Knewton launches adaptive-learning SAT Prep Course

Knewton, an online test prep company that uses adaptive learning to boost scores on standardized tests, announced today the launch of its new SAT prep course. The company already provides prep courses for the GMAT and LSAT, and now hopes to tap the market of high-pressure parents and overachieving high school students.

The SAT prep course will include live instructors, educational videos and real-time feedback on students’ performance in specific SAT concepts. Overbearing parents can also track their children’s progress with a set of tools designed for them. The course costs $490, (there’s a $290 intro offer).

The courses use adaptive learning technology—a method that serves up questions and resources according to students’ needs based on their past performance. The concept is taken from adaptive learning tests, which serve questions that get harder or easier, depending on a student’s answers. In fact, Knewton’s two chief test designers, Len Swanson and Robert McKinley, helped design those tests: Swanson wrote the scoring algorithms for the adaptive learning tests used by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), which administers the SAT, GRE, and AP tests, and McKinley wrote the algorithms for the ACT.

The potential for adaptive learning technology goes beyond SAT and grad school test prep, and could easily be applied to teaching English grammar, math, and a host of core skill sets in other educational settings. CEO Jose Ferreira says the company is keeping those possibilities on the back burner. “We’ll definitely add other test prep products as well as other direct to consumer offerings. Those may include the after school tutoring or home schooling markets,” Ferreira said over email, “and, yes, we may go after prep for K12 tests but no plans to anytime soon. And we definitely plan to license our platform to other educational groups, especially textbook publishers and schools themselves.”

Online education on the whole has not received a lot of investment dollars, as venture capitalists question the potential for real revenues. However a few sectors such as test prep (Knewton, Grockit, Blackboard, Prepme), language-learning services (Rosetta Stone), and textbook exchanges (Chegg, BookRenter) constitute the low-hanging fruit in the online ed markets.

Knewton has raised $8.5 million from Reid Hoffman, Ron Conway, First Round Capital, and a host of other angel investors and venture capital firms. The company is based in New York City.

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