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Tier One SAT/ACT Program History
My name is Steve Dorfman, and I am a co-founder of Tier One Tutors.
In the summer of 2004, my best friend, Brian Mupo, and I decided to found a tutoring company. Working from my childhood bedroom at my parents’ home in the West San Fernando Valley, we started to lay the groundwork for what would eventually become Tier One Tutors, Inc.
Beginning with just two tutors, we mostly solicited business from friends and family members who lived in the area. However, we quickly made a name for ourselves because of our relentless pursuit for excellence and our commitment to every student.
Although Brian and I saw a lot of potential in tutoring, we had our eyes on a bigger goal. The College Board, creator of the SAT exam, had recently announced it was going to overhaul its flagship exam the following spring, and it planned to release the first batch of practice questions and tests to the public in just a few short months.
Brian and I had extensive experience with the SAT at that point. Brian was a naturally good test-taker and had achieved an impressive score. I had worked hard to earn a good score and then gone on to become the number-one rated tutor in Southern California for one of the largest test prep companies in the world.
When the announcement was made about the new exam, Brian and I saw a wonderful opportunity. We understood that there are two critical things to know and appreciate about the SAT. First, it is a standardized test. Second, its full name is the “SAT I Reasoning Test,” meaning that what it measures –reasoning skill – goes beyond the experience of most students, yet is something teachable.
Armed with these two pieces of information, we began to develop the underpinnings for our SAT prep system. That program was implemented at nearly 100 schools across Southern California, and it has been taught to over 12,000 local students via private tutoring and group classes.
When it came time to tackle the ACT as well as the newly redesigned SAT, we took that very same approach of rigorous research and innovative methodology.
Initially, we began with a simple question: How does the College Board standardize the exam when the questions differ each time the test is offered? There absolutely had to be a consistent way that they developed all questions if they claimed the SAT was a standardized test.
Deciding to “reverse engineer” the exam, we got hold of the thousands of publicly released SAT questions and started to pour over them. Our goal: figuring out the blueprint that the College Board used to write the test. Thus began thousands of hours of intensive and exhaustive research.
Although it was painstaking, the investigation paid off. We were able to carefully piece together the numerous types, styles, and categories of questions that the College Board used to create each SAT exam. Furthermore, because we had so many questions at our disposal, we could break down the questions into their simplest components and have a true understanding of how the exam was made standardized even though it looked different each time it appeared in front of students.
What we found was simply amazing. As it turned out, every single question type on the SAT had a particular “sign” that allowed us to instantly and accurately categorize the question. There was ALWAYS a particular word, phrase, picture, or stylistic component that allowed us to know which category of question this example belonged to. Some of these types only showed up, on average, once every two or three tests. However, one math type showed up on average so often that it actually made up nearly 20% of the math section!
This finding allowed us to take away a tremendous amount of anxiety for students. Oftentimes, what makes the SAT so scary for them is the fear of the unknown. When they sit down to take a test, it looks like 200 questions they have never seen before in their lives. Extensive tutoring will not lead to a large score improvement if the student can’t recognize the questions well enough to implement any of the methods or tricks their tutor taught them!
Our research, however, fixed that problem. Now we were able to give students a set of the simplest instructions possible for them to recognize every question. Whether it was telling them that seeing the word “reflection” in a question would tell you it is Math Question Type 9 or that the phrase “in order to” indicated Reading Question Type 2, we now had cracked the code for students.
But we did not stop there. Once we knew all the categories and types of questions, we jumped head-first back into all the research and started solving each question type in every way we possibly could. Because we had organized all the questions, we were able to solve each question type as many as a hundred times to try out each of the different approaches.
Our main goal, however, was to implement the reasoning aspect of the test. We surmised that if this test intended to measure your critical thinking skills, that meant there should be an approach, method, tip, trick, or other clever device that could be used to solve the question. We understood that a math problem should not need to be solved using complicated equations if in reality the SAT is not a math test, but a reasoning one.
That’s when we developed the second part of our SAT prep method. For every question type, we developed the simplest, quickest, and most clever way to solve the problem.
Our final method combines these two discoveries from our research. First, we teach students how to recognize and identify every question on the exam quickly and accurately. Next, we teach them what their “natural reaction” should be when they see each type. This “natural reaction” is always a simple and clever device that will help a student to get to the right answer in a minimal amount of time.
After a full year of exhaustive research, we had developed the most innovative SAT system ever created. It requires nearly no attention to math review and vocabulary development, and instead allows students to maximize their score utilizing what they already know in combination with our simple and intuitive system.
This system is also so simple and standardized that we are able to train others to teach it for us. What began as just two tutors quickly ballooned, over time, to nearly 80. All of our tutors are specially trained in our methodology, and they learn how to expertly teach each student how to implement it themselves.
Finally, the last step we took to ensure that our process was second-to-none was the development of the FREE in-home SAT, ACT, and college admissions consultation.
No other company in Southern California offers anything like it: I personally come to every prospective family’s home to guide and consult with them over everything from which test their student should take, to how the college application process works – even doing skills assessments and looking over transcripts and practice test scores. Whether a family lives in Palmdale or Rancho Palos Verdes, whether they live in Calabasas or Dana Point, I personally drive to their house and spend as much time as is necessary to make sure they are well-educated in the college admissions process. Families come out of these meetings feeling like they have an accurate understanding of this entire process, allowing them to really trust our expertise. Plus, by spending time with the whole family, it allows me to better determine which of our tutors will best match their student.
Over the years, our unique approach has allowed us to grow organically while continuing to spend our resources on the right things and staying closely involved with each student. This has allowed us to create dynamic and unique programs and course books for the ACT as well as the new SAT. Both were designed and created utilizing the same detailed and methodical approach we implemented on the original SAT program.
Finally, we have also branched out into tutoring any and all subjects pre-college including all languages, sciences, math, AP tests, Subject Tests, ISEE, SSAT, etc. We certify all the tutors through intensive testing to ensure that they are truly experts in their respective fields before allowing them to begin tutoring these different subjects for Tier One. Then, to make sure that parents and students feel comfortable, we send the tutor to your home for a free trial hour. This allows you to get to know the tutor and their teaching style, and it also allows the tutor to do an assessment of your child’s needs.
To learn more, give us a call at 800-998-4371 and ask for me, Steve Dorfman.
Complete the form for more information or to sign-up for your free SAT, ACT and College Admissions Consultation
Complete the form for more information or to sign-up for your FREE trial hour