Altair Prep: SAT test prep for high achievers to launch Philly classes this summer, new online tutoring system

In a world where there are so-called ‘tiger moms,’ it seems that there are tiger SAT test-takers, too. That’s the demographic SAT test prep startup Altair Prep is catering to when they bring their online Stream SAT tutoring technology and in-person classes to Philadelphia area high school students this summer. Or as cofounder Darwish Gani […]

In a world where there are so-called ‘tiger moms,’ it seems that there are tiger SAT test-takers, too.

That’s the demographic SAT test prep startup Altair Prep is catering to when they bring their online Stream SAT tutoring technology and in-person classes to Philadelphia area high school students this summer.

Or as cofounder Darwish Gani refers to the customers he’s looking to target “high achievers.”

“We don’t want to segregate and prevent admission because if you looked at my original SAT score, you might not think I was a good fit for Altair Prep. When in reality, I was the perfect fit,” Gani said. “We just need kids who are willing to work harder than their peers and are very motivated.”

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Gani, 20, says he came up with the idea for Altair Prep while working as a student SAT tutor at Northwestern.

“I first proposed the idea of having a SAT class created for smart kids – as we had some of the smartest undergraduate tutors in the Chicago area,” Gani said. “We launched an accelerated SAT class that summer in Chicago and had a lot of success.”

He and fellow Northwestern student Salil Kumar, 21, asked Abhi Ramesh, 20, an old friend and student at UPenn to join them in starting the business. They set about engineering the Altair SAT curriculum and patching together 15 college tutors from their alma maters as well as Princeton and Georgia Tech. All of them, Gani emphasized, ranked in the 99.5 percentile and above on their SATs.

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They then began matching tutors with intelligent, motivated students who wanted a more rigorous SAT prep course than what Gani says is available at larger, more well known SAT prep companies like Kaplan and Princeton Review.

“With the SAT re-constructed 5 or 6 years ago, students are often getting tutors who haven’t even taken the same test they did. Also, some companies have tutors of the SAT in the top “95%,” Gani said. “Some of my friends took these courses and scored better than their teachers.”

But rigor is not the only thing that Gani says is unique about Altair’s approach.

Stream, Altair’s complementary online tutoring system, will launch this summer and vastly improve the way students practice for the SATs, Gani says. The system is built on complex problem categorization system that allows Stream to identify both the type of problem missed and the reason why a student missed the problem, Gani told Techniaclly Philly.

“Altair’s Stream attacks your weaknesses in an immediate and precise way,” Gani said. “Stream makes it tough to miss a problem twice and ensures that you get a completely comprehensive test prep experience.”

Altair also offers custom-assigned 30-60 minute online Office Hours, a feature that Gani says was inspired by the familiar teaching method used in most colleges.

Although Altair’s classes first launched in Chicago and Atlanta, launching in the Philadelphia market seemed like an obvious next target since half of Altair’s leadership are Penn students. In addition to Ramesh, Wharton undergraduate Ashwin Muthiah, 19, serves as Regional Director.

The startup was also recently accepted to the Wharton Venture Initiation Program (VIP). But Muthiah, who will oversee classes in Atlanta and New Haven in addition to Philly, says the location of Altair’s headquarters is yet to be determined.

“We think the Philly area is a great one, and we hope to always have a very strong tie to Wharton students and so I think we hope to always be strong players in the local Philly area, regardless of where we are physically located,” Muthiah said.

Muthiah says that Altair currently tutors about 15 Philadelphia high school students, but expect about 100 highly motivated students to register for classes and tutoring this summer. Registration in Philadelphia is expected to go live next week, Muthiah told Technically Philly.

Altair Prep is an unusual pitch in an environment that tends to be more concerned with getting its high schoolers to graduation than making sure students get perfect SAT scores.

But if you’re going to pay for your child’s SAT prep anyway, it may be worth giving Altair’s customized and high intensity a curriculum a try — whether you’re a tiger mom of a tiger student, or not.

To learn about the classroom courses Altair plans to launch in Philadelphia this summer click here.

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