Vince Lombardi, one of the most revered coaches in the history of sports, simply didn’t believe in perfection. According to Lombardi, “perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” Perfection in football–as I learn every year from my beloved Giants–may not be attainable, but perfection on standardized tests certainly is. Sure, perfect SAT & ACT scores are incredibly difficult to achieve, but more students than ever are achieving ACT perfection.
How can a student earn a perfect test score? Probably not by accident. You may have heard legends of students who accidentally earned epic scores with no prior test exposure, but these tales inevitably describe academic prodigies whose lifetimes of intellectual exploration provided all the preparation necessary. The path to perfect scores resembles the ones that lead to gold medals and platinum albums: hard work, dedication, deliberate practice, and expert guidance.
I’ve worked with many perfect and near-perfect scorers over the years. In fact, a healthy share of Chariot Learning students hit those impressive marks every year. How, in the highly competitive environment of college admissions, do these students separate from the pack?
- Perfect scorers show more commitment than most students.
- Perfect scorers put in more hours of preparation than most students.
- Perfect scorers take more practice tests than most students.
- Perfect scorers show resilience and learn from mistakes.
- Perfect scorers treat test preparation like a sport or skill that requires regular practice.
- Perfect scorers have usually built a strong foundation of academic excellence.
- Perfect scorers read a lot, or at least did when they were younger.
Even as the number of perfect and near-perfect scorers rise, average SAT & ACT scores remain flat. This dichotomy signals a growing gap between the highest performers and the rest of the field, a divide we see across the board in sports, arts, and other activities. Once initial trails are blazed, those with sufficient ability, dedication, and access to resources can travel those paths more easily and progress even farther than their predecessors. Every year, world records are broken and new champions crowned, as small incremental improvements across multiple dimensions of achievement, compounded over decades, result in massive differences in performance in any activity. Those who seek amazing test scores and are willing to work for them should take heart; in the process of seeking excellence, sometimes even perfection is attainable.