Meet Brilliant Prep
Ratnakar Poduri, Co-Founder and CEO of Brilliant Education Group, is a teacher, author, and engineer with a mission to help students advance their lives through education. He knows how important solid SAT and ACT performance is to a college career, having aced the tests himself. After earning a Master of Science in Mathematics from Indiana University, he spent 17 years teaching and 17 years in management consulting at Hewlett Packard, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, and Accenture. Using a comprehensive approach that goes far beyond the basic materials found in typical test prep, he has personally prepared 1100 students to follow his example on their SATs/ACTs.
Robert Schombs is the Co-Founder and COO of Brilliant Education Group. He is a graduate of Cornell University, having earned a Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry and Master of Arts in Science and Technology Studies. He has been teaching students for almost twenty years and has taught SAT, ACT, math, chemistry, and writing. He tutored for the Princeton Review and designed and taught a writing course at Cornell. He began teaching SAT and ACT classes in 2004, and in 2011 he started Reason Prep, a test prep YouTube channel that has been viewed for almost 10 million minutes.
Murli Manickam is the Co-Founder and Chairman of the Board, and Strategy Advisor for Brilliant Education Group. He has spent 25+ years in executive and management positions for Global 50 firms and startups. He uses his experience as an entrepreneur and startup consultant. His successes earned interest from multiple global technology conferences where he is invited to present white papers. He has spent years as a mentor, teacher and coach for higher education students at places like Blinn College. He has held board and advisory roles at companies like Cliqr (Acquired by Cisco), Innowera, RCI, Pinnacle Seven and others. He has a heart of technology and mind of business, which is reflected in all his ventures. He earned his MS in Computer/Electrical Engineering from Texas A&M University.
More About Rob
I’m Rob, Co-Founder of Brilliant Prep, creator of these videos, and your test prep tutor.
Also pictured is my beagle, Mr. Pibb. He didn’t help with the site that much, but maybe he’ll star in one of my videos one day.
This section is for you to get to know me a little bit. I’ve written it in an FAQ format, so let me know if you have any other questions for me to answer!
Where did you go to school?
I graduated from a public high school on Long Island in 2002 and then attended Cornell University, where I got a BA in Chemistry in 2006. I stayed at Cornell to finish a Master’s in Science and Technology Studies.
How long have you been tutoring?
My tutoring experience goes back all the way to high school, where I peer tutored students of all ages in math and science. My professional tutoring career started in college when I worked for the Princeton Review teaching SAT prep classes for three summers.
During graduate school, I designed and taught my own First-Year Writing Seminars. These are basic writing courses that all incoming freshmen must take. The course I created was called “Science and Nazism.” You can check out the syllabus here.
In 2010 I started tutoring SAT, math, chemistry, and writing full-time. The videos and site came a year later, and I’ve been working on this project ever since!
What did you get on your SAT/ACT?
I took the “Old SAT” in 2001 when there were only two sections – Math and Verbal – and a perfect score was 1600. The one and only time I took the test – with no preparation whatsoever – I was lucky enough to score a 1410 (710M, 700V). That was good enough for me, so I didn’t retake it.
When I joined Princeton Review, I went through a pretty rigorous training program to ensure we understood the material and could teach it effectively. After actually learning how the test works and how to beat it, I consistently scored 800s on practice SAT sections. This experience also paid off for my own education: I scored a 1540 (800M, 740V, 99th percentile) on the GRE, the SAT-equivalent for graduate admissions. I give much of the credit for that score to my prep training for the SAT. And today I regularly race through sections with ease.
I never took the ACT in high school, but I typically score 36 on all sections of real practice ACTs.
All this aside, what I scored then or how I do now doesn’t matter as much as the skill of my teaching and the quality of my videos. I hope that the huge number of free videos and prep materials provide the evidence you need to make that judgment.
What is your teaching philosophy?
Obviously the best way to get a sense of my teaching style is to watch my videos, but that won’t explain why I make the videos the way I do. I aim to create videos that are both to-the-point and thorough. It’s a balance that I constantly have to rethink and rework. If I don’t explain enough, the concepts and strategies will be hard to follow. If I explain too much, the video will drag and fail to highlight the most important points. In general, I lean more to keeping the video moving along rather than explaining every little detail. For example, I generally don’t work through every step of an algebra calculation, assuming that you will a) do it yourself and b) understand what I left out and why. It makes more sense to keep the videos moving and answer questions later instead of boring 99% of the audience with information they know or could figure out easily.
My teaching philosophy with my online students starts with being open to learning myself! While I’m tutoring students, I learn about their strengths and weaknesses, what aspects of the tests give them the most trouble, and the most efficient and effective ways to overcome these hurdles. I am constantly probing and testing students to find their baseline, and I use what I learn to improve their learning experience and test results.
What are your interests outside of the SAT/ACT?
I’m fascinated by how humans learn to think and how we can improve our ability to solve problems. I’m super interested in education outside of the limited focus of the SAT & ACT: how to teach critical thinking, creativity, and reasoning skills not only to students in the K-12 system but also to adults who want to continually renew and expand their abilities, a necessary task in our dynamic, global, 21st century economy.
I also love reading widely, playing and watching ice hockey, and losing at Magic: The Gathering Arena.
How about your personal life?
I live in New Jersey with my wife Kaitlyn, my sons Robert III and Nathan, and my beagle Mr. Pibb.