Wasatch Academy student gets perfect ACT score

Ben Cottam

Wasatch Academy student

gets perfect ACT score

By Linda Petersen

Staff writer

Nov. 9, 2017


WALES—Wasatch Academy senior Ben Cottam was surprised recently with news that he had earned a perfect composite score of 36, on his ACT test.

Ben is the son of Mark and Miriam Cottam of Wales,  and is a day student at the school.

It was the third time Ben had taken the test. The first time he took it between his freshman and sophomore years and got a very respectable score of 30. He again took the test as a junior and received a score of 32. Last month, he took the test again, just to see if he could do better, and to see if he could beat his older brother Daniel’s score of 34. (There’s a friendly rivalry between the two siblings.)

Ben actually found out his ACT score while he was at school at lunch when he received an email on his phone that the results had been posted. When he saw that 36 number, he said he was surprised and excited and quickly found his mother, who, he said, cheered at the news.

A letter informing him of the results came the following week.

“Your achievement on the ACT is significant and rare. While test scores are just one of multiple criteria that most colleges consider when making admission decisions, your exceptional ACT composite score should prove helpful as you pursue your education and career goals,” the letter from ACT Chief Executive Officer Marten Roorda said.

Ben credits much of his success, both academically and in his score, to his mom, who, he said, is an “incredible teacher,” and who homeschooled him until the age of 14 when he became a student at Wasatch Academy.

With that perfect score, Ben became one  the top one-tenth of 1 percent of students who take the ACT and earn a top score. In the U.S. high school graduating class of 2017, only 2,760 out of more than 2 million graduates who took the ACT earned a 36.

Although much of the success in a good ACT score is simply talent or natural academic ability, hard work can definitely make a difference. Ben said he put in about 40-50 hours of study before each test.

As a 4.0 student, Ben said he has had a lot of interest from colleges and universities but it really picked up after his ACT score was posted—especially from out-of-state schools. It doesn’t make a lot of difference to Ben, who has had a lifetime dream to go to BYU (his four older siblings and both his parents are alumni), and plans to enroll at the school after he returns from an LDS mission.

Ben plans to go on his mission right out of high school. After he returns, he plans to study mechanical engineering at BYU.

“I like designing and building things,” he said.

The ACT is a curriculum-based achievement exam that measures what students have learned in school.