ALLIANCE — When Alliance High School sophomore Julia Schwartz decided to retake the ACT in February, she was hoping to improve her score one point. What she ended up with was perfection.

The ACT consists of tests in English, mathematics, reading and science, each scored on a scale of 1-36. A student’s composite score is the average of the four test scores.

Julia earned a 33 composite score on the college admissions and placement exam when she first took it in December. Her goal was a 34, so she decided to take it again in February to try to improve the score.

“I felt a lot better about the science section on that one and the math, too, which had been my two lower scores on the first test, so I thought I had a shot at doing pretty well,” she recalled.

A couple of weeks later, she learned a friend who had taken the test the same day had gotten his results, so her dad suggested she log in online and check to see if her results also were in. That’s when she found out she had surpassed her goal of 34 and jumped to a perfect 36 — a rare accomplishment only around two-tenths of 1 percent of test takers achieve.

According to the congratulatory letter she later received, among the U.S. high school graduates in the Class of 2018, just 3,741 out of more than 1.9 million students who took the ACT earned a composite score of 36.

“I definitely didn’t expect a 36. That was not in my vision at all,” she said. “I was in shock. I couldn’t speak for a couple of moments and I was doubting whether it was actually mine or if there had been a mistake somehow, but it was real.”

“When I saw her perfect 36 score, I was ecstatic for her, and I was a little bit in shock,” her dad Gary Schwartz said. “Based on her practice tests, I was confident that she’d get a 34 or 35 composite score, but I never expected a 36. Thirty-sixes are awfully rare — and especially for a 15-year-old sophomore test-taker.”

Julia credits her dad with helping her prepare for the test.

“He had a very structured kind of system to make sure I felt prepared to take it,” she said. “My dad gets a lot of thanks for all the help he gave me, and my mom, too.”

Gary Schwartz said they bought Julia three study guides about a year ago — two editions of the “Red Book” — which include some practice tests — and “The ACT Black Book” by Mike Barrett — which offers tips for how to approach questions on the ACT.

Beginning last summer, Julia began studying and taking the practice tests. Gary Schwartz said he helped her set up a study timeline and established planned times to take full practice tests, which she ended up doing five times.

“We’d go over her results and talk about the strategies she used on the various questions,” he said.

She said before taking the test the second time she focused much of her attention to science and math as those were the areas she had scored lower on the first time around.

“With math in particular, I worked with her on looking for short-cuts to solve the easier questions faster, so she’d have more time left to tackle the harder math questions,” Gary Schwartz explained.

Julia had to work her studying in around a busy schedule as she is not only a top academic student, but also involved in extracurricular activities. The sophomore is on the cross country, track, soccer and swim teams, the Academic Challenge team, the Penn Ohio Creative Writing team, serves as Student Senate president, is a member of Key Club and Drama Club, and plays cello in the school orchestra.

While she is still unsure what she’ll study after high school, she is already looking at colleges, though the list is still long and includes everything from Ivy Leagues like Brown, Yale and Harvard to smaller liberal arts colleges.

Julia is the eldest of two children of Gary Schwartz, a tutor at Rockhill Elementary, and Gwen Schwartz, an associate professor of English at Mount Union. Her younger brother, Jordan, an eighth-grader at Alliance Middle School, has had his own success in academics, which includes earning a spot in the upcoming Scripps National Spelling Bee.

“We are incredibly proud of Julia for her hard work and academic success,” Alliance Superintendent Jeffery Talbert said. “It is not every day a student receives a perfect score on her ACT, especially as a sophomore. As a district, we would like to congratulate her on this accomplishment.”