Whether in the piano competitions of their younger years or their recent performance on the ACT, Palatine twins Kyle and Ryan Jannak-Huang are the living embodiment of the sentiment that practice makes perfect.
The 17-year-olds each earned a perfect score of 36 on the college admissions exam this year, adding a unique twist to Palatine High School's nine-year streak of having at least one student achieve perfection on the ACT.
Fewer than one tenth of 1 percent of students who take the test achieve perfection, ACT spokeswoman Katie Wacker said. Of the nearly 1.85 million members of the 2014 high school graduating class who took the ACT, only 1,407 earned a perfect score.
"It is truly rare and truly significant," Wacker said. "It is a testament to the individuals involved, their parents and schools."
Kyle said he and his brother learned through years of practice that the ACT is not so much a test of knowledge as a test of reasoning, set against the challenge of a time limit.
Ryan said his strategy was to figure out how to breeze through the easier questions quickly, leaving himself time to contemplate the harder questions.
Both cite their years as competitive piano players, and the support they provide each other, as keys to their success.
"Being twins, we're able to constantly motivate each other in academics or whatever it may be," Ryan said. "I guess it's a little bit different for other siblings, because they're different ages."
Featured in the Daily Herald's Suburban Standouts series for their musical talents four years ago, the twins' interests have moved on to other passions, like math and science.
Kyle has some lingering interest in competitive piano playing, and both acknowledge their dedication to music was a valuable steppingstone to where they are today.
"For me, piano in my childhood was the only thing that was challenging," Ryan said. "It helps to be able to appreciate music now."
Kyle said he'll encourage his own children to play an instrument someday to reap the benefits he's experienced.
Though their interests, activities and circle of friends have always been similar, the twins see somewhat different career paths ahead.
Kyle is drawn to robotics and would like to work for Google. Ryan's passion is for computer programming.
"We're both interested in creating stuff, but he's more into creating physical stuff and I'm more into creating digital stuff," Ryan said.
It's likely that before setting out on separate career paths, they'll first attend the same university after graduating from Palatine High next year. They spent their recent spring break in the Boston area, where they visited one of their top college choices, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.
Their mother, Eva, said the twins visited Stanford University last summer and were passionate about the California school at the time. She's comfortable that her sons still have a year to make up their minds.
Whatever their destination, she has little doubt they'll go there together. Giving up the support they provide one another other might sacrifice what they've been able to achieve together, Eva said.
Watching her sons work together makes Eva wish she had a twin growing up.
"I'm very fortunate that they get along very well," she said.
It was her idea that her sons begin practicing for the ACT and other standardized tests during their elementary school years.
"They've taken (the ACT) enough times that it doesn't overwhelm them," she said.
While math and science have always come naturally to the twins, they initially found they had to work harder to get an "A" in their English classes, their mother said. But their combined problem-solving skills helped them work out how to overcome those challenges.
While Palatine High School is justifiably proud of the twins, the faculty isn't taking credit for Kyle's and Ryan's success, Assistant Principal Mike Alther said.
"It's kind of neat, but ultimately it's about them," Alther said. "That's a tribute to them and their effort. That's all them."