On the Record with Susana Martin

Susana Martin, a senior at Sycamore High School, received a perfect score on her ACT standardized test when she took it in 2021. Photo provided by Jeanette Martin.

SYCAMORE – Susana Martin, a senior at Sycamore High School, has achieved perfection – at least when it comes to taking the ACT.

Martin received a perfect score, 36, when she took the standardized test last year. She only took the test once.

The average composite score for the 2021 ACT was 20.4, and the average score in Illinois was 25.2. Out of the 1.9 million students who take the test every year, only about 3,700 get the highest possible ACT score, or about 0.3% of all test-takers.

Martin said she didn’t study specifically for the test, she just paid attention in her classes.

Martin was recognized during the April 12 Sycamore Board of Education meeting.

Martin and her mom, Jeanette Martin, spoke to MidWeek reporter Katrina Milton about achieving a perfect ACT score and test-taking advice for students.

Milton: Describe taking the ACT.

Martin: I feel like there wasn’t as much pressure for the test because it was not required. My school requires the SAT, but not the ACT. I thought it was easier than other standardized tests. I thought it was way easier than the SAT. … The version of the ACT I took was without the essay. The SAT was longer. Other than that they were pretty similar with multiple choice questions. Some were harder than others. Maybe it was the amount of breaks, maybe it was the overall environment, but I found the ACT a lot less stressful and a lot easier in general.

Milton: Did a perfect score help you get accepted into colleges?

Martin: I think it’s because it’s right after COVID, so there’s a lot of people who took a gap year or online school and are just now applying to college. So it’s been really competitive this year. The test score didn’t really help me as much as I thought. … You could submit [the test scores] to a lot of them, but most colleges didn’t want them. I don’t know how much they consider them compared to what they used to.

Jeanette Martin: Most of the schools actually didn’t require you to submit test scores or they didn’t even want them because of COVID. A lot of the schools she applied to, their freshmen applications would be maybe 50,000 to 70,000. For example, U.C. Berkeley said they had 150,000 students apply as freshmen this year. Many of the colleges she applied to were doing online schooling [in the fall], and [students] didn’t necessarily want to pay the same tuition. So they just took some classes at a community college, but they didn’t take enough, so they’re considered a freshman.

Milton: Did high school classes and good grades help with the test-taking?

Martin: It’s an English and math test, so I’d say really pay close attention to English and also algebra, geometry, trigonometry and that sort of stuff. I’ve gotten good grades in general, and I have a pretty high GPA, but I don’t know what it is right now. I want to do well in school, and I just generally like learning. … I feel like you do well in school, you’re more likely to do well on standardized tests, because it’s the same type of multiple-choice tests.

Milton: Do you have any teachers you’d like to thank?

Martin: I don’t want to mention some teachers over other ones, but I’d like to thank Mr. [Adam] Volkening, I’ve had him for Algebra 2, and Mr. [Rich] Majerus, I’ve had him for English sophomore year and this year, too.

Milton: What was your reaction to receiving a perfect score?

Martin: I was expecting I’d do well because I felt good when I was taking it, but a perfect score was a bit of a surprise. … I didn’t really tell anyone unless they asked me, but I was pretty impressed with myself.

Milton: What do you like to do outside of school?

Martin: I read a lot, which honestly, that probably helped me, too. I watch random YouTube videos. I like to write. It depends on the time of the year, but sometimes I like to go outside and do photography. I play Minecraft. I listen to music a lot.

Milton: What are your plans for the future?

Martin: I am going to [the University of Illinois], and I am planning on majoring in biology, but I may change that. I have just general goals: I’d like to be in STEM somewhere, and biology is the most interesting to me, which is why I chose it.

Milton: Do you have advice for future test-takers?

Martin: Get a good night’s sleep and eat breakfast. You should bring extra pencils. If I remember correctly, you’re allowed to bring a calculator, which you’re definitely going to want. Also, your hand might start hurting after a while. There are breaks in between, so you just have to make it to that break, stretch your hand out and it won’t hurt as much.

Katrina Milton

Katrina J.E. Milton

Award-winning reporter and photographer for Shaw Media publications, including The Daily Chronicle and The MidWeek newspapers in DeKalb County, Illinois, since 2012.