COVINGTON — Northern Kentucky teenager Brian Becker was so ill with a sinus infection the day he took his ACT college admissions exam, his parents suggested he skip it, but the Covington Latin High School senior toughed it out and couldn't be happier that he did.
When Brian took the test in September, he was the only Kentucky student to score a perfect 36. He was one of 52 students out of some 250,000 nationwide to ace the test.
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What was so remarkable about the feat was that the Wilder resident did it with barely enough energy to get through the three-hour grind.
"It was difficult because my mindset was a little off," he told The Kentucky Enquirer. "All I could think about when it was over was 'Man, I've got a 45-minute drive home now.' I felt so bad I just wanted to get out of there."
After marking his answers on the exam that measures knowledge in math, reading, English and science with 40 to 60 multiple-choice questions in each subject, he couldn't remember where or when he took it.
He said he couldn't remember whether he had taken the test in Kentucky or Ohio, but after thinking about it for a while, the cobwebs cleared.
"Now I remember," he said. "It was in Indiana."
Despite the infection that struck him the night before the test was given, there was something that made the bright teen feel confident.
"I had a feeling the night before that something big was going to happen," he said.
Two weeks after he took the test, Brian's father located his score on the Internet.
"I was watching TV in the other room when he yelled for me," Brian said. Exhibiting his laid-back demeanor, the talented teen said — "I was like, 'That's cool.'"
The national average ACT score in 2006 was 21.1. Brian took the test once before and scored a 33, but he knew he could do better.
His guidance counselor, Jamie Rueger, says he wasn't surprised that Brian nailed the perfect score.
"He's a really bright kid and that is what he really wanted," Rueger said.
Brian went to St. Joseph School in Cold Spring through sixth grade, skipped seventh grade and entered Covington Latin in eighth grade. He's on the academic team, sings in the choir and is on the soccer, swim and tennis teams.
He's a big fan of 1960s and 1970s rock 'n' roll music, from the Who to Queen, and is an art lover.
"I'd really like to be some kind of artist, but I have little artistic ability," he said. "So I think being a brain surgeon is probably the best I can do."
Brian isn't joking about becoming a brain surgeon and hopes to attend the University of Chicago or the University of Notre Dame next year, with hopes that at least one of them will offer significant scholarship money.
Meanwhile, there's no rest for his own active brain. Now he's looking toward the SAT college admissions exam. A perfect score on that is 2400. He's taken it twice, scoring 2270 the first time and 2210 the second time.
While few students would frown on such scores, Brian isn't satisfied and will take the SAT again Dec. 6. He considers it "really bad" to have more than 100 points wrong.
"I guess if I get above a 2300, I'll stop taking it," he said.