The perfect score

“SAT prep isn’t that exciting, let’s be honest,” says 16-year-old Brian Reiser.

Bellevue youth achieves 2400 on national SAT test

“SAT prep isn’t that exciting, let’s be honest,” says 16-year-old Brian Reiser.

His score, however, is extremely exciting.

Brian, of Bellevue, received a perfect 2400 on the exam. In the most recently recorded year, only 238 students nationwide achieved the score.

The junior at Lakeside, a private school in Seattle, credits his achievement to numerous people and experiences.

Brian didn’t have the typical elementary school experience; he and his family lived in Prague and Brussels, where he attended branches of the French Lycée for grades two through six.

His father, Mark, explains that he and his wife felt French public school would be more of a growing experience for Brian than sending him to the international school where only English is spoken. However, Mark remembers that “they didn’t take Brian right away because it was required that a student speak French fluently after first grade,” and Brian didn’t.

After meeting with the family, though, the school decided to enroll Brian and set him up with a language tutor. He attended classes the first half of the day and worked with his tutor the second. Within the first six months, Brian was fluent.

The Reisers also chose the French Lycée because the curriculum is the same at every branch; whether attending a school in the Czech Republic or London or even L.A. or D.C., students are doing the same work and learning the same things. Therefore, Brian had no problem transferring from the branch in Prague to the branch in Brussels when the family moved.

However, Brian notes that these schools are still “nun run,” and very different from those in America. The French Lycée focuses more on empirical knowledge and facts, whereas American schools focus on expression, he says. Another difference: “The math wasn’t SAT math,” he says.

Brian says that it was “so nice to fully experience another culture,” but notes that the transition into American public school was a big one.

His parents decided to enroll him in Bellevue’s Odle Middle School for seventh and eighth grade due to the accelerated PRISM program.

It was at Odle, in Lila Kol’s class, where Brian got excited about math.

“She was so passionate about it and truly brilliant,” he recalls. “She was also very approachable.”

Brian is now a member of Lakeside’s math team, which he says he’s always “very excited about.” There are both individual and team events, and Brian notes that he did well in both.

Brian didn’t need any help in preparing for the math portion of the SAT. But his essays and critical reading were not at the same level, he says.

“If you read my middle school essays, they weren’t very good,” he notes.

It was Brian’s choice to attend Lakeside, as he feels smaller class sizes allow students more individual attention from teachers. This improved his writing, he says. He credits Brian Culhane, his 10th-grade English teacher, as his source of proper grammar and mechanics. He also feels that reading, especially newspapers, helps one to pick up vocabulary and see different writing styles.

“The SAT doesn’t always test good writing, though,” says Brian. Wanting to do extremely well on the test, he chose to get a tutor. The tutoring sessions also would help him budget his time. On top of math team and Science Olympiad competitions, Brian participates in piano adjudications and Boy Scouts.

He and his father went to Kaplan in Seattle about a month and a half before Brian took the exam. Kaplan representatives placed him with a “2400 tutor,” one who works primarily with students who are already doing well.

He met with her for two hours twice a week, for a total of 12 hours. He also completed 1.5 hours of homework a week outside the sessions. He learned that there are specific types of wrong answers that repeatedly appear in the reading comprehension section: an answer that is too broad, too narrow or too extreme.

As for the essays, he learned that they are “kind of formulaic.” The College Board is looking for the ability to respond to a question in the form of a thesis statement, support (which can be fabricated), and length (the longer, the better). He calls writing to this formula the “safe course of action,” but notes that not every student knows about it.

With his perfect score as a sure eye-catcher on his applications, Brian hopes to attend a college far from home, perhaps on the East Coast, and major in math, economics, or political science. He is also learning Latin and German, and hopes to one day use language in his career.

“It is all very tentative, though,” says the modest 16-year-old, who, like most teenage boys, enjoys playing video games, especially the Wii, in his spare time.

Leah Gohring is a student at the University of Washington.