You hear about a perfect score in sports; a perfect game thrown by the pitcher or a perfect game thrown by a bowler. There are perfect 10s in gymnastics and the perfect credit score is 850. Certain body types have been known to be described as being a “10” for perfection.
Two students at high schools in DeSoto County recently learned they had achieved perfection in a category with more meaningful implications for their future.
Juniors Sydney Boone of Lewisburg High School and Bailey Terrell of Hernando High School became the latest district students to achieve a perfect “36” on their American College Testing, or ACT, examinations. Boone and Terrell became two of a very small percentage of American students taking the college entrance exam who earn a perfect score on the standardized test.
The results likely mean the pair will have multiple options on where they want to go to school after they graduate from their respective high schools. That’s because college recruiters will come calling on them with dollars upon dollars of scholarship offers, instead of them needing to knock on the college’s doors asking to be let in.
Terrell and Boone, both of whom are quite involved in more than just classwork at their schools, were aware of what the lofty results would mean to them and their families.
Bailey said he made it a late night endeavor to find out how he did when the scores were posted last month.
“I had stayed up until midnight when the scores came out that night see it and so I kind of had to keep quiet, because my family was asleep, but I was very excited,” Bailey said. “I showed my dad in the morning and he started hoot and hollering inside the house and going nuts.”
Boone added her parents’ discovery came partly because of her posting her result on social media.
“I told my dad first but I didn’t get to tell my mom until later,” Boone said. “He was obviously very pleased and he immediately looked up how many people had done it, so he could have percentages to tell people. I put it on my Snapchat but I forgot that mom follows me on Snapchat so she found out before I got the chance to tell her. She was extremely proud.”
Nationally, less than one-tenth of one percent of those who take the test achieve a perfect score.
The ACT tests four areas in science, math, English and reading, each graded on a scale of 0-36. It is the cumulative score average to 35.5 or higher that is rounded up to 36 to determine if a score is perfect of not.
Terrell said the 36 came after his third try, the first coming in seventh grade as part of a special program.
“In sixth grade you get nominated for Talent Identification Program talent search and if you follow through on that, you get the opportunity to take the ACT in seventh grade,” Terrell said. “After I had taken it before I was confident it would be higher than it was before, which was a 32 (as a sophomore), but I was not expecting to get a 36. It was a good surprise to have.”
Sydney said her score of perfection came on her second attempt.
“The first time I took it I got a 35, so I knew it was within the realm of possibility,” said Sydney. “I guess cautiously optimistic would be a good phrase about it. I didn’t know how many tries it was going to make, but I wanted to try until I got it or I couldn’t try anymore.”
Both agreed reading and English were the easier parts of the exam, which can take as long as four hours to complete, with scheduled breaks in between. However, math in particular became the more challenging parts of the test.
“Definitely math,” Terrell said. “I think math is my best subject in school but ACT math has given me problems. There are different subjects inside the math department that you can expect to see but it’s a lot of memorization.”
DeSoto County Schools offer what are called PSAT, or Pre-SAT classes, where students learn skills on how to take the Scholastic Aptitude Test, or SAT. Both Boone and Terrell said those classes helped them get ready for the ACT test, as well.
"They prepared you for the PSAT, which has a lot of the same material as the ACT,” Terrell said. “They also had a lot of the same tactics, like they tell you to answer all of the questions, make sure you are doing well with time management and make sure you know how to use your calculator.”
“The most important part of practicing and the prep was getting comfortable with what you will see on the test,” Boone added. “If you know the material, you know the material. If you don’t, you don’t. But, you need to know what you need to know.”
Principals at both schools expressed pride in their students’ accomplishment and hoped it would spur others to achieve higher in their academics.
“As a principal, you just want to see open doors of opportunity and I’m recognizing what this is going to do for her,” Lewisburg principal Chris Fleming said about Boone. “Somebody has to set the pace. You can only step to the pace of the fastest one. What she is doing is pulling everybody to raise their game.”
“His teachers spoke very highly of him,” Hernando principal Duane Case, in his first year at Hernando, added about Terrell. “It is a group effort. We are very fortunate to have really good teachers here and we have some very smart and very driven students.”
In congratulating Terrell and Boone, Supt. Cory Uselton noted their perfect scores reflected in district’s theme this year of “Raising the Bar.”
“You can’t raise the bar any higher than a perfect 36,” Uselton said. “At the same token, this is what I want our teachers and staff members to be focused on. If a student has the potential to make a higher score on the ACT or to have some other type of accomplishment in high school, we want to give them every bit of support that we can to help them reach that goal.”
Outside of having books open and studying, Terrell, son of Don and Julie Terrell of Hernando, is involved in band as part of the percussion area, is on the school chess team and Knowledge Bowl team, in addition to involvement in the National Honor Society and Interact Club.
Boone, daughter of Danny and Erinn Boone, enjoys music, is quite active in choirs and has done theater, the school’s Empty Bowls project and with Project Package, along with her studies.
Both have lofty plans for their futures and will now have been able to make the journey to those goals a lot easier with their perfect results.
Bob Bakken is Staff Writer and may be reached at 662-429-6397 ext. 240.