Imagine sitting and staring at a computer screen anxiously awaiting your ACT (American College Test) score. The screen suddenly reveals a three and a six — 36 — that's a perfect score on the ACT. This was exactly what happened to seniors Joseph Dardick, Linda Du, Anisha Guraraj and Charles Qin.

"I was so surprised and excited, but my mom was almost more excited than I was at the news," Guraraj said.

The excitement for such an accomplishment radiates from the four students and the school. Four students receiving a perfect score on the test is a fairly large number for one school to have.

Nationwide only one-tenth of one percent of the students who take the test receives a 36 yearly.

"Having four students receive a perfect score is a real testament to the academic rigor of our school," Dardick said.

The ACT tests juniors in English, mathematics, reading, science and an optional 30-minute writing test. While all four students received the same perfect score, each had their own methods of preparation for the test.

While Du says one of the best tips is too take the test early in order to be able to retake it, Qin sticks to the basics.

"You should buy or borrow practice test books, run through the problems beforehand, sleep good, eat a nice breakfast and, of course, use a lucky pencil," Qin said.

Though Du, Guraraj and Qin each believed the practice books were enough for them, Dardick had to put in hours of preparation before the test.

"I'm not usually a good test-taker," he said. "It's a weak point for me. The preparation, a private tutor and many practice tests really did it for me."

Dardick came up with many study habits to prepare for the ACT. Each morning for the week before any given test, when he woke up at 6:30 a.m. Dardick would take a practice test. He felt if he could take the practice test at 6:30 a.m. on a weekday, then he could take the real test at 8:00 a.m. on a Saturday. Dardick also preferred to use practice tests from the SAT book instead of the ACT book because it was more of a challenge.

"You can't think of the ACT as a hard test; it's just a test with tricks up its sleeves" Dardick said. "You have to know those tricks."

Dardick, Du and Guraraj each agreed that the Math section was the easiest, however Qin disagreed saying the English section suited him best. All four considered reading the hardest section.

"It's just so hard to focus on the stories for that long," Qin said.

Dardick, Du, Guraraj and Qin, like everyone, have their own personal test-taking habits that helped them through not only the three-and-a-half-hour ACT test, but any test they are handed.

"During a test I check the clock every two seconds, but in the long run I just have to keep going," Du said about her methods.

Guraraj finds herself completely stressed before each test, but when the test begins she becomes completely focused and nothing else matters. She is able to let her mind go crazy before the test, but when the test starts she cannot see or hear anything else around her.

Qin on the other hand, uses his own techniques during a test.

"I spin my lucky pencil and tally the ABCD questions I have to guess on," Qin said.

Qin is not the only one with unique habits; Dardick also found an interesting test-taking habit that helps him stay focused.

"I'll tap my foot on the ground like in "Akeelah and the Bee" when she kept a beat," Dardick said.

Besides these very different test-taking ways, each of the students have others who have helped them on their way through high school and through the ACT process, teachers, parents, friends and tutors.

"The teachers taught me everything I needed to know for the ACT. One in particular was [English teacher Sean] Rochester who has ACT prep in the mornings," Du said.

Each student felt the different influences of various people help them to succeed. Guraraj felt her parent's advice she once just listened to, now impacts her as a person.

"When I was younger, my parents always instilled a drive to succeed. Now that drive comes from me," Guraraj said. It's important to do everything possible to prepare and succeed on the ACT. Such an accomplishment brings on opportunities and choices in terms of college. Many colleges put an emphasis on test scores when making decisions about admissions.

"With this score, my list of possible colleges has changed from where my parents want me to apply to where I really want to apply. I can now even apply to Harvard for fun," Dardick said.

While Du and Guraraj are unsure of where they would like to go to college, Dardick would love to go to Duke University. Qin's first choice is Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but he is also looking at Northwestern University and Washington University. As far as majors, all four are interested in science in fields such as, chemistry, neuroscience, molecular biology, biomedical engineering and aerospace.

"When it comes to colleges and majors, do what you want to do, don't tailor your life and classes based on someone else," Guraraj said.

No matter what a person's testing preparation, testing habits, college hopes, strengths and weaknesses may be, the school can use these four students as role models and continue to show what a great and dedicated school Parkway Central is.

Remember, these four accomplished students' best advice to the underclassmen at PCH, "Don't procrastinate."