SALISBURY – A Wicomico County student has been recognized as one of 16 people from around the world to earn a perfect score on an Advanced Placement exam.
Last week, Wicomico County Public Schools announced Marvin Li, a sophomore at James M. Bennett High School, earned a score of 5 – the highest possible score – on the College Board’s Advanced Placement U.S. History exam last May and was one of only 16 students from around the world to earn every point possible on the assessment.
“I found out my score sometime in June or July, but I didn’t know I got a perfect score until I received a letter from the College Board last week,” he said. “I really enjoyed the subject and felt that my efforts paid off.”
The College Board’s Advanced Placement (AP) Program enables students to pursue college-level studies while still in high school.
Each AP course concludes with a college-level exam that is scored by college and university faculty, as well as experienced AP teachers, on a five-point scale. According to the College Board, students who perform well on AP exams also improve their chances of getting into college and receiving college credit for equivalent courses.
Jaslee Carayol, a spokeswoman for the College Board, said it is very rare for a student to achieve a perfect score on an AP exam.
“He was one of 16 students to do so out of the 508,674 students who took the exam in 2018,” she said. “He is the only student from Maryland to earn a perfect score on the AP U.S. History Exam.”
According to the College Board, roughly half the students who took the AP U.S. History assessment in 2018 scored a 3 or higher, and 10% scored a 5. Test takers who earned a perfect score represented .003 of the population.
“Coming out of the exam I felt prepared, like I had gotten a four or five,” Li said, “but I was very surprised by my results.”
Li said he spent time learning and memorizing topics as they were taught, instead of studying hundreds of pages of material the night before the assessment.
“I looked at two AP review books, reread the material and did practice tests,” he said. “My teacher, Mr. Magaha, was also a great help in terms of AP preparation. He taught us how to format the essays, how to work through multiple choice questions and what material to review.”
Garrett Magaha, an American history teacher at Bennett High, applauded Li’s efforts.
“I don’t know a student who has done this, nor a teacher who has had a student earn a perfect score,” he said, “so I would say this is extremely rare.”
Magaha, who has taught AP U.S. History in Worcester County and Wicomico County schools for the past 13 years, praised Li for his commitment both inside and outside the classroom.
“I would say that aside from his natural abilities, the cause of his remarkable success, and what makes him unique, was his deep interest in the content, and his commitment outside of school,” he said. “He dedicated himself to mastering the content, the skills of historical argumentation, using documents to write historical essays, and deciphering historical interpretations. Marvin was a pleasure to teach, an asset to the class, and a model student.”
Li is already recognized as a College Board AP Scholar, receiving a score of 3 or higher on three or more AP exams in his freshman year of high school. Last year, he also earned a score of 5 on both the AP Computer Science A assessment and the AP Calculus AB assessment.
But Li’s accomplishments don’t end there. He was a first-place individual winner of the Eastern Shore High School Mathematics Competition as both a freshman and sophomore, and, in March, he qualified for the second round of the American Mathematics Competition.
In addition, Li was one of 20 students from across the nation to be named a Davidson Fellows Scholarship recipient last year for his research project using a newly developed algorithm for satellite remote sensing of coastal waters. He also took fourth place in the category of environmental science at the International Science and Engineering Fair.
While he has no specific plans in mind for college, Li expressed an interest in studying computer science and environmental science. He is currently taking four AP courses this year.