October 24, 2018

Prep course apps for 21st-century applicants

Acceptance into college or graduate school in the United States necessitates taking a standardized exam. Taking a standardized exam pretty much necessitates taking a prep course costing as much as $1,500.

At least, it did until now.

LTG Exam Prep Platform, founded by Israeli high-tech entrepreneur Elad Shoushan, offers free Android and iOS apps to help applicants prepare for standardized admissions tests with a personalized course they can do at their own pace and even on the go.

The apps’ adaptive algorithms identify each user’s strengths and weaknesses, offering a range of features to reinforce strengths, build confidence and gauge progress.

“We see this as the natural evolution of traditional prep courses,” Shoushan said. “Today’s students are digital, mobile natives. It makes sense to have a learning experience that is tailored to the way they experience all of the media in their lives — on a device, on demand, and in small bites.”

The product line includes Prep4SAT, Prep4ACT, Prep4PSAT, Prep4GMAT, Prep4GRE and Prep4MCAT.

“Our biggest share is in the U.S., of course, but our apps are being used by students from over 9,000 cities in 190 countries,” Shoushan said. 

The company grew out of Shoushan’s own experience as an international student from Israel. In 2012, while working as a software engineer, he decided to apply to business schools in the United States.

“My biggest pain point was that I was fully employed and wanted to study during my commute, without having to carry books,” he said. “Also, the process of applying was super expensive, and I wanted an affordable solution for preparing for the GMAT.”

Shoushan discovered that all the material needed was available for free online but nobody had curated it. So he set himself a goal of gathering and categorizing all that content and making it accessible, personalized and affordable — something the big prep-course companies weren’t keen on doing because it would cannibalize their classroom-based business.

Shoushan was therefore at the cutting edge of what would become the ed-tech revolution. “We’re pioneers in mobile learning,” the 33-year-old said.

When he got accepted to Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management for September 2012, he quit his job and set up shop in his mother-in-law’s garage near Caesarea. There, he coded the Prep4GMAT app by himself and launched it that August.
“Releasing a mobile app is a first step, but almost any kid can do it,” he said. “Not many can make a business out of it.”

Shoushan incorporated LTG in October 2013. 

“The company came together while I was at Sloan,” he said. “That’s where I developed the strategy and business plan.”

Today, he employs 40 people, half in Tel Aviv and half in Boston. LTG raised $5.3 million in Series A financing earlier this year from Square Peg Capital and other investors.

“The technology we’re building is not just an app but a sophisticated learning management system — the first in the world of its kind,” Shoushan said. “The apps are generic, and we can launch new ones relatively quickly.”

LTG introduced two new products this year: Leaderboard, enabling students to connect and compare their progress with other applicants to the same schools; and School Matcher, an algorithm that provides suggestions of schools most relevant to the user. Participating schools pay a fee for these services; they’re free to users, as is most everything else about the apps.

“The main product is comprised of a full course of 55 lessons with 800 questions, 500 concepts to study, and 300 to 400 test questions,” Shoushan said. “Recently we launched two additional tests they can pay $5 for.”

Optionally, students can use the app to connect with private tutors. 

“We recommend them, but we have no business ties with them,” Shoushan said. “We selected top tutors in each region in the world, based on credentials, including their students’ results.”

Rather than thumb his nose at traditional prep-course providers, Shoushan initiated discussions with them and with the nonprofit College Board and Educational Testing Services.

The Princeton Review, one of the main admissions prep-course providers in the United States, has endorsed and recommended LGT and granted the company access to its prep content for the MCAT (medical school admission test).

“We understand the needs of students in today’s world,” said Shoushan, a former Israeli pro basketball player with a bachelor’s degree from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. “In a consumer product, you can add value by saving time or money, and we believe we’re saving both.”

Square Peg Capital’s Philippe Schwartz added, “LTG has steadfastly committed to leveraging mobile to put the power in the hands of 21st-century students. The team has the potential to reshape not only how every student prepares for standardized test prep but also how students navigate their journey through higher education, and we’re proud to be a part of that.”