Three Viper seniors awarded perfect scores on the ACT

L-R Vandegrift seniors Jonathan Kaaua, Zachary Weiss and Bo Yang Deng all received a perfect score of 36 on their ACT exam after taking it for the first time. MIGUEL BLANCO

By MIGUEL BLANCO, Vandegrift Voice

The pressure of a standardized test is palpable as silence overtakes a room of concentrated students rapidly analyzing questions and writing answers. Although high school students are accustomed to the anxiety and weariness surrounding standardized tests, there is arguably no way to fully prepare for a test as crucial to a student’s future as the SAT and ACT.

But three Vandegrift seniors have surmounted the challenge of the exam and received perfect scores on their ACT tests:  Jonathan Kaaua, Zachary Weiss and Bo Yang Deng.

All three received perfect scores of a 36, indicating that they received the maximum score in all of the test sections.

While the SAT is typically seen as the more conventional test regarding college admissions, the ACT has become a more frequent test for students to take along with the SAT. Some of the more notable differences between the SAT and ACT are the addition of a science section in the ACT, and generally less time to answer questions on the ACT.

According to, only .195 percent of students who take the ACT receive a perfect score, so it may prove beneficial for future test takers to try to understand how these students achieved this great academic accomplishment.

“I feel like it’s really just a speed test,” Weiss said. “It’s all about how fast you can get through everything. Practicing really helped a lot with the time, but I do think that overall it is easier than the SAT to do well. You just have to keep pushing yourself, you have to keep up this super hard pace throughout. So that makes motivating yourself to finish something that is really challenging.”

There seems to be a consensus from students that the shortened amount of time students allotted on the ACT is one of the most challenging aspects of the test. One of the seniors states that this ultimately results in the ACT questions being fundamentally different from the SAT.

“I think that there is definitely a difference,” Yang Deng said. “For me what I noticed was that the ACT focused more on being able to solve more straightforward problems with less amounts of time, whereas the SAT has more complex problem-solving questions. So I think if you’re good at answering questions quickly then the ACT is definitely going to be better for you.”

The ACT aims to measure a student’s aptitude in four sections: English, math, reading and science. This allows for students to prepare for certain sections of the test, something that some seniors have taken advantage of.

“I definitely consider myself to be stronger in English by far,” Kaaua said. “So for me, it’s definitely better to focus on your weaker aspects if you want to score higher.”

Although a handful of students typically receive a perfect score on the ACT every year, what makes these specific seniors test’s even more remarkable is that all three students received perfect scores after taking the test only once.

“We always have a few that receive perfect scores,” dean of instruction Christa Thompson-Martin said. “It’s usually a handful of perfect scores on the SAT and ACT, but certainly it is a rare occurrence and an incredible academic accolade.”

While it is true that an ACT score of the caliber of a 36 makes colleges more inclined to accept a student, it is important to keep in mind that colleges do their best to get a comprehensive understanding of the students they are accepting, meaning that they take into account not just test scores, but GPA and extracurricular activities as well.

“Doors open because of those scores,” Thompson-Martin said. “And although there aren’t certain scholarships that will come with just a perfect ACT or SAT, the combined GPA with an ACT of those numbers will certainly garner possibilities. It’s an impressive achievement so colleges are certainly likely to reward that with some sort of academic scholarship.”