That achievement adds Johnston to the ranks of a tiny percentage of students across the country who have earned perfect scores but that’s not the most unusual part of his accomplishment. He did it as a 15-year-old sophomore, on the first try, following in the footsteps of his older brother who also earned a perfect ACT score.
“When I found out what my score was, I was so excited,” Johnston says. “It feels really good that I accomplished it, and it feels like I have a really good chance at getting into college now.”
After Johnston’s older brother, Micah Johnston, who recently graduated from Hillcrest High, earned a perfect score when he was a junior, Peter Johnston knew he also wanted to earn a perfect score. He decided to start taking the test early, assuming it might took him a few tries to get a 36 he figured he’d get a 34 or 35 the first time. Instead, he earned some serious, good-natured bragging rights by beating his brother’s record.
Peter Johnston took practice tests to study for the ACT, which consists of tests in English, mathematics, reading and science. Each test is scored on a scale of 1 to 36, and a student’s composite score is the average of the four test scores. Still, despite his academic focus, he made time for other hobbies, like running cross-country and track for Hillcrest. He also won an award from the Technology Student Association for co-designing the best video game in Utah in 2013.
With his new score, Peter Johnston says he hopes to go to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology after he graduates. His mother, Connie Johnston, says she thinks he’s up for the challenge.
“He is just very self-motivated to achieve high goals in a lot of areas,” Connie Johnston says. “He just thinks of a lot of things to challenge himself and he just goes for it.”
Nationally, the actual number of students earning a composite score of 36 varies every year. However, roughly one-tenth of 1 percent receives a top score. Among test takers in the high school graduating class of 2012, only 781 of more than 1.66 million students earned a composite score of 36.