Even he didn’t believe he got a perfect score on the ACT college entrance exam. And he had to convince his mama. But that’s what Columbus High junior James Jadus indeed accomplished – and here he shares with Ledger-Enquirer readers his advice for how to do it.
First, let’s put his achievement in perspective. Less than 1 percent of test-takers notch the ACT’s highest possible score, a 36. In fact, according to PrepScholar.com’s analysis of the Class of 2017 scores, 0.136 percent (2,760 out of the 2,030,038 test-takers) attained that composite score while the average was a 21.
Then again, folks who know James and his study habits aren’t surprised. Keith Seifert, the Muscogee County School District’s chief academic officer, quoted James’ calculus teacher, Storie Atkins, as he honored him during last month’s Muscogee County School Board meeting.
“James is a meticulous and dedicated student,” Atkins said. “He takes pride in his work and actions. In calculus, James will work problems, showing each step with precision and accuracy. When explaining problems to the class, he uses precise vocabulary to detail his solution process. James also lives by routine, which includes starting each class with five sharpened, No. 2 pencils, all aligned on his desk, in order. Most of the time James is quiet and reserved, but one glimpse of his smile can be quite contagious.”
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He hopes to attend Georgia Tech and major in computer science to pursue a career in graphic design. He already is a paid freelancer, making characters for computer game developers.
James is co-editor of the school’s literary magazine and marketing manager for the school’s weekly coffee shop. He makes posters for Young Republicans and the math honor society Mu Alpha Theta. He also is a member of the prom committee and the Latin club. He has volunteered at the Thunder in the Valley Air Show.
His daily routine includes homework, talking with his brother at the University of Georgia and playing computer games. His favorite games are Overwatch and Warframe.
James, 16, twice has taken the SAT, which has a top score of 1600. He got a 1490 this summer, substantially improving on the 1330 he scored at the end of his freshman year. So he felt satisfied with his SAT performance and figured he was done taking college entrance exams, but his father encouraged him to try the ACT.
“I didn’t want to do it,” James said, “but I thought I might as well see how I’m going to do on it.”
Here’s how he got that perfect score on the ACT he took in September at Brookstone School:
Preparing for the test
Routinely study and stick with it. Take a diagnostic practice test. He recommends “The Real ACT Prep Guide" book and, for the SAT, KhanAcademy.org.
Take additional practice tests every week or two. On practice tests, check not only the specific questions you miss but also their content areas, so you know where to focus when you study.
Search online for practice questions in the content areas where you need the most help. Depending on how much you need to improve, answer those questions every other day or so.
Try to take classes in school that focus on your weak content areas.
Beware of burning out. Be good to yourself.
Take the ACT or SAT early in your high school career to allow yourself time to improve on subsequent tests.
Before the test
Normalize your sleep schedule. Don’t change the time you normally go to bed and wake up in advance of the test.
The morning of the test, eat a healthy breakfast, perhaps a little more than normal to ensure you aren’t hungry during the test. James ate a bowl of Cornflakes with fruit on the side (blueberries, strawberries, kiwi and cantaloupe) plus a blueberry muffin. And he drank water.
Bring plenty of sharpened No. 2 pencils with good erasers.
Also bring something to eat and drink for a break during the test.
Don’t do last-minute studying. It could make you more nervous than prepared.
Try to schedule your test date for when at least one of your friends can join you. Seeing classmate Andrew Carey in line at his test site helped James "de-stress," he said. "... Andrew definitely helped me do my best that Saturday."
During the test
If you are confident about your answer, don’t second-guess yourself.
If you aren’t confident about your answer, lightly mark it on your answer sheet and move on to the next one. Then revisit it if you have time at the end.
Don’t leave a question blank. At least try to eliminate some of the options, then guess. There no longer are penalties for wrong answers on the ACT and SAT. You get zero points for wrong answers and skipped questions.
Relax. Remind yourself it’s just a test. Do your best.
Oh, and you can miss a few questions and still get a perfect score. That's what happened to James.
The ACT composite score is an average of four subtests. James scored a 36 on three of them – English (75 questions), reading (40 questions) and science (40 questions) – and a 35 in on math (60 questions).
The online test prep website Magoosh.com explains this phenomenon: “
Strangely enough, the number of questions you can get wrong on the ACT and still get a perfect composite score varies by which section you get them wrong in," Rachel Kapelke-Dale wrote in a Feb. 17 article. "For a 35 in English, you can get up to two questions wrong. In Math, you can miss up to three. In Reading and Science, it’s one per section.”
James doesn’t know which question or questions he missed on the math subtest.
“I was confident in most of my answers for math but maybe shaky with some trigonometry,” he said.
Asked whether he’ll take the SAT again to try to get a perfect score on that college entrance exam, James smiled and said, “No, I’m just going to stay with my ACT score.”