Dana Zou

East Meadow High School (Class of 2020)
Cornell University (Class of 2024)

Not going to lie: I was pretty skeptical of Accelerate Academy, just as I always was with the test preparation industry in general. I thought classes here were going to be just like the other cram schools I had attended. At the risk of sounding repetitive (since apparently everyone has experienced the same pain, dreariness, and ineffectiveness of test prep), teachers essentially babysit their students, watch them silently work on problems, and then provide solutions to the work. Repeat that same procedure for the rest of the semester: that is test prep in a nutshell. I was fully prepared to suffer through a year’s worth of Saturdays with yet another prep school for hours on end. But oh, how wrong I was.

My first impression of Andrew was mixed: he seemed a bit young and intimidating, yet personable enough to keep us students engaged. I learned pretty quickly, however, that my preconceived notions of test prep couldn’t be applied to Accelerate. As many before me have conveyed, Andrew actually teaches. He built our vocabulary and emphasized specific reading strategies so that we critically read, as opposed to superficially read. He thoroughly addressed the major grammar rules covered on the writing section, quite the help considering most schools—not just test prep places—don’t even bother teaching grammar. He covered all the math topics needed for the math section, surprisingly doing so without boring all of us to death (the birthday paradox was a personal favorite). He adds flair into each of his lessons, supplementing his PowerPoints with modern day humor or sarcastic, witty comments. It made the classroom seem a tad brighter and more comfortable, which truly made all the difference. He does enjoy teasing his students (I was always part of the main cast), but nothing too serious—just some good fun.

All in all, I’ve never had a teacher quite like Andrew. The way he manages to enrapture the attention of all his students, the way he pokes fun at us, yet still focusing on the lesson, the way he treats us like equals—all of this makes him effective. He is always encouraging us to push harder, to strive for more, to avoid being too satisfied. As tired as we were of one another after 2 semesters of SAT class, I even enlisted his help in my college application process, strengthening my college essays over the span of 3 months. Working with Andrew, I managed to achieve a high-enough SAT score and admittance into my top choice for college (we’ll see where COVID-19 takes us from here, though).

A word of advice for future Accelerate students: all those hours and days spent studying and cramming for your exam will be worth it. If you put in the hard work and listen to Andrew’s advice, you will make it, perhaps with more success than you expected.