juniors Prateek Gautam and Sriharsha Gonuguntla, senior Steven Karst and sophomore Lawrence Liu all logged perfect scores of 36 on the ACT over the past few months.
Gonuguntla, Karst and Liu each achieved his perfect score over the summer, and Gautam earned his 36 during an October test. He learned the news Nov. 12, a snow day on which school was canceled across Rockwood School District.
"I woke up and ran to tell my dad and mom," said Gautam, a junior who scored a 34 on his first ACT attempt. "They were super happy. My friends were proud of me and congratulating me. I knew I had the ability, if I worked hard, to get it."
Gonuguntla was at sleepover summer camp when he received his good news. Lights out was at 10:30 p.m., but he managed to stay up until midnight to see the instant the scores posted online.
He was aiming for a 35. He ended up a little bit higher.
"Taking it in the summer helped me a lot," Gonuguntla said. "I was taking a practice test a day, and I would not have been able to do that during the school year. It would've taken me a month or more to get that same amount of work in that I did in a week or two."
The ACT consists of tests in English, mathematics, reading and science, each scored on a scale of 1-36. A student's composite score is the average of the four test scores. Only around 0.2 percent of students who take the ACT earn a top score. In the U.S. high school graduating class of 2018, only 3,741 out of more than 1.9 million graduates who took the ACT earned a top composite score of 36.
"The stuff you learn in school really helps, but you also have to do a practice test before to get a feel of what the style of questions is like and be prepared for the length of the test," Liu said. "I thought 36 was something to shoot for and try as hard as I could to get it. I wasn't expecting to actually get it the first time."