The College Board last week announced changes to the SAT that it said would simplify the test and, in turn, make it easier for college hopefuls to obtain higher scores.
Even the College Board president acknowledged in interviews that the current test has become “disconnected” from work done in high schools.
Those revelations make it all the more incredible that two students at Peters Township High School recently earned perfect scores of 2400 on the test and a third student scored perfectly on the ACT, another popular college preparatory exam.
“This is the first time in my career” that a student has scored perfectly on the SAT, said Peters counselor Heather Wawrzeniak. “We’ve had students score perfectly for part of a section, but never a perfect test.”
Juniors Roy Wang, 16, and Nicholas Roberts, 17, achieved perfect scores on the SAT. Junior Matt Gummersbach, 16, received a perfect score on the ACT.
Ms. Wawrzeniak and fellow counselor Jeff Sudol are in charge of administering and preparing students for the test. The two knew that Roy and Nicholas were brilliant, but even they didn’t expect the two to ace the SAT, which is intended to gauge a student’s readiness for college.
“These students are very accelerated in math,” said Mr. Sudol, who has worked as a counselor for 15 years and never had a student score perfect on the SAT.
According to the College Board, the nonprofit that developed the SAT, a perfect score is rare.
Among the 1.6 million students who took the exam in 2013, 494 achieved the highest possible score. In Pennsylvania, 101,368 students took the test last year, and 17 achieved perfect scores.
"It's almost surreal," said high school assistant principal Emily Sanders, who added that she was floored with the students' results.
The district has a number of ways to provide engaging curriculum for students who are gifted, including an option to take high school courses in middle school.
By the time Nick was in sixth grade, he was taking high school math classes. Roy did so in eighth grade, showing a propensity for math and science. Matt moved to the district from Michigan several years ago, having already earned some high school credits.
In high school, the boys have been taking advanced placement courses and online curriculum provided through agreements with local universities, including Washington & Jefferson College and the University of Pittsburgh. They each have high grade point averages, another aspect important to college admissions officers.
“If a student tops out of our curriculum, they can take college courses,” high school principal Lori Pavlik said. “We make sure we have the curriculum to challenge them.”
The boys agreed. None of them took SAT prep classes, relying instead on the district’s Advanced Placement courses to prepare them for the test.
“My mom bought me a prep book, but I never even opened it,” Matt said.
Matt scored a perfect 36 on the ACT and a 2350 on the SAT, which he plans to retake. Because he knows which questions he missed, it’s likely Matt also will earn a perfect score when he retakes the SAT. Roy and Nick don’t plan to take the ACT or to retake the SAT.
The boys plan to visit colleges this spring.
Matt, the son of Todd and Lori Gummersbach, favors the University of Notre Dame, Stanford University or Washington University in St. Louis. He is considering a career in engineering and is a member of the cross-country and baseball teams.
Nick is the son of Cheryl and Tim Roberts and said he, like Matt, is thinking about a career in engineering and possibly attending Stanford or the University of Virginia. Nick plays the trombone and piano in marching band.
Roy, the son of Jin Wang and Chunmei Song, also plays the piano. He has his sights set on Massachusetts Institute of Technology or Duke University and plans a career as a physician.
It’s unclear if the boys will qualify for academic scholarships yet. Most of the elite schools they are pursuing don’t offer merit scholarships.
Each of the boys said they loved to learn by reading as much as possible when they were younger.
“I was always pretty good at math and I also liked to read a lot,” said Nick, whose favorite book is “Catch 22.”
“I really enjoyed reading as a kid and I had a strong foundation in math,” said Roy, who loved the book “Zorro.”
Matt, a fan of the Harry Potter series, recommended that students steer clear of SAT memorization and instead focus on learning the concepts behind the questions.
“A lot of people are afraid to take hard classes because they think it will be so hard,” he said. “But that’s what prepares you best. They train your mind to think and reason and work hard.”
“I really wouldn’t suggest learning to the test,” Nick said. “Reading a lot is really important.”
Roy said he at first was nervous taking the SAT, but he relaxed, reminding himself that he could retake the test if needed.
“Stay calm and don’t worry too much,” he advised.
Nick and Matt both recently won a writing award from Penn State University.
Although the boys are exceptionally driven students, Ms. Pavlik credited the community as well for their academic success.
“I think our community places a high value on that,” she said.
The boys also make good role models for younger students, she said.
“It’s cool to be smart. That is the example they are setting,” Ms. Pavlik said.
The boys will be recognized at the end of the school year during the academic awards program, though Ms. Pavlik didn’t rule out a new award for their unusual accomplishments.
“These guys are setting new standards for us — we have to come up with new awards,” she said. “I think it makes us really proud that they are here. We are like proud parents. We hope that we contributed to their success.”
Janice Crompton: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1159.