As Malcolm Gladwell recognized in his bestselling book Outliers, practicing something for 10,000 hours can be essential in becoming exceptional at a particular endeavor. I grew up believing the adage that ”practice makes perfect.” I certainly did my fair share of practicing math problems to finally comprehend the formulas. I recall practicing the piano to finally play classical pieces of the masters.

Jimmy Wang, son of Jian and Wanda Wang of Zionsville
Jimmy Wang, son of Jian and Wanda Wang of Zionsville, Photo by JJ Kaplan

However, perfection cannot be attained if there is a flaw in the form of practice. “Perfect practice makes perfect” has been the guiding force in Jimmy Wang’s philosophy of life resulting in his achieving the remarkable distinction of one of a select few to attain perfect scores on both the SAT and ACT tests.

Jimmy Wang, son of Jian and Wanda Wang of Zionsville and brother to a younger sister, Julia, is a 2013 graduate of University High School. He recently was awarded the Presidential Scholarship, which included an honorary ceremony and dinner at the White House with President Obama. In the fall, he will attend Washington University in St. Louis to study neuroscience with an eye toward medical school.

Jimmy earned excellent grades which were simply expected in his family. His parents instilled a strong work ethic in their children. Jimmy excelled in academics, but he also enjoyed theatrical performances, participated on the academic team, and ran cross country at University High School. The nurturing environment at school, coupled with encouraging parents, helped him develop a healthy sense of self and direction for his future.

Jimmy accomplished the daunting task of achieving the perfect 36 Act and 2400 SAT scores, despite the very long odds of doing so. In 2012, of the 1.6 million students who took the SAT test only 360 received a perfect score (0.022%). In that same year, 1.6 million students took the ACT with only 704 getting a perfect score (0.1%). Obviously, the odds of getting a perfect score on both are tests are even greater.

For those preparing to take the SAT and/or ACT there were several basic principles that Jimmy used to prepare for these college readiness assessments. Understanding the objectives of the two tests was the first step in Jimmy’s preparation. To prepare for the ACT, Jimmy realized that this exam is a test of sheer knowledge of science, math, reading, and writing. On the other hand, the SAT is geared toward applying knowledge to answer questions of math, reading, and writing.

To prepare for the SAT exam, Jimmy attended prep classes over several weeks to learn the ropes of the exam and then practiced at home on his own. The prep classes provided insight into tactics meant to trick and confuse the student into choosing a wrong answer. Taking the prep class was invaluable to learn the inside track of how to avoid the traps. After the prep class, Jimmy then used several study guides to practice on his own. The study guides contained sample tests, which he practiced again and again.

Diet can contribute to an efficient aptitude, so Jimmy increased his intake of protein a couple of days prior to the exam. Fueling your body with healthy food is always good for you, and Jimmy understood the mind-body connection so he fed his brain with nutritious food.
Getting a good night’s sleep for the couple of days prior also improved performance – not just the night before. He recommended students plan a schedule that supports good sleep habits a couple of days in advance.

Studying should take place well in advance of the exam.

Jimmy performing in the “Alice Adventure”. Photo by JJ Kaplan.

Build your long-term memory bank over a long period of time. Cramming a couple of days before the exam will actually reduce your long-term memory. While you may remember one or two points by cramming, you will forget much more information from your long-term memory. So, study well in advance and limit the amount of cramming.

The morning of the exam don’t forget a healthy breakfast. The exam lasts several hours and only allows quick breaks, so fuel your tank for the long journey ahead. During the exam, check your answers at least once. Try not to go crazy with doubting yourself, but do a reasonable check of your answers.

As Jimmy prepares for the next chapter of his life, so too is his younger sister, Julia.
She recently participated in the U.S. National Chemistry Olympiad and placed within the top 150 students in the country. Jimmy believes that she is naturally smarter and studies harder than he. She is also applying the principles of “perfect practice makes perfect.” Stay tuned, as we may have another stellar student on our horizon.

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