Manger-Weil '80 cited for SAT tutoring success

| 11/7/11 11:00pm

The National Higher Education Association named Harvey Manger-Weil '80 the "Best SAT Tutor in America" on Nov. 3, Manger-Weil said in an interview with The Dartmouth. After 30 years of working with high school students, Manger-Weil said he has devised a system that significantly raises students' scores in less time than any other tutor in the country, averaging a 310-point improvement in as few as five sessions.

The self-proclaimed "college wizard" said he was "surpised" to receive the honor, and that although there was no monetary award, he was pleased by the recognition. What began as a hobby while he was an undergraduate at the College in the 1970s has transformed into a 30-year venture and a full-time profession, he said.

Manger-Weil "reverse-engineered" and simplified the varied and complex SAT question types into seven cardinal rules, which, if followed explicity, should enable SAT-takers to score a perfect 2400, Manger-Weil said.

"The real trick is to get so good at the process that you can duplicate it on the real test," Manger-Weil said.

Manger-Weil's website advertises a potential "700 point SAT score gain in only five weeks," for students who use his services.

"A girl came to me last year with a 1400 and a basketball scholarship on the line if she did not reach an 1800," Weil said. "This was November of her senior year, and she had five weeks. She could either get an 1800 and go to a four-year college with scholarship or go to community college. In five weeks, she jumped from a 1400 to a 2100."

Manger-Weil said he uses Skype to communicate with his student instead of traditional in-person consults. This tactic enables him to reach out to students from New Mexico to Dubai and allows students to adjust their schedule from week to week, he said.

"Because my method is very Socratic, not being able to see my student does not make a difference in communicating," he said.

Manger-Weil only assigns College Board-issued practice tests and not those from SAT guidebooks, he said. By the fifth session, students are usually "self-correcting" by recognizing their own mistakes and identifying which of Manger-Weil's cardinal rules they have violated.

The real challenge in tutoring is "getting inside the kid's head," according to Manger-Weil. He does not utilize a standard curriculum for tutoring, but instead tailors his five-course session to the specific needs of the student, he said.

"I do not work with the student until after he has taken the first practice exam," Manger-Weil said. "I focus on the questions he got wrong, which is representative of his weaknesses."

Manger-Weil said his method allows him to be more efficient and to more accurately diagnose the particular issue at hand. Manger-Weil attributes his success to having "the advantage of tutoring more for the love of it than money," he said.

"Some tutors think I'm making these numbers up when they see them," he said. "It works because I have the patience and commitment it takes, and a personal stake in the kids."

Manger-Weil's "quirky" persona and easygoing manner make him both an effective tutor and a great motivator, according to Roseann, a parent whose daughter, Kate, was tutored by Manger-Weil. Roseann wished to remain anonymous due to her daughter's ongoing college application process.

"He does really well because he knows how to take the pressure off of the student," Roseann said. "He has seen an awful lot of kids applying to good schools and knows that at some point, it's not about talent but luck. He does a good job communicating that to his students."

Manger-Weil calls himself a "surrogate parent" who functions as not only a tutor, but a coach and psychologist as well.

Although Manger-Weil's limited resources and time cause him to be selective when agreeing to work with students, he said he does not turn students away because they have special needs. Weil has worked with students with ADHD, autism and Asperger's Syndrome, among other processing disorders.

"The same rules work just as well with valedictorians as kids who are B or C students," Manger-Weil said.

Helping to improve the resumes of struggling college applicants makes his work "fulfilling," according to Manger-Weil.

"I interviewed so many brilliant kids who weren't getting in because of poor SAT scores," Weil said. "I wanted to develop a method no one else has, one that would be more effective."

Manger-Weil graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Dartmouth in 1980 and majored in philosophy, according to his LinkedIn profile.