ScoreBeyond, a service that helps students prepare for standardized tests like the SAT, said it has raised $2.8 million in a round led by Khosla Ventures.
The ScoreBeyond app gives students a daily progress report of their skills as they prepare for the test, as well as daily exercises to improve their skills in certain subjects. Dogan has a background in product management for Amazon’s Kindle, which he said inspired him to bring some ideas to the world of test preparation.
“We’re not as engaging as Snapchat, but kids love our version of test prep, which is about 20 minutes a day with expert coaching,” CEO Emrecan Dogan said. “It tells them what they need to work on every day, and what questions are most useful to which students to improve their skills on different subjects.”
Another issue is that there’s a miscommunication between students and parents over their progress, a gap ScoreBeyond hopes will bridge and help parents be more engaged with their children as they study. Parents are given an overview of their children’s progress in order to know what they need to work on, and help them learn or encourage them along the way. The next step, he said, was to build a community of tutors for students.
“Unanimously the parents we worked with, the students and schools, they thought, ‘you are giving great assessment data on what students have to work on, but there’s no way to drive that learning’,” Dogan said. “Students still have to find another solution — like find a tutor to do this. So we thought, what if we also bring tutors to our platform. We are already bringing together parents, teachers, and students to use our data, so we can actually have a tutor community who have access to our student data.”
Part of the reasoning behind building ScoreBeyond was the emergence of test-preparation courses for the ACT, SAT and other standardized tests, he said. Those courses, instead of honing students’ abilities in certain subjects, instead teach them how to be better at taking the standardized test, he said.“Whether the SAT’s amazing, that’s a different question,” he said. “These tests exist because they are an amazing way to test students’ masteries of a subject. The SAT is designed to measure skills you would use in college–math, writing, and understanding grammar. But it was designed in 2004 and receives a lot of criticism in the US. And the way you prep for it, you don’t actually learn the subject, you learn to game the system. All these test prep courses get $1,000 from parents and it becomes a game of what are the 27 tricks to get a high score without knowing about grammar.”
Still, Dogan said he believes in standardized tests as a way to figure out a student’s abilities as they apply to universities and programs around the world and in the United States. And for that reason, there’s an opportunity for a service like ScoreBeyond to help properly prepare students for these kinds of tests, instead of learning how to figure out how to game the test-taking process, he said.
“At the end I believe [in] the value of [standardized] tests, they are an amazing assessment tool to see [where students are in their academic progress],” Dogan said. “But in terms of the quality of the test, it’s to determine important whether I am taking a personal view or a policy makers view. I understand at the policy level how much these kinds of tests [work to gauge students], but that answer would be very different from a personal view. But if I take the policy-maker standpoint, I am forced to agree.”