From Test Prep to Enrollment — How Ready4 Cofounder Elad Shoushan Transformed His GMAT Experience Into an Innovative Test Prep Solution
Everyone knows that the road to university goes through a gauntlet of standardized testing. For grad school in particular, your score on a test such as the GMAT or GRE can be the difference between getting into your top choice and scrambling for your second or third options. For this reason, test prep has become a massive industry, serving learners with books, videos, and courses on improving one’s score on standardized tests.
But like most industries that have been around for decades, test prep was ripe for disruption — its materials the and mediums through which they were delivered had not caught up to the modern age. Elad Shoushan, cofounder of Ready4, learned this himself while he was preparing for the GMAT. His own experience in preparing for the test eventually led him to start Ready4, a solution that would help students prepare for tests on their own terms.
In this interview, Elad told us about the key problems the test prep industry continues to face, how Ready4 is more than just a test prep solution, and how universities can adopt new technology more efficiently.
Give us your elevator pitch for Ready4.
Ready4 is the personalized test prep and readiness company. We want to be the go-to app for every undergraduate and graduate student for everything from test prep to enrollment. We are also helping universities connect with prospective students early on in the admissions process to build an early relationship with the right students for their programs.
You’ve said in the past that the catalyst for Ready4 was your own struggle with getting a good score on the GMAT, and the inadequacy of the study materials out there. For such an important and common test, why have study materials been so disorganized and inaccessible?
As you mentioned, through my personal experience with the GMAT exam I learned that there are two major problems in the test prep space: the content is mediocre and there is no good mobile-first test prep app.
Looking at the first problem, there are some big corporations in the space that have developed test prep content for many years, yet they take the one-size-fits-all approach where content is created for the average GMAT student and not for the ambitious ones. Also, the content is not personalized so it isn’t adapted to every student’s knowledge level. Yet, we know today that every learner is different — they’re each starting at a certain knowledge level and aiming to get to a target knowledge level.
As for the second problem, the delivery of the content itself has also been a big issue. Test prep has been around for 70 years, yet it’s still being delivered today in the form of big books. There aren’t many great comprehensive test prep digital tools that are accessible anytime, anywhere. Many students still need to carry huge books around.
My vision was to mobilize test prep — to make test prep personalized to every learner through mobile so it’s accessible anytime, anywhere. Convenience is huge, and mobile devices make it easier to study on your own schedule.
When I was preparing for the GMAT, I was already working full time, and I wanted to study on my own time with great study materials that are accessible 100% of the time. I also wanted the content to be personalized to my knowledge level. As a non-native speaker, I wanted a system that will allow me to focus on the verbal section of the test.
What was the big pain point you set out to solve for universities?
At some point, we started a dialogue with universities and learned about their set of challenges. We learned that they need help with connecting with prospective students earlier, as well as finding students who fit each university’s ideal candidate profile.
With our test prep apps, we engage with students early in the process of admissions. We learn about students by having them tell us where they want to go to school, what they want to do post graduation, location of the schools they want to attend, and other data points.
Thus, using big data, we’ve developed a matching algorithm that helps students identify the right schools for them AND for schools to connect with the right prospective students, making it easier for universities to build relationships early before their decision-making process.
We’re looking at a much bigger problem — 40% of higher-ed students don’t graduate, and universities ask an important question: “why does this happen?” One reason is the matching process. Prospective students don’t always have all the information to make the right school choice. They don’t consider factors like academics, student life, location, and other key factors. We believe that if we can help students and universities with the initial matching process, we will be able to improve the dropout rate.
Broadly speaking, how is higher-education changing in the tech/software and social media driven world?
I’ve participated in many higher education conferences and learned that we’re on the verge of a huge change. And it’s fascinating.
One trend is online learning. The university model is not going to look the same in 10 years. Access to online courses will continue to grow as people feel more comfortable with online degrees, remote learning, so they can to continue their lives wherever they are. Virtual classrooms are becoming common norm.
The second big trend is skill-based learning. Of the students that graduate, 50%-60% won’t find jobs in the field they studied, leading them to ask, “So what’s the role of universities if not to help you find a job?” Universities have been around for hundreds of years. One of their core functions is to provide students with an opportunity to network and get a stamp of validation. Universities will still play a huge role in credentialization, and online content will facilitate that by giving more people an opportunity to be lifelong learners for relatively cheap.
What should universities be doing to stay on top of all of these new media/internet/platform trends?
There are so many solutions for higher education that are out there today. It’s hard to pick the solutions that will improve learning outcomes. In general, universities should be looking for data validations around improvement of learning outcomes. As a recommendation, I’d strongly suggest to go to conferences and learn about new technology solutions and how they have been applied to universities.
Universities can also learn from corporations who keep small independent teams that constantly test new technologies on a small scale, learning which ones can be integrated efficiently to the entire corporation. Universities can try this approach — try new technology platforms and learn about outcomes on a small scale before applying them to the entire school.
What are some of the results your customers are seeing so far?
On the test prep side, we’ve prepared over two million students. We get strong results that moderately engaged learners improve their scores by 15–20%. Whenever students invest time to prepare for a standardize test using our platform, they see learning outcomes improve.
On the university side, we are working with over 55 universities, connecting them with prospective students. As of today, many of our clients have seen a bump in interest of prospective students in their programs. About enrollments, we still need to see more data to know for sure that we improved enrollments. It usually takes about a year before you can really get an accurate conclusion.
Read the rest of our Boston’s Most Exceptional EdTech series here:
- Part 1: David Kozhuk, cofounder of uConnect
- Part 2: Pranam Lipinski, cofounder of Door of Clubs
- Part 3: Jackson Boyar, cofounder of Shearwater
If you liked this interview, check out our Future-Forward Fashion Foundersseries, featuring interviews with notable founders from Boston’s fashion/apparel industry.
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