Michael Kayser of Columbia thought he had done pretty well on his SAT last month, but when he received his score in the mail, he didn't believe what he saw.
"I saw the number 1,600, but I thought that was just the maximum score I could receive," said Michael, 16. "I kept looking and looking for my score, and then I finally realized that the 1,600 was my score."
The Wilde Lake High School junior had achieved the rare perfect score, notching an 800 on the math portion and another 800 on the verbal section.
"I just didn't think I would do quite that well," Michael said of his score on the SAT, which is a test used by colleges to gauge how well students might be expected to do in their first year of college.
Last fall and in his sophomore year, Michael had scored about 1,500 each time on two versions of the PSAT -- the pretest for the SAT that is primarily used to determine National Merit semifinalists and finalists.
Michael's PSAT score last fall -- 1,510 -- is sure to qualify him for those designations, according to past practice.
"I've known all of the math concepts for a long time, but I kept making careless errors on calculations and other things," Michael said.
"This time, I paid careful attention to every question," he said.
Michael said he did a little studying for the SAT, though he didn't take any preparation classes. He bought an SAT book to help him expand his vocabulary during his sophomore year and reviewed techniques on how to attack the critical reading essays.
"But those strategies didn't really help me because I didn't bother to use them when I was taking the test," Michael said.
The perfect score doesn't mean Michael was absolutely perfect on the test. He actually missed a question in the test's critical reading section, according to his SAT report, though he doesn't know the specific question.
Michael is active on the school's math team, "It's Academic" team and computer club, and he is a recent inductee to the school's National Honor Society.
He has a 3.85 grade-point average so far at Wilde Lake and a 4.0 average in his classes this year, which include calculus, advanced placement U.S. history, computer programming in the Pascal language, gifted-and-talented English, gifted-and-talented physics and speech and debate.
As he approaches his senior year, Michael said he's looking at several colleges, including Princeton, Cornell and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and he is thinking about studying computer science or electrical engineering.
Nationally, Michael is among an elite group of students.
The College Board -- which administers the test -- said that only 545 of the more than 1 million students in the Class of 1996 who took the SAT scored a 1,600.
Last year, at least two county juniors scored 1,600 -- Brian Lee at Centennial High School and Noah Smith at Glenelg High.
Pub Date: 4/29/97