How Naperville North classmates aced ACT, SAT

  • Naperville North High School juniors Richard Li and Ryan Robbins both had perfect scores on the ACT and SAT. Richard's perfect marks came the first time he took each exam. Ryan also recorded a perfect score on the PSAT exam last fall, but took two tries to get the top score on the SAT.

    Naperville North High School juniors Richard Li and Ryan Robbins both had perfect scores on the ACT and SAT. Richard's perfect marks came the first time he took each exam. Ryan also recorded a perfect score on the PSAT exam last fall, but took two tries to get the top score on the SAT. Courtesy of Naperville North High School

  • Naperville North High School junior Ryan Robbins received perfect scores on the ACT, SAT and PSAT exams this year.

    Naperville North High School junior Ryan Robbins received perfect scores on the ACT, SAT and PSAT exams this year. Courtesy of Scott Butler

  • Naperville North High School junior Richard Li, center, received a perfect score on both the ACT and SAT college entrance exams, each on the first time he took it. Richard, seen with his parents, John Li and Emily Zou, said his test-taking tips are to slow down and stay calm.

    Naperville North High School junior Richard Li, center, received a perfect score on both the ACT and SAT college entrance exams, each on the first time he took it. Richard, seen with his parents, John Li and Emily Zou, said his test-taking tips are to slow down and stay calm. Courtesy of John Li

 
 
Updated 5/10/2018 4:09 PM

Two Naperville North High School juniors recorded perfect scores on the ACT and SAT college entrance exams this spring, but their self-professed strong suits fall in opposite subjects.

Ryan Robbins of Lisle, who also got a perfect score on the PSAT (Preliminary SAT) exam last October, says his top talents are in history and government.

 

"I don't like math and science as much, but I like calculus the best out of any math class I've taken. It makes sense," said Ryan, a 16-year-old who also plays trumpet, runs cross-country and volunteers with a student-run nonprofit called The Merry Tutor and with Loaves & Fishes Community Services in Naperville.

Richard Li of Naperville, meanwhile, is a math whiz who has led the Naperville North team math team to three straight state championships. He also competes in the science bowl and Worldwide Youth in Science and Engineering.

"Math just like comes to me," said Richard, 17, of Naperville. "I know it's not the same for all people. But I really enjoy the problem-solving aspect and being able to put multiple concepts together to make something new."

Both Ryan and Richard said they were confident in their knowledge and test-taking abilities, yet surprised and thrilled to see they achieved perfect scores of 36 on the ACT and 1600 on the SAT.

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Both said they studied and took practice tests, but the key was becoming familiar with the format and not rushing through.

"The most important thing about getting a good score on the SAT or ACT is just staying calm," Richard said. "Going through it slowly."

Richard's perfect scores came the first time he took each exam. Ryan aced the ACT on his first try, but tallied his perfect SAT the second time he took it.

Jeff Farson, director of student services at Naperville North, said perfect scores on one college-entrance exam are not overly rare at the high-performing school, where 16 students this year have achieved a perfect ACT. But Ryan's feat of ACT, SAT and PSAT perfection is an academic anomaly in the 17 years he's worked at the school.

"I cannot find any other student that has scored perfectly on that trifecta," Farson said. "In years past, many students weren't taking all of those tests, either."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Before the SAT became the state-supported exam given to all juniors last year, many Illinois students took only the ACT, especially if they planned to attend college in the Midwest. But Farson said the environment now is an "age of standardized testing," and taking multiple exams is more common.

Last fall, Naperville North gave all juniors the PSAT so they could be exposed to the structure and typical questions of the SAT.

According to the College Board, which oversees the SAT test, the average score was 1012 among 7.3 million students who took the exam during the 2016-17 academic year.

For the ACT, typically one-tenth of 1 percent of test-takers receive a perfect score, among roughly 2 million students who complete the exam each year.

Ryan said he plans to tour several more colleges along the East coast, and he's considering majoring in political science before potentially attending law school. Richard said his dream school would be the Massachusetts Institute of Technology or the California Institute of Technology, where he might study engineering.

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