by Cori Hilsgen
St. John’s Prep junior Justin Terhaar recently received a perfect score of 36 on the ACT college entrance exam.
Terhaar said he prepared for the test by using online resources to do practice tests and answer practice questions.
“My experience as a student at SJP provided me with a very strong academic foundation for the test,” Terhaar said. “I did most of my preparation and studying the week before the exam.”
Terhaar said he tried to focus on it being like other tests he takes.
“Getting ready for the test can be pretty stressful and it sometimes feels like everyone is talking about it,” Terhaar said. “I tried to think of it as being the same as other tests I take so I wouldn’t be stressed, but I was nervous the morning of the test. When I received my scores and saw I earned a 36 for my composite score I was a little surprised but also very excited and happy.”
Terhaar took the ACT in February at St. Cloud State University. He said the four sections of the test and writing exam usually take about five hours to complete.
SJP director of communications and events Jill Pauly commented on Terhaar’s perfect score.
“Justin is very humble about his accomplishment and we are all very excited for him,” Pauly said.
Terhaar also participates with the Knowledge Bowl team coached by SJP physics and astronomy teacher Charles Miller.
“Justin is always surprising people, but it should come as no surprise he did so well,” Miller said. “I have seen him as a top student in my classroom and a top competitor on my Knowledge Bowl team. But he’s not just brains. He has a fierce determination to do his best and a great sense of humor.”
Terhaar said he thought being part of the Knowledge Bowl team was also probably helpful for his high ACT score, because it teaches you to think about what a question is asking.
After high school, he plans to attend college and has been visiting different campuses.
“It’s too early to know where I will go, but I think it will probably be a smaller liberal-arts college,” Terhaar said. “My interests right now are chemistry, biology and physics. I also hope to continue doing ceramics and making pottery which is something I’ve really enjoyed doing in high school.”
Terhaar is the son of Jody and Karl Terhaar of St. Joseph. He has one older brother, Jeremy, and one younger sister, Rachael.
“Karl and I are both definitely very proud of Justin,” Jody said.
The ACT college entrance exam consists of multiple-choice tests in the four areas of English, mathematics, reading and science. The ACT Plus Writing includes a writing test.
Since some colleges require it, Terhaar said he also took the writing test.
The tests help measure written English and rhetorical skills; mathematical skills acquired up to grade 12; reading comprehension; and interpretation, analysis, evaluation, reasoning and problem-solving skills in the natural sciences. The writing test measures writing skills used in high-school English classes and beginning college writing classes.
Students earn one score from 1-36 on each of the four tests and a composite (average) score of all four tests. The composite score is usually referred to as a student’s score. Students who take the writing test earn a writing test subscore and a combined English/writing score.
The ACT score is one criteria used by colleges and universities to determine college entrance acceptance. Other things used include high school GPA and academic transcripts, letters of recommendation, interviews, personal essays and more.
Students usually take the ACT in the spring of their junior year and can repeat it again in the fall of their senior year to try to improve their score.
Karl, principal at All Saints Academy in St. Joseph, said the national average ACT score is 21 and for Minnesota it’s about 23. He said SJP’s average score is about 26 or 27.
Terhaar is the second SJP student to earn a perfect score in five years. Isaac Borhard also scored a 36 in 2011.