Our Approach

Our Secret Weapon: REAL Learning

Zinc gets results by focusing on REAL Learning™. “REAL” stands for Reading, Effort, Arithmetic and Algebra, and Love.

At Zinc, test prep offers a unique opportunity to improve Reading comprehension, cultivate persistent Effort, confirm or expand facility with Arithmetic and Algebra, and foster a true Love of learning. We also teach our students to avoid getting stuck and wasting time by learning to think and problem-solve in iterations.

“I would just like to say thank you to Steven for his time and commitment to making us better test-takers and all-around people. His class was much more informative and impactful than I had expected it to be. Not only have I sharpened my academic and test-taking skills, but I’ve also learned more about the importance of communication, promptness, shrewdness and several other values. I’ll keep Steven’s many words of wisdom in mind as I go through the college admissions process as well as through life.” – George Allen, Browning ’17

Reading: The single most important element of REAL Learning is Reading. When students discover a love for advanced reading, the tests become a lot easier and many doors open.

Effort: At Zinc, test prep offers a unique opportunity to cultivate persistent Effort. Students learn that applying themselves routinely over time reaps great rewards beyond higher scores on tests.

Arithmetic and Algebra: Test prep with Zinc works to confirm or expand facility with Arithmetic and Algebra. Zinc students learn conceptual underpinnings to create or deepen true mathematical understanding.

Love: Zinc tutors foster a true Love of learning. Our students walk away from tutoring with a passion for new ideas and a commitment to intellectual growth.


Reading is the most important element of REAL learning, and the direct route to achieving on standardized tests.

Even if you are a successful student at a good school, your current reading level may be holding you back. What do you read for fun? If the answer is “nothing,” your test results may be a wake-up call. If you loved reading Harry Potter, The Hunger Games or The Fault in Our Stars, but go online to get a summary instead of reading the books they assign in school, you have some work to do.

While almost everyone knows how to read, only a small minority of students reads and comprehends on a college level. There’s a big difference. Most standardized tests require students to read slightly above grade level. For example, on both the SAT and the ACT, you’ll be expected to comfortably read college-level texts. Here’s an example:

Einstein’s relativity teaches us that the speed of light puts an absolute limit on not only travel but also experience. Since nothing can go faster than 186,282 miles per second, everything we experience, from the view out the window to our own thoughts, cannot reach us any faster. In fact, our minds act as time sponges, soaking up sensory inputs, all of them arriving from the past. The light we see from the sun has taken about eight and a half minutes to get to us. When we look at the night sky, we’re seeing light beams that have been traveling across space for thousands of years. When a star on the other side of our Milky Way galaxy fused two hydrogen nuclei to produce light energy we perceive on Earth today, our ancestors had yet to invent tools. During the time that light has been traveling, human civilizations rose, thrived and disintegrated in Egypt, Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley. Everything we think of as history happened while that light that will hit our eyes tonight was on its way. But even experiences nearer at hand come at us from the past. The laughter of a friend happened a tiny split second before our brains perceived it, and even our own breath occurred just before our minds could register it.

If that text strikes you as boring, you’re probably not understanding what it means. (It’s not boring.)

Students often get by with lower reading comprehension levels by compensating: memorization and excessive studying allow dedicated students to succeed without becoming confident readers. However, the design of standardized tests—the strict timing and focus on reasoning and critical thinking—does not reward memorization and excessive studying. It rewards high reading comprehension levels.

How do you know if you are a good reader? You probably have a good idea. If you struggle with texts written a long time ago, or in a more poetic style, you need to work on your reading. If you don’t like reading, you need to work on your reading. If you like reading, but stick to page-turners like vampire novels, mysteries and the like, you need to work on your reading. There is nothing wrong with graphic novels, mysteries and fantasy—but these books are often written at lower reading levels to engage a wider audience. If you are already reading high-level texts with ease and regularity, you will enjoy enormous advantages on the tests and in life. Almost everyone else should work on their reading.

You shouldn’t just focus on reading because it helps with test-taking, but, rather, because it is the single most essential skill a student needs to prepare for the world beyond high school.

“I got accepted into my dream school last night and I felt as if part of my success was thanks to your teaching. Not only the golden rule of skipping and coming back, but also a completely new approach to both reading and math. Thanks for pushing me; I was able to give the best of myself. I’m eager to begin my new adventure.”– Pietro Citterio, Georgetown ’20

Zinc Learning Labs

Zinc Reading Labs (www.zinclearninglabs.com) is a free online literacy tool for students. This set of educational apps provides fun, effective vocabulary instruction and curated leveled reading content. We give students lots of opportunities to test their knowledge and build critical reading and thinking skills with engaging literacy tools.

These products are free for students, and parents, teachers and schools can purchase paid accounts to assign articles and vocab sets and track student progress.