This 24-year-old Harvard dropout wants to rid the world of multiple-choice tests like the SAT

Rebecca Kantar Imbellus

Rebecca Kantar, CEO and founder of


Rebecca Kantar was two years into Harvard when she dropped

“I just felt like a lot of the same brain development was
happening to me throughout my classes,” Kantar explained. 

Like most students, her life had been spent learning information
then being quizzed on it through multiple choice tests or essays.
Even when she went to Harvard, she was stuck cramming knowledge
and then bubbling in letters on a sheet for a score. 

I think across the education system right now, we still
have a focus on content-based learning. Can you learn more stuff
about whatever domain?” Kantar told Business Insider.

“What I was more interested in was could I apply concepts
that stem from understanding a domain to real-world situations?
And what I found during my time at school was that there were
fewer environments to bring something to life in a project-based

With the SAT celebrating its 90th birthday this year,
Kantar believes it’s time for a radical update of standardized
testing — one that doesn’t just reward rote memorization but one
that can assess how your brain works and how you put that
knowledge to use. 

To do so, she started Imbellus in 2015. Today, she’s
announcing that the company has now raised $4 million from
investors including Upfront Ventures and Thrive Capital to try to
upend one of the foundations of the education

ur hope is to measure how people think
instead of what people know,” Kantar said. “

a better way instead of using multiple choice and that’s to take
advantage of technology.”

What a new SAT could be

Right now, much of what Imbellus is building is under wraps.
Kantar started the company last year and is realistic about how
long it will take to change a national education

Imbellus’ approach will be closer to showing your work on a math
test than just writing down the solution. The company’s process
will track how you solve a problem, not just whether you get the
answer right.

“We’ve been using content as a proxy for a lot of skills that we
need this century, like analytical thinking, like problem
solving, and we’ve been doing that because our assessments
haven’t known how to measure anything outside of multiple choice
or essays,” she said. 

Imbellus team

Part of the Imbellus team,
based in Los Angeles


And she’s not doing it alone. Along with her team, Imbellus is
partnering with CRESST, the National Center for Research on
Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing. The education
innovation arm is
helping Imbellus craft
some of its
psychometric testing
frameworks and analyzing the data.

We hope that in the next two years we can show the world
that measuring someone’s process is possible and you can
understand how people think. It’ll give us much better insights
on how to place people in the right career and the right school
over time,” Kantar said. 

Jobs first, SAT second

To start, Imbellus is
going to tackle the entry level job market rather than going
straight to the SAT. 

Instead of career aptitude or placement tests,
Kantar envisions people taking Imbellus tests to guide their
job search, so they’ll know if their skills are the right match
for a particular employer. 

It’s a hard challenge: For starters, Imbellus has to build
profiles for different companies, down to different roles.
Certain companies will attract different skills like imagination
and creativity versus analytical thinking, or they’ll want a mix.
It will also need to take into account that companies want a mix
of employees who think in different ways. 

We’re not trying to say ‘Here hire the same type A person
over and over and over again’,” Kantar said.

Rather, it will start small to replace certain content-based
tests for entry-level jobs, helping to instead show recruiters
what skills and cognitive abilities the person has rather than
how much they’ve memorized information about the job. The goal is
to help employers to find the right fit for the right role.

Once that works, Kantar hopes it will trickle down to becoming
the standard for fitting students to schools, too.

The SAT and most other assessments have made the mistake
of comparing everyone to an average that is no one. The problem
is that grading model doesn’t take context into account,” Kantar
said. “You don’t necessarily need the same set of skills to apply
for a job at Goldman Sachs as you need to be successful at the
Rhode Island School of Design.”

from SAI