PHS junior achieves perfect score on AP exam

PHS junior achieves perfect score in AP computer science
Posted on 10/05/2022
This is the image for the news article titled PHS junior achieves perfect score in AP computer scienceA junior at Piscataway High School is one of just 369 students in the world to achieve a perfect score on the 2022 Advanced Place Computer Science A exam.

Tyler Tran took the test in May as a 10th-grader and was hoping to achieve a score of 5, the highest score available on AP exams. He was shocked when he did even better.

“I wasn’t really expecting to get the perfect score,” he said. “I thought I messed up a couple of things, but I was just really proud of myself. And when I told my mom and dad, they were really proud, too.”

Advanced Placement courses are college-level courses taught at the high school level in which students can attain college credits if they achieve top scores. Attaining a perfect score is extremely rare.

“While we are accustomed to PHS students accomplishing incredible feats on the AP exam, Tyler’s perfect score is truly an outstanding accomplishment,” said Principal Chris Baldassano. “It goes to show the hard work and dedication of both staff and students. On behalf of the faculty and administration, it is with great pride we recognize Tyler’s perfect score.”

student at laptop

Trevor Packer, head of the Advanced Placement program for College Board, also applauded the dedication it takes to reach the pinnacle.

“This outstanding accomplishment is likely a direct reflection of the top-quality education being offered at Piscataway High School,” Packer said. “We applaud Tyler's hard work and the AP teacher responsible for engaging students and enabling them to excel in a college-level course.”

Tran’s computer science teacher is Binder Soin. He said the perfect score makes a big difference for Tyler.

“He’s a very good student, and I see a change in his confidence and his approach,” Soin said. “It’s such a huge confidence booster. Nothing gets in his way now.”

He also said the achievement is a great selling point when applying to colleges. He did quick math and said this makes Tran one of the top five or six students in New Jersey in computer science.

“So if you’re in the top 6 students in the state, you can sell that to colleges,” Soin said. “You’re making the point that you’re among the top 300 students in the country. That’s a huge feather in your cap.”

student and teacher

Tran said he intends to pursue computer science as his major in college in hopes of going into software development or cybersecurity.

“Now that I know I got a perfect score on the AP exam, I might want to set my sites a little higher for my ambition,” he said. “My mom wants me to go to Rutgers. It definitely gives me great opportunities.”

Tran is taking AP courses this year in Chemistry, Calculus, and Language and Composition, and is self-studying Computer Science B, a less rigorous course than the one he already aced. Having achieved a perfect score on an AP exam gives him great confidence going forward.

“He’s probably going to try to emulate that in other AP courses this year,” Soin said. “He’s going to say, ‘Hey, I pulled that perfect score. Can I do that in Calculus this year?’ There is a lot of cognitive development that happens in AP computer science. A lot of abstraction and problem-solving. And that problem-solving extends into all the other domains.”

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student and teacher at laptop

Although Tran’s perfect score is rare, PHS students often score well on the AP computer science exams.

“More than half the kids in my class pull a 5,” Soin said. “Pulling a perfect score is not something you can ever predict. The other people who got 5’s may have missed one question or two questions. College Board doesn’t tell you that. They tell you you got a 5 or a 4 or a 3, but they don’t tell you how many questions you got wrong.”

Piscataway’s robust computer science program is a long way from when Soin started working in it 15 years ago, when there was one section of computer science and one student taking AP computer science as an independent study.

Now Soin has 72 students in AP Computer Science A, a rigorous course designed for students interested in pursuing computer science as a major. Add to that 60 students in AP Computer Science B, a class for non-computer science majors that gives a general knowledge of applications in the real world.

There is also a Java Certification course that has AP CS-A as a prerequisite. It is a professional-level course that certifies students in the Java programming language. Soin founded the class four years ago after attaining a state grant under a program started by Governor Phil Murphy.

He explained that when Murphy offered 10 $100,000 grants for computer science programs, Soin applied for funds to start the Java class, which gives students the use of a MacBook Pro laptop throughout the year.

“Our AP program was wonderful,” he said, “so I said we will start a Java Certification class. That is not at all common in high school.”