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O’Shaughnessy records perfect ACT score

On Feb. 27, BCHS junior Sam O’Shaughnessy walked into the testing room to take the American College Test (better known as the ACT), hoping for a good score. Little did he know he’d walk out having done something just 3,000 students achieve each year – perfection.

That’s right, he scored a 36, the highest one can get on the college-entry exam.

Needless to say, getting a perfect score on the ACT is rare. According to Olivia Andrade, a spokeswoman for the Act organization, “About one-quarter of 1% of students who take the ACT earn a top score.”

Prior to the day of the test, O’Shaughnessy had taken a couple of practice tests online as well as an ACT boot camp at the school.

“As soon as I’d take the practice test, I’d score myself on it and figure out which questions I got wrong and figure out how I could fix it,” he said. “I did pretty well. I was averaging about a 35. Going into the test, I felt prepared. The thing with the ACT is, they use a lot of the same styled questions. I was pretty confident. I didn’t think I’d get a 36 but I was confident. There were questions where I didn’t know the answer but I went with my best guess.”

It wasn’t until about a month ago that students were notified by email as to their test scores. The students first heard about it at lunch.

“I was surprised,” he said. “I was expecting a 34 or maybe a 35 but not a 36 since I had not gotten a 36 on any of the practice tests. I was very proud.”

While he received a perfect overall score, that does not mean he didn’t miss any answers. He scored a 35 in English and science and a 36 in both reading and mathematics but combined it averaged out to be a 36 rounded up.

“Those scores definitely reflect what’s easier for me and what’s not,” he said of the four sections of the test.

O’Shaughnessy and his parents weren’t the only ones proud of his score.

“This is an incredible accomplishment and a testament to his hard work, dedication and exceptional talent,” BCHS Principal Amy Wagner said. “It’s moments like these that truly highlight the incredible potential of our students at BCHS.”

O’Shaughnessy, an only child, credits his parents for pushing him early on to strive in academics.

“It’s come pretty easy to me and I haven’t had to study a whole lot or do a lot of preparation for school,” he admitted.

A member of the state-champion volleyball team, he currently has a 4.68 grade point average and is second in his class after getting a B in AP English. He hopes to someday be an engineer.

“The plan was, if I got a 35, I wouldn’t take it again (as a senior), that was the bet I had with my dad,” he said. “If I got a 34 I’d take it again and take a course this summer and then retake the test in July. Obviously, that’s no longer the plan and is a bit of a relief. Now it frees up my summer.”

Taking the ACT is now a requirement for graduation in Nevada, Wagner said, regardless of whether or not a student plans to go to college. While the score is irrelevant, taking the test is mandatory their junior year.

“I’m hoping to get into a top college,” O’Shaughnessy said. “The 36 definitely helps but it’s not a free entry.”

Within this past year, O’Shaughnessy took trips to visit several colleges, including USC, UCLA and Stanford on the West Coast as well as MIT, Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Brown out East. This time next year is when he and his fellow classmates will find out what schools have accepted them and who will be receiving scholarships.

“Getting the 36 opens a lot of doors. Getting a 34 or 35 gets you looked at by a lot of schools but a lot of them want even more to get in,” in terms of not only academics but athletics and community service, he said. “I grew up a military kid so we moved around a ton. This is like my ninth or tenth school but I have been here all through high school. But I didn’t have a whole lot of extracurriculars outside of school, which looks good on resumes. So, the 36 allows a lot more schools to be a possibility.”

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