Vietnamese girl achieves perfect SAT score

By Minh Hoa, Nguyet Minh   July 8, 2024 | 03:15 pm PT
Nguyen Phuong Linh, 17, from Hai Phong, scored a perfect 1600/1600 on her first SAT attempt, exceeding her initial goal of 1500.

More than a week after receiving her scores, 17-year-old Nguyen Phuong Linh, who specializes in English at Tran Phu High School for the Gifted, is still overjoyed.

"When receiving my scores, I kept checking to make sure I had logged into the right account or if it was confused with practice scores," Linh recalled.

"Initially, I only aimed for over 1500 points," she said.

The Scholastic Assessment Test, more popularly known as the SAT, is a test of natural and social sciences, logical reasoning, and is used as an admissions criterion by many universities in the U.S.

The College Board, which owns the test, reported that last year only 7% of candidates worldwide scored 1400/1600 or higher. A score of 1480 places a candidate in the top 1%.


Linh began preparing for the SAT at the start of 11th grade, studying online with teachers in Hanoi.

At the beginning, Linh dedicated about an hour each day to her SAT studies.

Initially, she focused on familiarizing herself with different types of questions on the exam.

Nguyen Phuong Linh, an 11th grader in Hai Phong City. Photo courtesy of Linh

Nguyen Phuong Linh, an 11th grader in Hai Phong City. Photo courtesy of Linh

For Math, she primarily reviewed from a set of 900 SAT Math questions compiled by the College Board.

"I concentrated on circle-related problems because that was my weakest area," Linh said.

As for the Reading-Writing section, Linh said she believed that language reasoning skills were crucial for achieving a high score.

Thus, she spent considerable time reading international news on current events, society, science, and economics. She particularly enjoyed reading The New York Times, and she studied the publication's writing styles. Additionally, she reviewed home-study materials provided to her by online SAT-prep classes.

Long nights, tricky questions

Each day, she spent four-five hours on average reviewing and solving practice tests, and sometimes she had to stayed up until 1 a.m. studying.

Linh's strategy during the exam was to solve each question carefully and review it immediately after completing it.

She was somewhat confused by probability and ratio questions as they contained misleading data, and it wasn't that difficult for her to fall astray and get some of the answers wrote.

"For example, there was a question presenting a figure of 0.78%, meaning the actual value for calculation is 0.0078, but many candidates would make a mistake and use 0.78," Linh explained.

For the Reading-Writing section, Linh found the science and history questions particularly challenging, often requiring extra time to think and eliminate incorrect options.

From her experience, Linh suggested that candidates familiarize themselves with the online testing format at home by practicing on the SAT website.

"This made me analyze mistakes thoroughly, and helped me understand and avoid them in future questions," Linh said.

Action, and not-so-'hidden' talents

Nguyen Thuy Linh, Linh's homeroom teacher for her English specialization class, said she is good at quickly grasping knowledge and has a special sensitivity for foreign languages.

"Linh’s strengths include her ability to present and debate in English before an audience," her teacher said. Additionally, Linh is sociable, energetic, and highly self-motivated. She is always proactive in researching, experimenting, and doing extra exercises to deepen her knowledge.

Linh also has a talent for music.

In 2018, she won second place on the reality TV-show "Tuyet dinh song ca nhi" ("Ultimate Kids' Singing Competition").

She also takes piano lessons to relax after studying.

"I am currently preparing my application to study abroad in the U.S., aiming to major in Economics or Education," Linh said.

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