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Centennial student notches perfect ACT score

Gabriel Koo was honored at the Oct. 9 Howard County Board of Education meeting for his perfect score on the ACT. Standing with Koo is Superintendent Renee Foose, left, and Board of Education chair Ellen Flynn Giles, right.
Gabriel Koo was honored at the Oct. 9 Howard County Board of Education meeting for his perfect score on the ACT. Standing with Koo is Superintendent Renee Foose, left, and Board of Education chair Ellen Flynn Giles, right. (Photo courtesy Howard County Public)

More than 1.8 million students each year take the ACT as they work to improve their resumes for college admissions.

Of those, less than one-tenth of 1 percent annually — about 1,800 students — manage to ace the ACT with a score of 36 on the test.

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This year, one of those students hails from Howard County.

Gabriel Koo, a senior at Centennial High School, notched a perfect score on the ACT when he took it in June, one week after he had taken the SAT.

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"Truth be told the ACT was not my focus until that week," Koo said.

Koo took both ACT and SAT in June — the second time he took the SAT after not getting the score he wanted the first time around — and acknowledged he had spent most of his time preparing for the SAT.

The ACT and the SAT are standardized tests used to measure a student's college readiness as a junior or senior in high school.

In Maryland last year, 14,080 students — about 22 percent of the class of 2014 — took the ACT. Among those, 18 received a perfect score, according to Ed Colby, a spokesman with ACT.

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The ACT tests students on English, math, reading, science and an optional writing test, with each section grading on a 1-36 scale. A student's final score is the average of each section. The SAT tests students on reading, mathematics and writing with each section worth up to 800 points.

Koo received a standing ovation when Superintendent Renee Foose recognized him for his achievement at the Oct. 9 Howard County Board of Education meeting.

Koo was notified of his score in July after a friend texted him saying the results had been posted online. He admitted to being shocked when he saw his score, adding that he came out of the exam thinking he may have missed a question or two in the test's first section.

In preparing for the tests, Koo said he took one practice SAT test — which takes about an hour — per day for two weeks.

This year, Koo scored a 2330 on the SAT, saying he's "pretty happy about that."

The average SAT score for Howard County Class of 2014 graduates was 1657. A perfect score on the SAT would be 2400.

Holly Pasciullo, Koo's junior year English teacher, spoke to her former student about his accomplishment recently and said he's "rather unassuming about it," but taking it in stride.

She described Koo as an dedicated, diligent student with a great sense of humor.

"Gabe is wonderful, he's a very engaged, curious learner," Pasciullo said.

His classmates at Centennial weren't aware of Koo's perfect ACT score until Foose made the announcement, but since then Koo said he hasn't been bragging much.

"I haven't really been telling people about my ACT score because it's not something that comes up in regular conversation," he said.

He added that he is hopeful the score will improve his chances of being accepted into the college of his choice.

Koo said he's already applied to Harvard University and the University of Maryland College Park where he plans on pursuing a degree in medicine or science.

At Centennial, Koo is vice president of the National Honor Society, captain of the math team, participated on the Science Olympiad team and is a member of the school's debate team — which ranked first in the state last year.

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