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North Hills

NA senior earns perfect score on ACT

| Monday, July 17, 2017, 9:00 p.m.
Tess Christensen
Tess Christensen

In June, Tess Christensen of Marshall Township took the ACT college board exam for the first time and two weeks later, discovered she scored a perfect 36.

“I was very surprised and happy,” she said.

Less than one-tenth of one percent of students who take the ACT garner a perfect score. The test measures a student's knowledge of English, mathematics, reading and science.

“I was happy for her, and not too surprised,” said her mother, Ruth. “She's pretty good at doing those kinds of tests.”

Earlier in the school year, Christensen, 16, scored a perfect 1530 on her PSAT, the Preliminary SAT college board exam.

She attributes her successful test scores to a simple routine.

“I got eight hours of sleep the night before the test and ate a bowl of Cheerios in the morning,” she said.

She admits her expectations of doing well on the ACT were not high. Following her perfect PSAT score in October, she took the SAT in January. It did not go as well – she earned a 1560. A perfect SAT score is 1600.

“(Going into the SAT), I felt confident,” she said. “But I was disappointed when I got my score back. That's why I didn't get my hopes up for the ACT.”

Despite her disappointment, her 1560 put her in the top one percent of SAT test-takers.

Christensen prepared for the ACT by reviewing some practice questions on the website the night before the test.

She said the biggest challenge of the three-hour exam was the 40-question science section within the allotted 35 minutes.

“They give you data and you have to find things out from the data. It's like digging for buried treasure with a time limit,” she said.

Christensen is still deciding what on what colleges to pursue and what major to declare.

“I still don't know yet. My problem is that I can't narrow it down,” she said. “I picture my life as a prolific author, a political science professor, an ecologist. I guess that's what college is for — to figure it out.”

Her GPA is 4.4 as she enters her senior year at North Allegheny this fall.

And she plans to participate in her favorite extracurricular activities. Those include serving as secretary of the school's Key Club, participating in Student Council and the Junior Classical League, singing in the NA Honors Chamber Choir and the Junior Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh; competing on the school's cross-country and track teams; participating in the Gifted Opportunities for Advanced Learning (GOAL) program; and volunteering at a local horse camp.

“Tess thrives on being a busy kid,” said Ruth Christensen. “It's hard for me not to be boastful, but I don't want her to think she's better than anyone else.”

Laurie Rees is a Tribune-Review contributor.

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