North Thurston High School junior earns perfect score on SAT

LACEY – About 1.5 million students take the SAT college qualifying test every year and just under 300 earn a perfect score.

Mackenzie Halbert is one of them.

The 17-year-old junior from North Thurston High School scored 2400 on her SAT.

“I am still a little in shock, but it is kind of wearing off and the excitement is now coming in,” Halbert said.

“My family was in disbelief too; we had to log on several times to make sure it wasn’t a mistake, Halbert said. In 2008, 294 students received a perfect score on the standardized test taken by college applicants, according to a representative from the nonprofit College Board, which administers the test. That’s out of 1,518,859 who took the exam.

That is an 8 percent increase from five years ago and a 29.5 percent increase from 10 years ago, according to Collegeboard.com.

Halbert said that she expected to score high, but not that high.

“I took the PSAT twice and scored in the 99th percentile, so I knew that something good was to come,” she said. The PSAT did not include the essay portion, and Halbert said she was uncertain how that would affect her score.

She said the most challenging section was math, while the reading section was a breeze.

“Any section about grammar is easy, because I’m a reader.”

She is also a dedicated violin player in the chamber orchestra at her high school and a member of Student Orchestras of Greater Olympia. She is going to a science camp this summer at the University of Washington and plans to play in the pit orchestra at Creative Theatre Experience, a nonprofit children’s theater group.

She tried to keep her score relatively private, but students at school who found out have become acutely interested in her test-taking strategies.

“My advice is to take practice tests – this is the easiest way to bump up your score,” Halbert said.

She said she did not prepare as much as she should have, but started the process about three weeks before the exam and focused on the math section.

When taking sample SAT tests, she found that most wrong answers resulted from not reading directions carefully.

Halbert thinks her score will pave the way for future academic success. Before she took the test, Halbert was unaware of how she compared academically to other students across the country.

“It is the confirmation that I need to do what I want to do with my life,” Halbert said.

With a growing passion for math and science, she is interested in attending Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

She said her fascination with these subjects could be from her mother, Rebecca Halbert, who is a science teacher at River Ridge High School and her father, Bill Halbert, who is a geologist.

According to the College Board Web site, “SAT scores can tell admissions staff members how well prepared you are for college-level academics.

“The scores also allow colleges to compare your college readiness with other students in a standardized way.”

“It provides one piece of information about the student, and if we were unable to make a decision, it would help us, said Doug Scrima, director of admissions at The Evergreen State College.

The College Board Web site states the SAT assesses the critical thinking skills students need for academic success.

The scores “are more of an indication of capacity and potential,” said Stephen McGlone, Vice President for Institutional Advancement at St. Martin’s University.