Perfect ACT Scores
January 6, 2021
The ACT is an entrance exam used by most colleges when deciding which students to admit. The difficulty of the test depends on many factors differing from student to student. It depends on the strengths in categories such as math, science, reading, and writing. The scoring system is on a scale from 1-36 with the average score for this test is a 20. The importance of the score also ranges from college to college, as some deem it more important than others. Many students at Waukee take the ACT each year and receive a variety of impressive scores. This year 4 Waukee seniors received a 36 on the ACT, an incredible perfect score. These seniors are Annica Chervenka, Vincent Hodges, Margaux Basart and Miranda Basart.
Each of these seniors had a different approach to taking the test, including how to study. Miranda Basart was taking the test as a baseline in February of 2020 and didn’t prepare much at all saying she could “go on and study what I needed to and take it again.” This proved to be unnecessary as she was quite surprised to receive her perfect score. Chervenka on the other hand had previously taken the test before and was hoping to increase her score slightly. In order to study for the exam she took many practice tests, Chervenka said “Those prepare you for the types of questions on the exam, the format, and pacing yourself throughout.” Many experts believe that practice tests are the best route of studying as well, simply because they help students understand more thoroughly what will be included, and debunks any falsities that might have been spreading about the test. Vincent Hodges agreed saying, “I made sure that I knew exactly what would be on the test, so when test day came around, nothing would scare or surprise me.” After taking practice tests and looking over weaker sections, one of the other challenges of the ACT comes to light.
This challenge is focusing on the pacing throughout the test. The big timer on the wall can be intimidating and it is good to keep an eye on the time, however, spending too much time focusing on how many minutes are available for each question just wastes time in the end. Margaux Basart explains here the strategy to keep moving and double check answers. Basart explains “ If there was one that I got stuck on, I skipped it and went back to it at the end to make sure that I had the chance to answer every question.” This is a good tactic because wrong answers will not have points taken off, but leaving an answer blank will. An often used tactic is to skim the sections first to look for questions that are easy to the student taking the test. Then go back to continue working on harder questions. The tactic is not to get discouraged by difficult questions, if one question has an unsure answer, do not spend too much time stressing over it. Instead, work to get an answer down, then come back at the end to check previous work.
These four seniors were all very happy with their scores, and also very shocked. “Honestly, it was pretty shocking at first to have gotten a perfect score. This was my second time taking the ACT, and I had just been hoping to improve my score a bit,” Chervenka said. Hodges agreed, saying “I’m thrilled. I am proud of myself for putting in the time during quarantine to study for it and thankful for my teachers at WHS for their amazing efforts toward my learning.” Whether or not they were aiming for a perfect ACT score, they worked hard, studied, paced themselves on the test, and did their best.
These four students were interviewed and asked questions about their experience. Their answers to the following questions are listed below.
-How does it feel to have received a perfect score?
-What was your studying method?
-What are your future plans after getting a perfect score?
-How did you manage your time during the test?
-What score were you hoping to get?
-How do you balance school work, athletics, and activities?
-How many times did you take it?
-Did you feel confident when you were done?
-What section did you feel most confident about?
-It honestly didn’t really register when I first saw the score. I know my parents called me when I texted them and they were really excited but it just never registered that I had done something like that.
-I didn’t study. This was my first time taking it so I was treating it as a baseline so that I could go on and study what I needed to and take it again. I definitely still took it seriously and tried my best.
-My future plans didn’t change. I’m not sure where I’m going to college, but I know that I’d like to go into public health with a focus on biology and statistics. After college, I plan on serving with the Peace Corps for a few years before finding a job.
-I just tried to keep moving. I work pretty fast just to get an answer down and circle that in the book, and then take time afterwards to check as many answers as I can, at which point I would fill in the bubbles on the answer page. That means I catch any errors I made on the first read-through, but it also guarantees that I have a decent guess for every question. I didn’t really have a specific time strategy going in, I just didn’t stay on any one question too long.
-I had no goal score. Above a 30 was what I was distantly hoping for, but I didn’t set out with the goal of getting any one score because it was a baseline.
-(You don’t have to include this but I actually took the ACT while I had a broken foot so I had to take time off work and track, so I had that much less to worry about.) Time management is definitely a skill I’ve had to work hard to develop during high school. For me, it’s all about keeping a detailed calendar, to-do lists with deadlines, and using every moment of free time at school. I often go straight from one activity to another after school, or I would have to go to work until late at night. Therefore, I use in-class work-time, lunch time, and time before school to get work done.
-This was my first time taking the test (I took it in February 2020).
-I just felt like I had done well. It hadn’t felt too bad, and I remember telling my dad that I felt certain I had answered every question right.
A lot of people have asked for my advice about how to get that top score. I’ll be honest, I don’t feel like I’m the person to be giving advice because everyone works so differently and my method was arguably just hoping for the best. My advice is to just relax. On the way there, I blasted music and sang along and didn’t even think about the test. I think that helped me go in with a level head and helped me feel calm.
Honestly, it was pretty shocking at first to have gotten a perfect score. This was my second time taking the ACT, and I had just been hoping to improve my score a bit. Now, I’m just pretty happy about it because it’s great to have the hard work I’ve done in school validated, and (of course) the scholarships don’t hurt. When I finished the test my second time, I remember thinking that it went way better than my first time. In order to pace the test, I knew I had to work faster on the math and science portions than I felt comfortable with, but I trusted that my answers were correct and moved quickly. For studying, I recommend practice tests, first and foremost. Those prepare you for the types of questions on the exam, the format, and pacing yourself throughout.
How does it feel to have received a perfect score?
I’m thrilled. I am proud of myself for putting in the time during quarantine to study for it and thankful for my teachers at WHS for their amazing efforts toward my learning. I’m especially excited for the opportunities it presents as I apply for college.
What was your studying method?
Aside from brushing up some of my basic math and reading skills, there wasn’t a lot of material that I needed to study. So instead, I made sure that I knew exactly what would be on the test, so when test day came around, nothing would scare or surprise me. Working through a textbook and doing lots of practice problems helped me get comfortable with all of the types of questions on the ACT, and taking practice tests allowed me to work on my test-taking skills and identify what areas needed a little bit more work.
What are your future plans after getting a perfect score?
I don’t yet know where I’ll go to college, but I’m currently filling out applications and writing a lot of essays. My current plan is to major in engineering and hopefully run cross country and track at the collegiate level.
How did you manage your time during the test?
I knew that I needed to be quick with my time, but I also didn’t want to rush through everything. In my studying, I determined how much time I would have to complete each set of questions, so I was continuously looking up at the clock and making sure that I was on pace. I went through pretty fast and didn’t spend too much time on any one question, which helped me complete every section on time and occasionally have time to go back and review my answers. Still, I told myself to stay calm, answer the questions to the best of my ability, and not worry too much about how long I was taking because I knew that would make me very stressed and uncomfortable.
What score were you hoping to get?
I got a 34 when I took it sophomore year, and even though I knew a 36 would be tough to achieve, that was still my goal.
How do you balance studying, athletics, and activities?
It gets tough. There have been too many nights of staying up very late finishing homework or studying for tests after a long day of band and running. But I love band, I love running with my teammates, and I know how important academics are to my future. So I try to enjoy whatever I’m doing and have the internal drive to get work done no matter how much I don’t want to. As for time management, a lot of it is just maximizing the time I’m given and always looking for small chunks of time when I really need it.
How many times did you take it?
I took it once before in the spring of 10th grade. I actually had four different tests get cancelled in the spring and summer due to Covid, so I was just happy to be able to finally take it again.
Did you feel confident when you completed the test?
I’ll be honest: I left the classroom on test day with little doubt that I had crushed the test. I took the SAT two weeks before and left feeling frustrated and completely exhausted, but after the ACT I was excited and extremely confident in myself. I left the building super energized, and that feeling alone proved to me that I had probably done very well.
It’s kind of crazy and it still is a little hard to believe, especially since I get to share this honor with some of my closest friends.
2) I didn’t really study. I did one practice math test to practice my timing, but that was pretty much it.
3) I’m definitely planning on applying to some more competitive schools and scholarships. I know there are a lot of opportunities that are available to me now because of my score, so I am very appreciative that I can apply to more of those opportunities with confidence because of my scores.
4) I had heard from my friends that the time went by fast, so I really tried to push through quickly. If there was one that I got stuck on, I skipped it and went back to it at the end to make sure that I had the chance to answer every question.
5) Honestly, I’m really competitive with my sister. Since she got a 36, I was definitely hoping to match her on that, but I was really just aiming for upper 30s.
6) I’ve always tried to stay pretty busy, so I guess I’m kind of used to it by now. My biggest suggestion is to make sure that you enjoy what you are doing. I love all of the extracurriculars that I am involved in, so even though I have a lot in my schedule, those activities help me relax and give me a chance to hang out with my friends.
7) I just took it the one time.
8) I felt pretty confident about my answers, but also I knew that I had time to retake it if I wasn’t happy with my scores. My main goal was to just stay relaxed throughout the test and not overthink my answers, so I think staying out of my head helped a lot.