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Emma Goldthorpe

Portage High School junior Emma Goldthorpe, seen here studying in the school's library Wednesday, earned a perfect score on the ACT test not very long after earning a perfect score on the Preliminary SAT. She'll take the SAT test Saturday, trying to go 3-for-3 in perfection.

NOAH VERNAU/Daily Register

Students generally don’t expect to achieve perfection on the ACT test.

But Portage High School junior Emma Goldthorpe achieved a perfect score on her Preliminary SAT test at the beginning of the school year, so why not aim for perfection again?

“It’s what I was hoping for,” she said.

Goldthorpe had a composite score of 36 on her ACT test, the highest score possible, becoming only the second student in her school’s history to do so. Class of 2015 graduate Emily Kibby earned a perfect ACT score in 2014. The timing of Goldthorpe’s achievement is not lost on Principal Robin Kvalo.

“For this to happen twice in just few years is amazing,” Kvalo said.

The odds for perfection on the ACT test aren’t great. According to Duane Dorn, who works in test security for the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, only 32 students in the entire state from the graduating class of 2017 received a perfect score on the ACT, the most current data set available. Almost 67,000 students from that class took the test in Wisconsin, which means only 1 in about 2,100 students had earned top scores.

“You can’t get any higher, and lots and lots of scholarship opportunities come with that score,” Kvalo said.

ACT tests evaluate a student’s readiness for college, divided into four subject areas: math, science, English and reading. Goldthorpe achieved a score of 36 in every sub-test but science, where she scored 34, but all together her scores equated to the perfect 36.

She can’t know her specific test results, but Goldthorpe estimated she got only two questions wrong on the entire ACT, which involves more than 200 multiple-choice questions.

Her perfect PSAT test score — 1520 — qualifies Goldthorpe as a National Merit Scholarship semifinalist and gives her a high likelihood of becoming a finalist in the program, which will be determined in early fall.

She’ll take her SAT test Saturday. Might she achieve perfection again?

“Hopefully,” Goldthorpe said. “We’ll see.”

Dan Valentyn, an account executive and Wisconsin’s lead for the ACT, said if Goldthorpe achieves a perfect score on her SAT as well, it’d be the first time he’s ever learned of such a feat in his nearly four decades in education. Her perfect ACT is impressive on its own, he said, considering that fewer than 2,800 students nationwide from the class of 2017 achieved a perfect score out of more than 2 million test takers.

“The numbers somewhat speak for themselves,” said Valentyn, whose career began 38 years ago as a teacher and coach at Lake Delton Elementary School. “To be in the one-tenth of 1 percent is an achievement in any sort of field, and that relates to her potential. Everybody has their strengths and weaknesses, but obviously this girl has strengths in a lot of areas.”

For the ACT, students get tested “mostly on what we did in school,” which means Goldthorpe knew what to expect on the test, she said. She also recommends students take practice ACT tests, like she did.

“Make sure you’re learning things as you go,” she advised further, “but I’m not a test expert.”

Goldthorpe credited good teachers and hard work for her perfect scores.

Good genes didn’t hurt either: Goldthorpe’s parents, Jeff and Julie, are optometrists at Goldthorpe Family Eyecare in Portage. Her siblings — eighth-graders Macy and Jacob and fifth-grader Olivia — routinely score well on their tests, too, she said.

The junior is undecided on what she’ll do after high school, but she is leaning toward pursuing a career in science.

Said Valentyn: “My only advice for her is selfish: Stay in our state.”

“There’s no question it’s a special accomplishment,” he continued. “The challenge for her is she set the bar pretty high. Now she needs to match that potential with passion for a field, and then she’ll have something (even better).

“She’ll have plenty of options, that’s for sure.”

Goldthorpe is currently taking three Advanced Placement courses: language and composition, chemistry and calculus, and she’s also taking a dual-credit political science course, she said. Her extracurricular activities include cross country, archery and Future Business Leaders of America, for which she’ll compete in nationals in Baltimore next month.

Follow Noah Vernau on Twitter @NoahVernau

Portage Daily Register reporter