Arcadia High student, 17, earns perfect score on AP calculus exam

A 17-year-old Arcadia High School student earned a perfect score on the Advanced Placement Calculus BC exam in May, making him one of only 11 in the world this year to perform such a feat.

Nathan Chou of Arcadia learned of the rare achievement earlier this month from the College Board, a nonprofit organization that oversees and scores millions of advanced placement tests.

About 104,600 students took the AP Calculus BC exams this year, according to a news release from the College Board.

The test was offered in 59 countries this past school year. The 11 students who earned perfect scores are all from the United States. At least two other students in California earned perfect scores on the exam, said Deborah Davis, the board’s director of college readiness communications.

Nathan, a senior, studied for three other AP exams while preparing for the calculus test. He spent about four hours total studying for the calculus exam with help from class-made study guides and practice tests, he said.


“That was helpful,” Nathan said. “But I almost ran out of time on the multiple choice section. I was nervous that my memory would suddenly blank out.”

Nathan, who took the test previously as a junior, said he never thought he would get a perfect score. He said the concepts were easy to understand but applying them to calculus problems was challenging.

Nathan has maintained straight A’s in high school and plays the violin and piano in the school’s symphony orchestra. He is fluent in Mandarin and Spanish, with a knack for computer science.

Report cards and praise from teachers reminded his father, Wen-Feng Chou, of his son’s discipline.

“We always taught him not to brag. He never talks about that [academics],” Chou said. “I never fully appreciated how good he was until now. There’s no comparison.”

More than 2.2 million students took AP exams this year, covering a broad variety of subjects including art history and physics. A total of 109 students earned perfect scores, according to the College Board news release.

Chou said the family will visit one of Nathan’s favorite restaurants to celebrate his achievement. Nathan said he would reward himself with a day off from studying, or maybe watching a movie.


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