North Allegheny student one of only 360 to earn perfect SAT score

| Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013, 7:45 p.m.

Connor Phillips has a knack for perfection.

That's how David Morris, Advanced Placement English teacher at North Allegheny Senior High School, views his former student. Phillips, 18, has perfect scores on the SAT; ACT; and Advanced Placement, or AP, microeconomics exam.

“He has a prodigious memory,” Morris said. “He is one of the most voracious readers, and he reads widely in history, science, culture and the arts. He has an expansive curiosity.”

According to the College Board, which administers the AP and SAT exams, of the 62,351 students taking the AP microeconomics exam in 2012, Phillips was one of 12 to answer every question on the college-level test correctly. He also earned a perfect SAT score of 2400 and was one of 360 of 1.7 million test-takers to do that. Of the 1.6 million students taking the ACT in 2012, 704 students earned the perfect composite score of 36, according to ACT Inc.

Phillips, the son of Jana and Russell Phillips of McCandless, was an early reader.

“By kindergarten — where he was judged to be gifted — he was reading ‘Harry Potter.' He couldn't get enough,” said his mother.

Phillips was surprised when word of the AP results reached him. The family celebrated with a dinner out, and later, he updated his open college applications. Yale University and the University of Chicago already have accepted him for the fall term, and Chicago has offered a $10,000-per-year scholarship. He is waiting to hear from other schools.

Phillips, an NA senior, said he plans to major in political science and economics.

“I would like to be involved in policy making and would love to teach,” he said.

While Phillips acknowledged always doing well in school, he remembered a time in the third grade when he took a test designed for eighth-graders. His parents later told him he had done extremely well. The test also gave the couple an insight into their first son's intelligence.

“He had strengths across the board in English, reading, math and science,” his mother said.

One of the test administrators said that was unusual.

Phillips enjoys all of his classes, but one stands out: “In European history,” he said, “you get a broad overview of historic interactions and see the broader forces that affected history over the centuries.”

It's that kind of perspective that keeps him focused as president of the high school's Junior Classical League. He has studied Latin since the seventh grade and hopes to learn ancient Greek in college.

He studies weekday evenings until 9 or 9:30.

“Connor has a genuine attraction to the intellectual life,” Morris said, “to learning and discussing his ideas with others. He is driven to learn.”

But it's not the grade that keeps him engaged.

“I believe you should enjoy the process of life as it's going on,” he said. “You should enjoy the learning. It's not the grades. It's not the test. And if you can't enjoy it, make the best of it.”

His mother remembered how he had exited the room after having taken the SAT exam.

“Other students came out looking like it was torture,” she said. “Connor had a smile and said it was fun.”

Phillips makes time for the speech and debate team, where he has a talent for the extemporaneous category. He also plays the violin and was part of the NA Fiddlers.

But when he's not in the classroom or enjoying extracurricular activities, Phillips is with his friends.

“My normal group of friends goes out to eat, sees movies, talks about college and current events,” he said.

Of Phillips' many attributes, Morris finds his memory to be superlative, while his mother compliments him for being “extraordinarily humble.”

“The quality of his memory is one of a kind,” Morris said.

Or, as a fellow student once quipped in the classroom, “He's faster than Google.”

Dona S. Dreeland is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6353 or

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