Affordable Success

Who We Are/How We Started

Welcome! I'm Mark Lyon, the owner and director of Lyon Prep Academy.  We are a small business, located here, out of my home in Palo Alto, right across the creek from Menlo Park. Operating at this location has allowed me to teach some of the brightest students in the country,  helping them build their confidence, improve their writing ability and SAT scores and to gain admission into some of the America's most prestigious universities. Although it is easy for many test prep companies to raise the scores of students who are new to the test-- students whose scores would rise naturally, just from familiarization with the test questions -- Lyon Prep has taken on the far more challenging task of raising the scores of students who are already great scorers, many of whom have already gone though other programs or have studied independently -- students who often feel that their scores have already plateaued.  As a near-perfect scorer myself, I have raised these students' scores by an average of well over 300 points, transforming them from simply being 'great' ttest-takers into test-takers whose scores stand out even in the Ivy League. With very rare exceptions, students who have gone through the Lyon Prep program have consistently achieved final scores well into the 90th percentile, with roughly half of them achieving scores within the 99th. Amazingly,  Lyon Prep students, on average, score significantly better on the SAT's than do even the instructors in some of the most popular SAT prep programs.  Here are a few key elements that have led to Lyon Prep's success.

 *Small Class Size:  All classes are either 1-on-1 or capped at 6 students

*Free 2-hour Trial Session:   Before any student registers for a test prep class or a 1-on-1 tutoring package, he or she takes a practice test and goes through a free two-hour trial session. Unlike other test prep companies, which use these sessions primarily as a sales pitch for the package they are offering, we at Lyon Prep believe that a lot can be accomplished in two hours. With this in mind, we do our best to ensure that this session is valuable to your child whether or not he or she decides to sign up for additional tutoring.   We understand that parents want to make decisions based on what a tutor has accomplished rather than what the tutor promises that he will do.

*Clear Objectives with Guaranteed Results:  Test prep students are provided with a target score before they register for class. In the rare case that a student doesn't meet or exceed his target score, he gets up to 50% more tutoring until he does.

*Frequent Practice Tests:  Students who register for 20 hours of SAT tutoring (or a 64 hour class) will take 10 SAT exams, discussing and learning strategies for solving every problem that they missed.    Lyon Prep used only real SAT exams published the College Board, and we use only these exams to measure improvement of our students.  We believe that there is no valid justification for a company manufacturing its own exams (since there are more than twenty real ones available) and that you should away from any company that does. We also strongly encourage you to read this Wall Street Journal article that warns about the dishonesty and ineffectuality  of companies that manufacture their own exams --  companies that include Kaplan and The Princeton review -- who can make it look like their students are making tremendous gains when, in fact, their students show an average real gain of only 30 points.   If this discrepancy is a big concern of yours -- which it should be -- you might want to check out our new Pay per Point Program, which allows you to pay for our services based solely on the number of points your child improves on his or her official SAT exam. 

*Weekly Progress Reports:    Parents are always aware of how their children are progressing, both in terms of their score increases and their engagement in the class. 

*Teacher Handles All Aspects of the Program:  Whereas many academies have parents talking to administrators -- never meeting with their child's actual instructor-- at Lyon Prep the teacher is the only one person that you deal with. Eliminating the bureaucracy not only allows us to keep the costs down, have smaller classes, and provide the students and parents with more individual attention, but, most importantly, it allows the teacher to teach from his own curriculum -- a curriculum that  he understands thoroughly, since he designed it, and that only contains material that  works for him and that he 100% believe in.  

*We employ socially responsible business practice:  A percentage of what you spend at Lyon Prep goes back to help both our community and the world that we live in.  In October, for example, Lyon Prep donated $3300 worth of services to the Addison Auction to help out the PAUSD school system, and, through Lyon Prep Worldwide, we offer heavily discounted tutoring and admissions counseling to students in under-represented countries, such as Myanmar, helping prepare them to enter America's top tier universities. 

Meet The Teacher | Back to Topreading

Although I've partnered up with some wonderful colleagues for Lyon Prep Worldwide,  I am the only instructor teaching and tutoring at our physical location. Why?  Because Lyon Prep Academy is a deeply personal endeavor, because I believe that it is my calling to inspire children to succeed in whatever they attempt, and because I have seen firsthand how quality declines once tutoring companies begin hiring instructors. The reasons for this decline are obvious if one looks at the financial aspects of the  industry. After subtracting advertising costs, rental costs, administrative expenses and profits, there is little left to pay for quality instructors. This leaves parents paying $80 to $120 for a $20 tutor, with many big companies like Sylvan, Huntington, Kaplan, and Princeton Review paying their teachers and tutors even less. Because few experienced instructors will work for $20, especially here in Palo Alto, these companies have no choice but to hire young, inexperienced instructors, providing them with their standard course materials and several hours training in the pedagogical methods that the school employs. Since these wages don't include prep time, tutors and instructors are very unlikely to spend much time personalizing their lessons or even more than a few minutes prepping for their class. Such environments could never compete with the experience we are offering at Lyon Prep: could never compete with a program where students get personal attention from a seasoned, expert teacher --  a teacher who has spent years developing a teaching philosophy and curriculum that works for him and in planning, testing, and adapting his curriculum to exploit his own strengths, interests, and beliefs -- a teacher who can teach his own material with the confidence that comes from knowing that he has already done so many times with complete success. 

*Background/Teaching experience:  Although I have had many interests in my life  -- from mathematics to TESOL to literature, then, finally, to test prep -- though it all, I have always been a teacher. Over the years, I have worked with children and adults, at universities, summer camps, international schools and private academies.  I have taught courses in freshman composition, fiction writing, world literature, modern grammar, research methods, statistics, critical reading, business writing, and English for academic purposes.  Before starting Lyon Prep, I taught  and tutored for some of the most respected test prep and college admissions companies in the industry -- including The Key, Think Tank, and Manhattan Review --  companies that charge their students two to four times what Lyon Prep is charging.   I have also taught several teacher-training courses, and, most recently, I have been working with  international schools  to help students from all over the world enter and succeed in American universities. I believe that a great teacher must possess the same spirit of inquiry and love for learning that he expects to foster in his students, and so I'm constantly striving to expand my knowledge and my teaching repertoire.

*Degrees:  B.S. Math, MA TESOL.  PhD Literature degree (All but dissertation.)

*Teaching experience.  Aside from the test prep and college counseling experiences listed above, I have taught many other courses, working with children and adults at universities, summer camps, international schools and private academies. I have taught courses in freshman composition, fiction writing, world literature, modern grammar, research methods, statistics, critical reading, business writing, and English for academic purposes. I have also taught several teacher-training courses, and, most recently, I have begun teaching online courses, working with international schools to teach students from all over the world. 

 *Official SAT scores:  800 Critical Reading, 800 Writing, 780 Math, 12/12 Essay.  (99.95 percentile. viewable here)


A Typical Class | Back to Top


The  above photo is from a 64-hour intensive summer course that took place from June 10th - July 5th 20013.  It is a class that I remember fondly, and one in which the students worked diligently and achieved the following scores:

 *Average starting score: 1835 (84th percentile)

*Average ending score: 2160 (98th percentile)

*Average improvement:  325 points. 

*Results on the official SAT:  The three of these students who took the October 5th SAT exam got a 2350, 2200, and a 1910, increasing their scores 280, 370, and 470 points respectively. 

At Lyon Prep, we pride ourselves on developing long lasting relationships with our students and their parents, and, even though my summer class had already achieved top-notch scores by the end of the course -- scores that would be competitive at even the top colleges and universities - all but one of them signed up for further coursework and tutoring.  They signed up for critical reading classes, vocabulary classes, essay writing classes and extra 1-on-1 tutoring.  I am incredibly proud of each one of them -- not only did they learn to be great test takes, but they taught me many things though their insightful conversation and through  the essays that they wrote.  Each one of them  be a great asset to whatever  college he or she chooses to attend, and I am honored to have had the opportunity to help them along their way towards what I am certain will be successful, fulfilling lives.


Registration:  Try Before You Buy | Back to Top

At Lyon Prep we pride ourselves on having 100% customer satisfaction -- on having never had a dissatisfied customer. In order to achieve this, we go above and beyond offering a free trial session, and instead we have incorporated it into our standard registration process.   If you are interested in college admission counseling, the online essay clinic, or any non-test-related class, e-mail us and we will let you know our trial offers and registration procedure.  If you are interested in SAT, ACT, or GRE prep then the process looks like this: 

Step 1.  E-mail to request the practice test, study book, and strategy sheets.

Step 2.  Within 24 hours, we will send you the materials and give you a list of times for the FREE two hour tutoring session

Step 3.  Your child will complete the practice exam, under realistic timed conditions. If possible, submit the completed test a day in advance.  Otherwise, have it ready by the initial meeting.  (The completed test is absolutely required for the meeting to take place.)

Step 4. Your child and I will have our meeting. 

Step 5. Within 24 hours, we will send the student and parent a detailed report on the meeting, including initial test scores, an assessment of the student’s participation in the session, a recommended study strategy, and a target score for if that strategy is followed.  We will also send your child a second practice test (another real one, provided by the makers of the SAT) which he can use to help practice the strategies that he has learned.  Most students who take this second exam are pleasantly surprised to see that our strategies are already working for them, and that a single session has helped them to build confidence and to significantly increase their score.   

After you've experienced what Lyon Prep has to offer, you can register for whatever package suits you best.  You can either pay by sending us a check or by PayPal by clicking on the link below:

Refund Any Time 

At Lyon Prep, we believe that a student should never feel any commitment to remain enrolled in our program past the point where he or she finds it useful. In fact, such a commitment would be antithetical to the environment that we strive to maintain -- an environment where every student is here because he or she truly wants to learn. Because of this, Lyon Prep will happily refund any unused portion of your child's tuition, if, for any reason, you choose to disenroll.  Be aware, however, that this refund process is quick and easy for those who pay by PayPal, but can be much more involved for online students who choose to pay by check.