Local product, Yale grad extends ACT knowledge to students

By Brittany Abeijon

A perfect ACT score took Daniel Thies from Champaign Central High School to Yale University, and now back to Champaign for the summer to teach an ACT/SAT test preparation class to high school students in the area.

Thies is part of a program called Ivy Insiders, an exclusive group of Ivy League graduates or students that teach test prep classes. Thies is the only Ivy Insider in the Champaign area this summer.

His two week classes begin June 30 and will continue through the summer. Thies said he is planning on holding the classes at Champaign Central High School but is waiting for the confirmation.

His basic class, called Touchstone, is $450 which includes 15 hours of lecture instruction, four practice tests, online support and office hours so students can come in for one-on-one help. Thies is also teaching a more personal course, rightly titled Personal Solutions, for $850. This course includes everything in the Touchstone course plus small group sessions and one-on-one diagnostic sessions.

Thies said he is teaching both ACT and SAT classes but both focus on the same theories when approaching standardized tests. The main idea is that there are only a certain number of concepts and when the larger portions are broken down, students can emphasize different skills to improve their scores.

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“Something that sets us apart is what we call the game theory. This focuses on using strategies, like a game. For example, in the SAT, questions go from easy to hard in each section. If the last question in a section appears to have an easy intuitive answer, then you are probably wrong,” Thies said.

Thies said that another thing that sets his course apart from other standard courses offered through high schools is that all of the instructors are Ivy League graduates who have placed in the 99th percentile for these tests, as opposed to the Kaplan instructors who only have to be in the 90th percentile.

“Many of our instructors are students themselves or recent graduates and they connect with students easier than older adult instructors,” Thies said.

After preparing with an Ivy Insider course, students are expected to have an ACT improvement of four points, and a SAT improvement of 300 points, 100 per section, he said.

Thies admits that he didn’t take any kind of test prep class, he simply took it cold, and got a 36. But he said since then, there is a lot of pressure on the score alone.

“(ACT score) is something colleges won’t admit you solely on, but they will reject you because of,” he said.

Thies offers advice to stressed out students struggling with the ACT/SAT.

“Many people think the ACT/SAT tests your intelligence, but that is not true,” he said. “(Students) can improve their scores if they work on it. Don’t stress, just prepare and get ready.”