Trevor Houchens, a senior at South Burlington High School (SBHS), recently earned the highest possible ACT score, an achievement few students realize. Houchens was one of nearly 2.1 million U. S. high school class of 2016 students who took the test. On average, less than one-tenth of one percent of students who take the ACT earn the top score, which is 36.
The ACT is a standardized test accepted by all major U. S. colleges and used by admissions officers to compare applicants from different schools and states. The exam consists of tests in English, mathematics, reading, and science. Houchens says, “Math was definitely my favorite section. The questions are pretty straightforward and I usually have a comfortable amount of time to finish. On the other hand, I felt that the English questions tended to be more ambiguous so it was probably my least favorite section.”
Houchens, who is the son of Paul and Cheryl Houchens of South Burlington, received a letter from ACT Chief Executive Officer Marten Roorda recognizing his exceptional achievement. Roorda wrote, “Your achievement on the ACT is significant and rare. While test scores are just one of multiple criteria that most colleges consider when making admission decisions, your exceptional ACT composite score should prove helpful as you pursue your education and career goals.”
Houchens reports that, after graduating, he will pursue a major in computer science. “I love that it is logical and scientific, but also leaves room for creativity. There are countless approaches that you could take to solve an issue with a computer program. Additionally, the diversity of fields which computer science can be applied to is immense,” says Houchens.
When asked what advice he would offer fellow ACT test takers, Houchens offered, “I think that each person struggles in different ways with standardized testing, but I have one technique that helped me a lot. I found that going through the easier problems quickly and taking more time for the harder problems at the end allowed me to complete all of the problems comfortably.” He added, “Although it was tempting to double check all of my answers, it was ultimately more beneficial for me to complete all of the questions before double-checking.”
Houchens is an avid distance runner and captain of the SBHS cross country team. When asked if he saw any crossover skill-sets between academics and his distance running, Houchens replied in one word, “discipline.” He then explained, “Being a distance runner requires that you stay focused and make good choices so that your body is always ready to run. I think that I’ve brought a lot of this discipline into my academic life as well.”
When not in class or on the course, Houchens is a fan of astrophotography, a specialized type of photography for recording images of astronomical objects and large areas of the night sky. He notes, “Last year I got a DSLR (a digital single-lens reflex camera) and learned how to shoot pictures of nebulae, galaxies, and other deep sky objects by using it in conjunction with my telescope.”
Back on earth, Houchens’ exceptional ACT score will provide colleges evidence of his readiness for the academic rigors that lie ahead. “I would say that I’m a pretty good test taker, but sometimes I don’t have enough time to finish the last questions on standardized tests,” says Houchens, suggesting he is as humble as he is smart.