Students attribute their success to practice, perseverance, and preparation.
When they took the ACT in 2019, University School of Milwaukee seniors Athena Borca, Rahul Mullick, and Afiya Quryshi had no idea how they did. But they all agreed: there would be no more retakes. “I had taken it once before and knew I wanted to do better,” said Borca, “but I wasn’t expecting to get a 36 at all. And if I hadn’t gotten a 36, I wouldn’t have taken it again.” Added Mullick, “My goal was, ‘Okay, I’m trying so hard and putting so much preparation into it, I really want to get that 36.’ But after I took the test I didn’t think I got it. I thought, ‘If it’s in the range that I want it to be in, then I’m done.’”
For the three seniors, plus a fourth who wished to remain anonymous, their years of dedicated school
work and months of test-specific preparation paid off: all four earned perfect scores on the ACT. And while the outcomes were fantastic, the celebrations were decidedly low-key. “I asked my sister, who lives in Atlanta, to log in and check it for me,” said Mullick. “So she told me the news and then I went out for ice cream with my parents.” Added Quryshi, “I was in the kitchen with my mom. We were excited, but that was it. It was kind of chill.”
Obtaining a perfect 36 requires knowledge of the material, but it also requires an understanding of what
the questions are asking. To improve their performances, each student spent weeks taking practice exams and focusing on areas that they felt needed the most improvement. “These standardized tests are essentially a reading exam,” said Quryshi. “If you’ve done enough practice you’ll know what the answer will be.” Added Mullick, “There are hidden tricks. I’ll look at the four answers and think, ‘The language for A is too strong, so that’s out. D is totally off topic, so that’s out. Now it’s between B and C, so 50/50.’ But if you keep on doing practice problems, it’ll become clear and you can get really picky, like, ‘Here’s why C is the right answer because B has x, y, and z flaw.’ And that only comes with doing a ton of practice.”
The students all agreed that USM’s curriculum also helped them to prepare. Their experiences back that
up as well—Borca and the anonymous student started at USM in prekindergarten and junior kindergarten, respectively; Quryshi began her USM education in 1st grade; and Mullick joined at the start of Middle School, in 5th grade. “I think the curriculum at USM has been a huge help because it helps us to pick out the things we need to,” said Quryshi. “Especially in English class, reading at a higher level allows us translate the skills we’ve learned to these standardized exams. I would say USM definitely, throughout all my years here, has been gearing me up for this.”