FARMINGTON -- In the last year, nearly 3,000 students in Davis School District took the ACT, a standards-based test used to assess college readiness.
Two of those students -- Helena Ma, a junior at Davis High School in Kaysville, and Landon Willey, a senior at Viewmont High School in Bountiful -- achieved a score of 36, the highest score possible.
The Utah ACT State Organization Council honored the two students at a luncheon in Sandy this week.
Getting all 215 questions right in the English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science sections, followed by a perfect score in the written portion, is extremely difficult.
"It is very rare for students to achieve a perfect score," said Shauna Lund, community relations specialist for Davis School District.
"They now have excellent chances of continuing their education and getting scholarships."
Getting a perfect score had Willey rethinking his college options, looking at schools he hadn't previously considered. When his mom first called with the results of his ACT test, he was in shock.
"For a little bit, I didn't believe her when she told me it was a perfect score," Willey said.
The best advice he got for taking the test was from his sister, who suggested the KISS method -- Keep It Simple, Stupid. Willey said that helped him to not overthink the questions and go with his first instinct.
Ma knows her perfect score is an honor, but she keeps the results in perspective.
"It's kind of exciting to get a good score, but it's just a standardized test. It's not a measure either way of who you are," she said.
"It definitely means something, but it's everything else you do -- your character and who you are -- that is more defining."
Put in that context, Ma wasn't so nervous about taking the nearly four-hour test.
Having received the highest score possible as a junior, she has no need to take it again as a senior, something many students do in an attempt to improve their score.
Davis School District also has other top scorers from another standardized test administered to high school students.
The National Merit Scholarship Corporation recently announced the 21 students from Davis School District who were honored as National Merit Finalists because of their high scores in the PSAT, a standardized test given by the College Board.
Each year, more than 1 million students nationwide take the PSAT. Of those students, about 15,000 qualify as finalists. More than half of them will receive Merit Scholarship Awards.
The National Merit Finalists from Davis district are: Austin J. Ahlstrom, Audrey L. Fowler, Keeton R. Hodgson, Timothy J. Kowalchik, Ryan J. Richins and Stephen M. Ward, of Bountiful High School; Jorri Falslev and Mark Storey, of Clearfield High School; and Darryl Bond Denhalter Jr., Janice R. Hartvigsen, Weiyi Le, Lauren E. Thaler and Karen C. Willmore, of Davis High School.
Also on the list are: Cameron Scott and Mitchell Salisbery, of Layton High School; Shehal Gajiwala and Shannon Harrison, of Northridge High School; Jeffrey Knighton, of Syracuse High School; Elizabeth Foland and Kaitlin Gibson, of Viewmont High School; and Cassidy Hills, of Woods Cross High School.