Strategy: Don't Flip Back & Forth - Most students approach standardized tests by circling the correct answer in the test booklet, flipping to the answer sheet and bubbling in the answer, and then returning to the test booklet to tackle the next question. This is not the most efficient approach because it wastes time and interrupts the flow of the test. To save time and decrease interruptions, only flip to the answer sheet after you have answered an entire page of questions in your test booklet. For example, if there are five SAT questions on one page of the test booklet, don't flip to the answer sheet to bubble-in answers until you've circled the correct answer to those five questions on that page of the test booklet first. In addition, answering an entire page of SAT questions will increase your confidence to tackle the next page of SAT questions.

SAT Math Strategy: SAP - Substitute Answers in Problem - You can avoid algebra altogether on the SAT Math section when there are variables in the question and numbers in the answer choices. Simply plug in the numbers from the answer choices back into the original algebraic equation to see if the problem works out fine. This strategy is especially effective on the new radioactive decay and exponential growth problems on the New SAT.

SAT Reading Strategy: BOSS - Build (Your) Own Simple Solution - This is the key to unlocking the SAT Reading section. Create your own answer before looking at the answer choices. In order to avoid peeking, cover answer choices with your hand. BOSS solves the biggest problem associated with the SAT section: selecting enticing, but incorrect answer choices. Imagine going on a treasure hunt without knowing what the treasure looks like. If you don't know what you're looking for, then it's hard to find the right item. Similarly, reading through answer choices without knowing what you're looking for can make it hard to find the right answer. BOSS is like having a picture of the treasure!

SAT Writing Strategy: COP - Cross Out Prepositions - Grammar errors are almost never in prepositional phrases. Prepositional phrases only distract you from grammar errors. You can remember many prepositions by thinking of anything a squirrel can do to a log (ex. in, on, out, under, etc.). To quickly identify writing errors, cross out prepositions. By focusing on the simplified sentence that does not contain prepositional phrases, you will be able to identify grammatical writing errors more easily.

For example, let's examine the following sentence: "Until it is managed by a new, more effective, and more understanding administration, the teachers will continue to strike." The pronoun mismatch error between "it" and "teachers" becomes much more apparent when you ignore the prepositional phrase "by a new, more effective and more understanding administration." "Until it is managed, the teachers will continue to strike."

SAT Essay Strategy: Essay Templates - 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, develop a pre-formed essay template that will work for almost any argumentative passage you read on test day. Templates will not only help you write unbelievably powerful essays, but also save you a lot of time other students would waste on test day. SAT graders can't score your essay lower even if they know you're using a template because the SAT is a standardized test. Because the SAT is a standardized test, essay graders must give standardized scores. This means that if you write an essay that is very similar to a perfect-score essay, then you too must get a perfect score. Otherwise, the scores would no longer be comparable, which would ruin the whole point of a standardized exam.

Here is the template for the introduction paragraph that we teach at Prep Expert:
"In [Article Title], [Author Name] synthesizes a compelling dissertation that [Passage's Key Point]. Although some detractors may believe [What Detractors Believe], the arguments set forth in the article dismiss such romantic critics as excessively dogmatic in their provincial ideology. One of the broader notions presented in the essay is that [Major Idea in Article]. [Author's Last Name] deftly delivers a cogent argument to sway his/her readers by [3 CREW SAID Tools]."

Here's how a student could use our introduction essay template when analyzing a passage about the humanities:
"In "The Enduring Value of a Humanities Education," Jane Smith synthesizes a compelling dissertation that knowledge relating to the humanities is indispensable to the progress of society. Although some detractors may believe the advancement of education strictly focused on technology is key to national development, the arguments set forth in the article dismiss such romantic critics as excessively dogmatic in their provincial ideology. One of the broader notions presented in the essay is that an education in the humanities magnifies a person's versatility to be a productive member of society. Smith deftly delivers a cogent argument to sway her readers by citing prominent authorities, implying broad repercussions, and using stark contrast."

The above represents just 5 of the 100 strategies that we teach in our New SAT courses at Prep Expert (formerly 2400 Expert). You can sign up for our SAT classes in 20 cities and online at prepexpert.com


For more information, please visit www.prepexpert.com (use coupon code ROBYNSHULMAN to receive $210.00 off the price of any SAT course). You can also call 1-877-345-PREP for more information.

For more interviews with innovators and Shark Tank winners, please see EdNews Daily or follow me on LinkedIn and Twitter.

I am also an EdTech Though Leader at LinkedIn in the education technology and management channel; you can find more interviews there too!

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