Nine Hinsdale Central student score perfect on ACT
Sagar Dommaraju (from left), Stephen Tyson, Lucy Wang, Gideon Ticho, Veronica Peterson,, Drew Daniels, Lindsey Thiesfeld, Max Rong and John Hickernell scored a perfect 36 on their ACT exams. | Jon Langham~for Sun-Times Media
High achievers and the
careers they’re considering
Drew Daniels, 17, of Hinsdale: business
Sagar Dommaraju, 17, of Westmont: medicine
John Hickernell, 17, of Hinsdale: chemistry
Veronica Peterson, 17, of Clarendon Hills: engineering
Max Rong, 17, of Westmont: computer science, economics or math
Lindsey Thiesfeld, 18, of Clarendon Hills: international relations
Gideon Ticho, 17, of Hinsdale: medicine
Stephen Tyson, 17, of Hinsdale: undecided
Lucy Wang, 18, of Hinsdale: undecided
Updated: November 19, 2012 1:55PM
HINSDALE — Nine Hinsdale Central High School students scored a 36 on their ACT, the highest possible score.
How did they do it?
“Genetics,” one joked.
“We all sat next to each other,” another wisecracked.
While the students were fairly nonchalant about it, Hinsdale High School District 86 is very proud of their feat.
School officials said ACT reports fewer than 600 students, or one-tenth of 1 percent of the 1.6 million high school students who take the college-readiness exam, achieve a perfect score.
“Hitting the mark of a perfect 36 is another feather in the cap of, what is traditionally, a very strong student,” said John Bruesch, Hinsdale Central’s assistant principal for instruction. “I am not sure that there is a particular person or type that accomplishes this feat, as the students tend to be diverse in their interests, passions, and goals from year-to-year.”
The Hinsdale Central students who scored 36 all took the ACT at least twice. All Illinois high school juniors take the ACT as a component of the Prairie State Achievement Exams. The test consists of 215 multiple-choice questions in four subjects: English, mathematics, reading and science.
Many students take the ACT a second time when it includes a 30-minute writing portion, because most colleges want to see applicants’ writing scores, the students said.
A few of Central’s top nine took the test a third time. However, none of the students took an ACT prep course to polish their test-taking skills or buff up certain subject matter.
Some students found certain sections more challenging than others.
“The essay section was pretty hard,” said Sagar Dommaraju, 17. “You get 30 minutes and have to write a full essay, and I’m not good at timed writing.”
Stephen Tyson of Hinsdale agreed.
“You have so little time to construct a good essay that makes sense,” Tyson said.
“It was the hardest to study for and a lot depends on what question you get,” Lucy Wang, 18, said.
The students had difficulty recalling what their essay question was, but Wang said hers was whether the government should tax fast food to encourage people to eat healthier.
Dommaraju recalled his was whether fast-food restaurants should be required to post the nutritional value of the items they sell.
John Hickernell, 17, said the reading test was difficult.
“I grew up in Hong Kong and they didn’t teaching reading at as high a level. The average reading level here is a lot higher.”
Hickernell has lived in Hinsdale since the fourth grade, but “the foundations” of reading are laid at a younger age, he said.
“It was not a huge disadvantage,” Hickernell said. But he found the “rigor and the pace “of the reading in the ACT was challenging.
Veronica Peterson of Clarendon Hills said she felt her energy wane during the reading section, probably because she was anticipating the science test which was still ahead.
“Reading was the third one and science is last,” Peterson said. “The first time I took it, (science) was my poorest score.”
The students all received a composite score of 36, which does not mean they were perfect on all sections of the test. The composite is the average of the four main sections. The students said only Dommaraju got every single question correct.
Chuck Fieldman contributed to this article.