Eric Tate was confident after taking the ACT test for the second time on Feb. 11.
But he didn’t expect a perfect score, the first in at least a decade for a Monticello High School student.
"I felt good coming out of it, but I didn’t expect a 36," said Tate, a 17-year-old junior who sports a 4.0 grade point average and is enrolled in three advanced placement classes this school year.
As a matter of fact, he did the electronic version of a double-take when the results were posted online in the middle of chemistry class.
"I pulled it up on my phone and looked at it, then went back to make sure it was actually mine," he said.
A perfect 36 doesn’t mean he answered every question correctly, but his performance places him in a percentile that only one in 1,000 attained in this year’s testing. Of the 2,090,342 who took the test nationwide, just 2,235 earned a 36. That’s one-tenth of 1 percent of all test-takers.
He is the first MHS student to earn a 36 on the ACT in Principal Tip Reedy’s 10-year tenure.
"Eric Tate is a special student," commented Reedy. "It would be nice to have one (perfect score) every year. Our historical composite ACT scores are always above the state average and competitive wit the area high schools."
On the district’s 2015-2016 state report card, 63 percent of Monticello High School students recorded a score of at least 21, which is the state’s definition of being college ready. The statewide average was 46 percent.
Tate doesn’t consider himself that much smarter than his classmates.
"I feel like I’m good at standardized testing. How the questions are formatted seems helpful to me," he said.
His advice to those taking the ACT? Forget extensive studying – just pay attention in class.
"I didn’t study much. It’s more about paying attention in class. The ACT is all stuff you should know already," said Tate.
And despite taking college-level courses in history, chemistry and calculus this year, those aren’t the biggest stumbling blocks to him keeping his perfect 4.0 gpa.
"French is my hardest class of all. I’m not very good at it," he joked of the third-year class. "A 4.0 is not easy with French."
Tate would like to study aerospace engineering after he graduates from MHS, with his first two college choices being the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and Stanford.
His first try at the ACT back in September wasn’t all bad – he earned a 33, which put him in the top 1.2 percent of those taking the test.