Kylie James grew up around girls who got perfect scores on the ACT.
Her dad is the head coach for the girls track and field team at O’Fallon Township High School. When Kylie was younger, she aspired to be like some of the runners because they earned the highest possible score on the college entrance exam: 36.
“And then I got to high school, and I was like, ‘Well, that’s a lot harder than I made it seem when I was younger,’” she said.
But on her third attempt taking the ACT, Kylie got a perfect score, too.
“I was screaming I was so happy,” Kylie said.
Students’ best score on the test can help determine where they go to college and whether they receive scholarships.
Kylie, 17, is a senior at O’Fallon Township High School. She recently sat down with the News-Democrat to talk about the ACT and offer advice to students who are getting ready to take it themselves:
Q: How do you get a perfect ACT score?
A: “Both of my parents are teachers, so I’ve kind of grown up in a community where it’s like, ‘Academics always come first,’ so starting sophomore year, I started doing prep work for it. And right before the last one I took, I did a lot of math work with my dad, who’s a math teacher, to try to bring that score up.”
Q: Did you do anything special on test day when you got that perfect score?
A: “There was one offered at O’Fallon, but I chose to take it at (Southwestern Illinois College) again because that’s where I’d taken my first two. So it was kind of superstitious. I was like, ‘I’ve taken my first two there, and I’ve done well, so I gotta take it there again.’”
Q: What was the hardest part of the test?
A: “Just trying to calm my nerves. I get really stressed out when I’m taking tests. So just calming down and being like, ‘OK, you got this. Don’t rush. Just take your time.’”
Q: What surprised you on the test, if anything?
A: “I definitely thought the science was harder the last time I took it.”
Q: What’s the difference between the SAT and the ACT?
A: “I’m personally more of a fan of the ACT because the SAT doesn’t have a science section, and that’s my favorite subject in school. And it’s really heavily focused on the math. ... The ACT is one of each subject, and it’s a little bit quicker pace. It’s like the questions are a little bit less complicated, I feel.”
Q: What advice do you have for other students who are going to take a college entrance exam in the future?
A: “I would definitely do practice work before you go. For me, (with) the math, doing repetition is what helps so much. The first few times, I didn’t prepare for it, so going in, I was more nervous. For the last time I took it, doing all the prep work, I was more confident going into it, which I think helped a lot.”
Q: What do you plan to do after high school?
A: “I either want to attend Duke (University) or Vanderbilt (University), I think, — those are my top two right now — to major in biochemistry on the pre-med track.”