Patrick Beranek, a 17-year-old junior at Joplin High School, has scored a perfect 36 on the ACT.
It's a rare feat, with only a few thousand students out of millions of test-takers earning the distinction on the college-prep exam each year.
"I was happy" with the honor, Beranek said.
Beranek said he first took the ACT in July and earned a near-perfect composite score of 35. But despite scoring a 36 on the reading and science subtests, he earned a 34 on the math subtest, with which he was disappointed, he said.
So he signed up for the December test. His only goal was to beat his July score, he said.
He'd even made a bet with his parents — they offered to pay for the ACT, but only if he ended up with a 36. If he got anything less than that, he'd have to pay them back for the cost of the test.
But he needn't have worried in the end. When the results came in, he'd earned the score for which he was aiming.
With a score of 36, Beranek's performance on the ACT is well above average. An estimated 82% of students in Missouri's 2019 graduating class — approximately 56,000 — took the ACT, giving the state an average composite score of 20.8. Nationwide, an estimated 52% of students took the exam with an average composite score of 20.7.
So how did Beranek do it? He's only taken one practice test, and that was ahead of the July exam. He credits a good education and a "high tolerance for pressure."
His academic workload at Joplin High School backs up his test score. This year, he's enrolled in Advanced Placement sections of chemistry, calculus and statistics, as well as advanced sections of U.S. history and composition. And everyone needs a good elective or two: For him, it's choir.
"I gave myself a decently hard courseload," he said.
Beranek's favorite class is calculus.
"I just enjoy the math in there," he said. "It's really cool stuff, and it ties together a lot of the stuff I learned early on."
Beyond his classes, Beranek is involved in cross country, math league and the science scholars team. He also is active in the Boy Scouts and is working toward his Eagle Scout award, which will see him building picnic benches this spring for the St. Peter's Outreach House in Joplin.
Beranek isn't sure yet what his plans are after high school. He knows he'll go to college — but he's undecided about where — to major in math, economics, finance or a related field.
"I think it would be really cool to do something with trading and stocks" as a career, he said.
He also is undecided on whether he'll try to chase a perfect score on the other major college-prep exam used in the U.S., the SAT.