As a sophomore at Central Magnet School, Matthew Rigsby accomplished a feat few can boast.
He scored a perfect 36 on the ACT during the spring semester.
Surprisingly, his mom made him retake it.
“She wanted me to do it again, I got a 35 that time,” Rigsby said. “She wanted me to prove I could do it again.”
Rigsby got to keep his perfect score because students are allowed to retain their best score — not their latest.
Rigsby is one of five students at Central Magnet — and among only seven currently in Rutherford County Schools — to earn the top score.
Rigsby is joined by Madelyn Mansfield, Camille Warren, Clay Ferguson and Megan Scott — all 2019 graduates of Central — to become members of the 36 club.
Two other RCS students, Kyle Kigar and Jeffrey Wilson, both from Blackman High School, also achieved perfection on the ACT. Kyle and Jeffrey are rising seniors at Blackman.
Some of them said it is important to learn the format and swiftness of the test, while others said it was a combination of practice and intense studying that led to the perfect score.
“It’s always difficult to really predict because the test is very complicated,” Rigsby said. “In any isolated setting, tons of people could easily get near a perfect score — but it’s so rigid, it’s so fast, the graphs are really weird in the science portion — you really have to be able to analyze the test itself more so than your own knowledge. At some point there’s sort of a cap, where you know what’s on the test but you have to be able to take that and do it quickly and in an organized manner.”
Repetition, learning from mistakes and having confidence is also key.
“I’ve taken it every year since the sixth grade,” Mansfield said. “In ninth grade, I got a 35 and realized I could actually get a 36 so I kept studying for the one (area) that I didn’t have a 36 on yet, which was math.”
Warren took the test three times, including in seventh grade when she scored a 26. As a sophomore, she received a 33, and like most of the others, achieved the perfect score as a junior.
“Whenever people ask me, I suggest they take the practice test without the time and see how they do, to see if it is the questions that are getting them or just the timing,” she said. “Then they can work on either of them.”
Learning how to solve problems quickly — and knowing how to utilize a calculator — is also a suggestion, Scott said.
“I reviewed study guides before taking the test,” Scott said. “I basically kept doing them, especially with the math sections. I definitely reviewed simple math formulas to help me remember those quickly on the test rather than having to think through problems as much.”
Ferguson’s advice is to get lots of rest and to keep trying.
“I did take some practice tests but other than the math section, I did pretty bad on all of them,” he said. “I did better every time I actually took the ACT, so I guess (my advice) is to take the test lots of times.”
Kigar said he isn’t sure how he got the top score.
“I don’t really know,” he said. “It just sort of happened. I didn’t take an ACT prep program.”
Kigar did explain he wasn’t happy with his first results because his science score on the actual test wasn’t as high as it had been on the practice test. He achieved a 34 composite and wanted to try again, which led to the 36.
Wilson, also of Blackman, said it’s all about investing time and maximum effort.
“It’s mostly just putting in a lot of hard work,” he explained. “You’ve got to pay attention in your classes, a lot in English and Algebra I through pre-calculus, because that’s on the test a lot.