Michael Mosqueda wasn’t expecting what he saw when he looked up his ACT score.
“When I opened the score, and I saw a 36, I just gasped out loud in the middle of class,” the Hanford High School senior said. “The teacher was like, ‘Are you OK? Are you hurt? What happened?’ ”
Michael, 16, joined a select number of students — 2,235 out of roughly 2.1 million test takers — to receive a perfect score on the college assessment test.
The ACT tests a student’s ability with math, science, English and reading. Each of the sections is scored on a scale of 1 to 36. The total score on the test is an average of the four test scores.
Similar to the SAT, universities across the country use the test to decide whether to admit a student.
“Your achievement on the ACT is significant and rare,” ACT’s Chief Executive Officer Marten Roorda told Michael in a letter. “While test scores are just one of multiple criteria that most colleges consider when making admission decisions, your exceptional ACT composite score should prove helpful as you pursue your education and career goals.”
The perfect score didn’t come without work. Michael started with reading the material involved in the test, and focusing on elements where he is weakest, he said.
He took practice exams in the weeks before the test, because he wanted to be know what type of questions he might face.
After all of that practice, an oversight cost Michael points the first time he took the test. He scored a 34 after bringing the wrong calculator, leaving him to solve the problems by longhand.
He made his next attempt early in the school year, and expected a good score. He wasn’t expecting a perfect score.
“To join that elite of a club is a huge accomplishment to me,” he said. “It basically confirms all of the effort I put in.”
His mother, Abigail Mosqueda, said after finishing his homework, he would go to his room to study and avoid the distractions from video games and the Internet.
“He took it upon himself and said, ‘I’m going to put in some time. I’m going to study, and he did,” she said. “For me, to see him put in the work was more gratifying than the actual score.”
Abigail said he didn’t tell his parents about the score right away.
“He was saying, ‘Oh Mom, I’ve got some bad news for you. I didn’t do very well.’
“And so (I asked), ‘How bad is it?’ ”
“ ‘It’s better if I just show you,’ and he opened the computer and it was a 36.”
Since learning about the score, colleges have contacted Michael to congratulate him.
He is hoping the score allows him to pursue a degree in either engineering or medicine at Harvard.
He is interested in medicine because his mother was an intensive care unit nurse and his father is a neonatologist.
“So, from a young age, I was exposed to medicine. ... That passion for medicine was translated into focusing on courses that would enhance the subjects I needed for a career in medicine,” he said.
His interest in engineering comes from a more recent experience at a program at the University of Washington. He was drawn to biomedical engineering, which combines medicine and engineering.
For now, Michael is focusing on graduating and trying for a better score on the SAT. He retook the test Saturday after getting a 2280 (out of 2400) on his last attempt.
“It was in the 99th percentile ... but it’s not a perfect score yet,” he said.