Walking into the ACT exam room in April, Riverside resident Eric Din just wanted to score at least as high as his sister, Victoria, did three years ago. Victoria Din, who has just completed her sophomore year at Claremont McKenna College, had scored a 34, just two points shy of the maximum.

“My goal was 34, but my parents’ goal was 35,” recalled Din recently.

He outdid both his own and his parents’ high expectations by scoring a 36 composite score, the highest score possible.

He didn’t quite believe it when he looked up his score on the computer in the marching band office at Riverside-Brookfield High School a couple of weeks after taking the test.

“It was an ‘Oh my God!’ and then I kind of jumped back. And then I looked at it again and checked to make sure that I logged on correctly,” Din said. “I thought I did well, like 33 or 34 well, not 36 well.

Din’s score of 36 is a rare feat. Less than one-tenth of 1 percent of high school students who take the ACT receive a 36 composite score, according to Ed Colby, a spokesman for ACT.

For students in the class of 2008, the last year complete statistics are available, 143,734 students took the ACT in Illinois and only 62 of them scored a 36. Nationwide, for the class of 2008, only 428 students scored a 36 out of the roughly 1.4 million ACT tests taken.

The last RB student to score a 36 was Nadia Danford, a 2008 graduate who scored her perfect 36 in 2007. Danford has just completed her freshman year at Yale University.

The ACT is divided into four subject areas: English, math, reading and science.

Results in the four subject areas are averaged to determine the composite score. Din scored a 35 in English but had scores of 36 on the other three subject tests. He found that a little ironic.

“I think that was probably the easiest section, and I’m surprised that I have 35 on that one,” Din said.

Din, who has earned straight A’s through three years at RB and ranks in the top three in his class, said that he doesn’t really put that much stock into the ACT or standardized testing in general.

“I don’t think the ACT measures intelligence at all,” Din said. “It measures how good a test taker you are. I took the test as a test to beat, not as a test to take.”

He didn’t just beat it, he walloped it.

Din says that sometimes he can outsmart the test.

“I know the thing that helps me the most is to think of it in their terms, to think of why they would write a question that way,” Din said. “I talk to other people about what they do on the ACT, and it’s very different from what I do. A lot of people don’t put themselves in the shoes of the test maker.”

Colby says that the ACT does not purport to measure intelligence but measures the mastery of basic high school subject matter. Din even questions that.

“I don’t think it measures intelligence or anything you learn in school,” Din said.

Din says that another key to his success is that he doesn’t let the pressure of taking a test like the ACT get to him.

“I’m not a nervous test taker,” Din said

Despite his misgivings about the ACT, he is happy to have scored a 36.

“I think it’s made me a little more confident in applying to colleges, because I know I won’t look like every other applicant,” Din said. “I was really happy, because colleges do look at that a lot and I think it will help me a lot.”

Din scored his 36 when he took the ACT on April 4 on a national testing day. He took the ACT again on April 23, as part of the state mandated Prairie State Achievement Exam and scored a 34. Back when he was in sixth grade, his parents signed him up to take the ACT and he managed to score a 23.

Din is a member of RB’s golf and ultimate Frisbee teams and plays the trumpet in the marching band.

He says that he is looking at studying engineering and/or economics in college and counts Stanford, Carnegie Mellon, Swarthmore, Lehigh, Boston College, Northwestern and University of Virginia among the institutions he’s considering.