A Kentridge senior was one of only 12 students worldwide to receive a perfect score on the exam last May. He’s the second Kentridge student to do so in the past two years.
A Kentridge High School senior received a perfect score on the Advanced Placement calculus exam he took last year. What are the chances of that?
Well, Nick Porter was one of 12 students worldwide to earn all 108 points possible on the calculus AB exam, which covers what’s in a first-semester college class. About 302,530 students took the exam, which lasted 3 hours and 15 minutes.
Keep your calculator out because this equation isn’t over. Two years ago, another student at the same Kent high school was one of eight people worldwide with a perfect score. So what are the odds that two students from the same high school both receive near-impossible scores within two years of each other?
Even the math whizzes couldn’t figure that out.
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Michelle Hughes, Porter’s calculus AB teacher: “It’s a statistical anomaly, for sure. Maybe one in a million? I don’t even know.”
Mike Albrecht, Kentridge principal: “Probably one in a billion.”
Porter, 17, found out in late January he had received a perfect score. He already knew he had earned a 5, the highest score on an exam that’s graded from 1-5. But about a fifth of the test-takers overall earn 5s. Very, very, very few get perfect scores.
“I was excited. I thought I did good, but not enough to get a perfect score,” said Porter, who lives in unincorporated King County.
Hughes, who taught Porter’s calculus AB class last year, credits the perfect score to her student’s persistence and attention to detail. About 90 percent of Kentridge calculus students pass the exam, which means they receive a score of 3 or higher. After she heard about Porter’s perfect score, she looked at his old classroom tests. She found only one where he didn’t get a 100 percent.
“He’s a critical thinker and he learns quickly,” she said.
Albrecht, the school’s principal, was the first person to receive a letter from the College Board about Porter’s perfect score. It started out by informing him that one of his students had done that well — the same words he’d read in 2013, when then-senior Tracy Tran was one of eight students to also get a perfect score. Her calculus teacher has since retired.
Before he got to Porter’s name in the letter, Albrecht had an inkling who it would be. The principal walked down to Porter’s class and made the announcement to the students, who cheered. Porter is shy, but he was grinning ear to ear, Albrecht said.
Porter prepared for the exam last May by taking a lot of practice tests in class. When asked to elaborate on how he was able to get a perfect score, he paused.
“I’m good at math,” he said, shrugging.
“I thought the test was pretty easy,” he added.
He hopes to major in computer science in college, and he has applied to the University of Washington, Stanford, MIT and Cal Tech. He hasn’t heard from any of the universities yet but will be sending them notice about his recent achievement.
Porter’s dad is an engineer and his mom is a paraeducator. His older brother and sister are both studying — what else? — math. He enjoys playing recreational soccer, basketball and baseball.
He’s in calculus BC this year, and will take that AP exam at the end of the school year. Will the odds be in his favor for another perfect score?
“No,” he said. “But I’m expecting a 5.”