MUKILTEO — The hard math questions were a breeze.
All that stood between Andrew Shin and the top score of 1600 on the SAT was a passage in the reading section about Victorian-era author Charles Dickens.
“I was stuck between two answers,” said Andrew, 16, a Kamiak High School junior. “The way he writes and talks is more old-fashioned.”
Andrew went with his first choice. He pondered changing it, but didn’t.
“I’ve always been told, ‘Don’t change your answer unless you have a very clear reason,’” he said.
It paid off. He scored 800 in reading/writing and 800 in math.
He took the SAT in March. It was his second try. His first time, last fall, he earned 1550.
The mean score nationwide for 1.7 million high school graduates in 2017 who took the SAT was 1060, with 533 in the reading/writing section and 527 in math. Only about 5 percent of test takers made above 1400.
“Andrew Shin’s SAT score puts him in a very select category of students. Getting a top score on the SAT is achieved by only a fraction of a percent of test takers,” Jane Dapkus, College Board vice-president of College Readiness Assessments, wrote in an email.
Andrew received the test results while on a recent trip to Massachusetts for a debate tournament at Harvard. It was 6:30 a.m. when he logged into his College Board account and saw the jackpot numbers on his laptop screen.
“I couldn’t freak out out loud because I was in a hotel room with other people and they were sleeping,” he said. “The first thing I did was text my mom about it.”
Andrew took classes and practice tests at a tutoring center last summer to prepare for the SAT. Students also can get free test prep at www.satpractice.org.
“At first it seems very daunting, but once you get into it you notice patterns for what type of questions come up and what kind of answers are usually not the right answers,” Andrew said. “Not only is it knowing the skills for math and grammatical rules, it’s the small test-taking skills that help in the long run.”
He also credits positive thinking. “Part is the mindset you go in with. That mindset that ‘I can do this.’ Your mental state is important.”
The first time he took the SAT, he aced the math section. “I knew I could do better on the writing, which is one of the reasons I took it again,” he said.
He toured Ivy League schools several years ago with his older brother, Bryan, a Dartmouth College sophomore. His brother scored 2390 out of 2400 on the former SAT, which had a different scoring scale.
“My dream school is Yale,” Andrew said. “Even if I get a perfect score it’s hard to get into those top schools.”
Yale recently reported that of 35,306 applications for the class of 2022, admission was offered to 2,229 students. (The math equation to determine the odds for this would be too easy for a question on the SAT.)
Meantime, the tangible reward is pretty sweet for Andrew. “I am getting an iPhone,” he said.
It was part of a deal with his parents, Seungcheol Shin and Hyejeong Lee.
“After I took my test, I said, ‘If I get 1600 will you buy me a new iPhone?’” Andrew said. “I don’t think they believed I would get it because they said, ‘Sure.’ ”
It’s an upgrade from his old Samsung Galaxy. “It’s one of those cheaper phones you get. You know how there are budget airlines? This is literally a budget phone,” he said.
Even with the stellar SAT and 4.0 GPA, he’s still a teen. His parents sometimes have to tell him to clean his room.
As a young lad, he’d play video games in his free time. His favorite guilty pleasure now?
“This feels very teenagerish, but probably sleeping, because junior year is very stressful and sleep depriving,” he said. “I take naps a lot.”
With four Advanced Placement classes in physics, calculus, U.S. history and language/composition, he’s a busy guy.
“He is already knocking out and exhausting the AP courses that we offer at Kamiak,” said his guidance counselor Bill Stengele. “His transcript is immaculate.”
His office deals with a lot of bright kids. Last year, Alexander Ong then a Kamiak junior, earned a composite score of 36 in the ACT exam, the highest score possible.
Stengele said Andrew stands out among his peers.
“He’s very confident yet also humble. He’s not cocky at all. He’s just comfortable in own skin,” Stengele said. “Whatever he goes into he will make a difference.”
Outside the classroom, Andrew is on the Mukilteo Youth Advisory Committee and the Washington Legislative Youth Advisory Council.
He’s a Teen Link volunteer. “One thing I am passionate about is mental health, in light of things that happened in this community especially,” he said. “We take calls to have that youth-to-youth connection about things, from stress in school to suicide.”
His favorite activity is debate. He’s in the club at school and on a national team.
“I was pretty shy back in middle school,” he said. “Debate made me meet a lot of new people and it made me open up more. When I make speeches it helps with public speaking.”
He plans to study political science.
“I am more focused on the analytical side,” he said. “Not sure about the White House, but that might be an option.”
Andrea Brown: 425-339-3443; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @reporterbrown.