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Tuesday, Nov 13 2012 06:42 PM

Stockdale High School sophomore earns perfect SAT score

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Stockdale High sophomore Alap Sahoo, 14, has scored a perfect 2400 on the SAT.

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BY COURTENAY EDELHART Californian staff writer cedelhart@bakersfield.com

Stockdale High School sophomore Alap Sahoo isn't one to procrastinate. When there's something distasteful to be done, he'd just as soon get it over with.

So the 14-year-old took the SAT a little sooner than most.

"I had seen a lot of juniors and seniors who were really anxious about it, and I just wanted to be done with it," Alap said.

He's done alright. On Oct. 25, he found out he scored a perfect 2400 out of 2400.

To put things in perspective: Among the California class of 2012, 83 students out of 231,964 who took the SAT earned a perfect score, according to the College Board, which administers the test.

Nationwide, 360 students out of 1,644,479 achieved the highest possible score.

SAT scores are reported on a scale from 200-800 for each subject, with additional subscores reported for the essay (ranging from 2-12) and for multiple-choice writing questions (on a 20-80 scale).

Alap aced it all.

It was his father who told him. A night owl, Rabi Sahoo is often awake at odd hours, so when the results of the Oct. 6 exam were posted online about 2 a.m., he decided to log in and see how his boy had done.

He knew Alap was gifted and likely to score high, but wasn't expecting perfection, especially because Alap had been a little sick that day.

"People kept asking why he was going so early, but I said, 'Just go for it and let's see how you do. If you're weak in certain areas, we'll work on it,' " Sahoo said.

When he saw the flawless score on his computer screen, he blinked and stared for a moment while it sank in. Then he woke Alap to share the news, which was too exciting to wait until morning.

Groggy and disoriented, Alap was nonchalant.

"Honestly, I was like, 'Great. I can spend the whole next day bragging about it. Can I go back to sleep, now?'"

Alap didn't actually call anyone the next day, concluding it would be impolite and unseemly. But his parents were on the phone boasting of his accomplishment to relatives as soon as it was late enough to call without waking anyone.

At school, Alap told just a few close friends. The news immediately spread across the campus like wildfire.

Lindsay Carey, a high school counselor for more than two decades, can only recall one other Stockdale student achieving a perfect SAT score.

"What makes this one so very, very unusual is that he's a first-semester sophomore," she said. "That's really amazing."

It helped that there was a little sibling rivalry fueling him.

Earlier this year, Alap's 8-year-old brother, Alor, won first place in a national math contest.

Sahoo told Alap to be proud of Alor, but the elder of the two boys vowed to one up his math wizard brother.

"You know, brothers are brothers," Sahoo said, chuckling.

Alap didn't take any of the myriad SAT-prep classes available to help students get ready for the exam. But he's been studying and taking practice exams since seventh grade.

"The SAT isn't a test of intelligence, it's a test of your ability to reason," Alap said. "Reasoning ability is something you can learn and get good at if you just practice a lot. So I really, really practiced."

Alap said he didn't walk away from the test feeling that he nailed it. There were a few answers he sweated over, he said, but overall, he'd felt pretty good.

"Mainly I was just glad it was over," he said.

Stockdale Assistant Principal Gail Bentley said she's seen a "smattering" of 800s over the years in specific subject areas, but "We rarely see them across the board like this."

If anyone could pull this off, it would be Alap, Bentley added, noting that he has excelled in school his entire academic career.

Alap's extracurricular activities include Academic Decathlon; American Mathematics Competition, or AMC; Science Fair; Math Field Day; and California Math League, or CAML. He's also hoping to get into the Science Bowl.

In spite of it all, "He's a very normal, down-to-earth kid," Bentley said in her office as Alap sat nearby listening.

"I'm not crazy," Alap chimed in, smiling.

"No, he's not," she said.

"At least, not all of the time," he added, eyes glinting.

Alap hasn't settled on a career yet. He knows only that he'd like to pursue something related to either math or science, "because I think I could contribute the most to society through those fields."

The recruiters haven't started calling yet, but Bentley warned him that he'd better brace himself as word gets out.

Alap is just glad that he can finish high school without the burden of the SAT looming over him.

Most students who take the test early do so with the intention of taking it again later, since the College Board will submit the highest of multiple test results.

"He doesn't have to take it again," counselor Carey said. "You can't do any better than that."

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