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Juniors Earn Pair of Top ACT Scores

St. Louis U. High increased its count of recent top ACT scores to 13 on Wednesday when juniors Ben Minden-Birkenmaier and Frank Schumacher both discovered that they had earned 36’s on the April ACT test.

When Schumacher woke up at 5 a.m. to finish some leftover homework, he logged onto his account and was overjoyed by the result. “I was really happy and I texted my dad,” he remarked. This was the third time he had taken the test at Kirkwood School.

The day of the test, after eating a bowl of cereal, he was ready to begin. “I was a little nervous, but overall, I was pretty comfortable,” he said. Besides an abnormally large number of grade school classmate encounters, nothing particularly interesting occurred throughout the test.

That same morning, Minden-Birkenmaier rode to St. Louis University on his 39-gear bicycle, armed with his admission ticket, two number-two pencils, photo ID, and TI-83 plus calculator.

“I felt fairly prepared, but I was still a little apprehensive,” said Minden-Birkenmaier, reliving the morning of the test, April 4. “I wasn’t looking for a particular score, but I just remember thinking about what (ACT Prep teacher) Mr. (Craig) Hannick had told me.” When he discovered his 36 on the website late Wednesday night, he could hardly describe the event. “I think I was listening to music, but I was just happy.”

The previous night, Schumacher just made sure he got plenty of sleep whereas Minden-Birkenmaier spent his time going over some notes before getting to bed at 11 p.m. Waking at seven, he ate peanut butter and jelly waffles before setting off to SLU, his test center.

Reaching the testing room, he noted the angry demeanor of his proctor and the spacious desks allowing him ample space for testing. While Minden-Birkenmaier received the maximum score of a 36 on the test, he did not turn in a perfect scantron. But with 36’s on both the Reading and Science sections, his 35’s on the Math and English portions were of no damaging consequence, and he achieved the composite score of 36.

Hannick was hardly surprised by either score. “Ben worked really hard to improve his score, and while Frank never took my course, I knew he was an exceptionally bright student,” he said.

Many SLUH students and faculty probably remember Frank Schumacher’s older brother Stephen Schumacher ’08, who also earned a perfect score on the ACT a few years ago. Frank attributed sibling rivalry as one of the reasons for his perfect score. “It definitely motivated me,” he said.

Minden-Birkenmaier, however, felt that his success branched from the six-week prep course that Hannick teaches after school. “It was very helpful,” said Minden-Birkenmaier. “At the very least, it gave me a lot of confidence. It’s all about the psychological aspect.”

“I felt the best about reading, but I had to guess on the last two questions in the Math portion due to a lack of time,” said Minden-Birkenmaier. “I felt the best on the writing section.” Scored on a scale from 2-12, he will receive this score only once the essay has been read and graded by hand.

Unfortunately, as you should have heard from other test takers, the information cannot be revealed in accordance with a pledge that must be copied down in cursive at the end of the test. “The cursive had to be the hardest part,” joked Minden-Birkenmaier, wondering why Hannick had never even mentioned this strenuous section of the test.

As for their post high-school plans, Minden-Birkenmaier has few definite ideas about where he wants to go, but believes he wants to “go out east.” The trouble for him is simply finding a school with good music and science programs to help him acquire the music and bio-engineering double major he’s hoping to take on. Schumacher hopes to attend Vanderbilt, Washington University, or Duke, but his choices are subject to change.

Schumacher and Minden-Birkenmaier’s test-taking days are not quite over yet, as both plan to take the upcoming SAT reasoning test. Minden-Birkenmaier also mentioned a “much more stressful” AP Physics test forthcoming.

SLUH’s average score is 29, almost 9 points above average, so the arrival of multiple perfect scores has drawn little surprise from the SLUH administration. Hannick determined the correlation between high scores and SLUH students to be due largely to admissions, but nevertheless the faculty and challenging curriculum here are key to SLUH students' success.

by Gary Newcomer '09
Prep News