Two Mount St. Mary Academy students have scored the top possible composite score of 36 on the ACT pre-college test.
Anna Kate Manchester and Audrey Cummins, both juniors at Mount St. Mary Academy, earned the rarest of ACT scores this year. According to a report from ACT, Inc., only 2,760 students in the class of 2017, or 0.136 percent of all test takers, scored a 36.
The ACT is made up of four sections of multiple-choice questions, which test students’ knowledge in English, mathematics, science and reading. There is also an optional writing test that measures essay composition skills. Each of the four sections is graded on a scale of 1-36, and the Composite score is the average of the four multiple-choice test scores.
“My heart was pounding so quickly,” said Anna Kate. “I did not expect to get a 36 the first time I took it.”
Anna Kate said she initially took the test in seventh grade at Christ the King as part of the Duke Talent Identification Program (TIP). When she signed up to take the ACT in June for the first time as a high school student, she bought a test preparation book and took multiple practice tests in math and science, the subjects where she felt she needed extra help.
Anna Kate plans to study international relations in college and has her sights on attending Harvard, Brown or Duke University. Her advice to underclassmen on taking the ACT is to try not to stress out about it.
“I think lots of people get in their own head,” said Anna Kate. “They try to rush through the test as quickly as they can, without paying attention to what it is the test is really asking them to do, because they’re just making sure they get it done in the time limit. I think taking a deep breath and sitting down and doing what you need to do is my best advice.”
Audrey’s preparation consisted of taking the ACT Test Preparation class offered at Mount St. Mary Academy during the first semester of the school year; she said her composite score improved by four points after taking the class. Audrey took the ACT in February for the fourth time and said her main goals this time were staying focused and raising all of her scores.
While currently taking a higher level math, AP Calculus, Audrey said the algebra and geometry they studied in the ACT Prep class were extremely helpful for reviewing information she had forgotten, and class emphasis on time-saving and test-taking tips and techniques assisted her in picking up her pace. For the English and reading sections of the test, Audrey expressed appreciation for the material she learned in ACT Prep from MSM English instructor Kathy Smith.
“In reading, she taught us to skim the questions before you read [the paragraphs],” Audrey said Ms. Smith taught them in addition to the English grammar rules and sentence structure, and she added, “So if one of the questions says vocab, you can go back to that line and write the question number to remind you to go back and do them when you read the line. Tricks like that.”
Audrey said she is still narrowing down her college choices and plans to attend the college trip Mount St. Mary is offering later this spring. She would like to study biology and medicine, and while some of the schools Audrey is considering include Pepperdine, UCLA, Georgetown and Washington and Lee, she is keeping her options open and looking into the college tuition savings and bigger opportunities that accompany her perfect score.
“I was completely surprised,” said Audrey about discovering she had made a 36 composite score. Even when others expected it from her, Audrey did not expect it from herself. On elevating what she thought was possible, she said, “I can achieve goals way higher than I ever thought I could.”