For many people, the strenuous three-hour-long Advanced Placement Calculus exam is something to be suppressed from their memories, but for some it is an unforgettable and life-changing feat.
That was the case for 17-year-old Cedrick Argueta, who is one of only 12 people in the world to score a perfect score on the Advanced Placement Calculus exam this year. Argueta, the son of a Salvadoran maintenance worker and a Filipina nurse, was one of 302,531 test takers this year. To put that in perspective, only .0039 percent of the total number of students earned every single point on the rigorous exam.
Argueta, a senior at Lincoln High School in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), was even amazed by his own capabilities. He said to the Los Angeles Times:
“It’s crazy. Twelve people in the whole world to do this and I was one of them? It’s amazing.”
Argueta attends Lincoln High, a school with approximately 1,200 students nestled in the heavily Latino-populated neighborhood of Lincoln Heights. Principal Jose Torres, who has worked within LAUSD for 31 years, remarked on Argueta’s achievement to the Times:
“It’s mind blowing. It’s the first time I’ve had something of this magnitude. A lot of kids expected him to be the one.”
When Torres announced Argueta’s score at the school assembly, his fellow students cheered and chanted his name. Torres even joked that he should be the teenager’s publicist with the massive amounts of media requests that have been flooding in.
The grueling three-hour, 15-minute AP Calculus AB exam was administered in May of last year by the College Board. The nonprofit sent Torres a letter last week congratulating his student for the “remarkable achievement.”
Despite the recognition, Argueta hasn’t let the attention get to his head. He’s a typical high school student in hoodies and sneakers who enjoys playing basketball. The gifted teenager mainly feels humble and grateful. He continued:
“It just sort of blew up. It feels kind of good to be in the spotlight for a little bit, but I want to give credit to everybody else that helped me along the way.”
Argueta, who aspires to be an engineer, comes from a humble background as both his parents came to the United States as young adults. His mother, Lilian Argueta, is from the Philippines and is a licensed vocational nurse at nursing homes while his father, Marcos Argueta, is from El Salvador and is a maintenance worker at one of those nursing homes. His father never received a high school education.
Argueta may be young, but it seems he is years ahead of his time in understanding the value of hard work. The senior student has a special affinity for math and hopes to attend CalTech in Pasadena for his undergraduate studies. He told the Times:
“That’s true for anything, If you want to get good at something hard work is the key.
“You need some creativity when you get to higher level math there’s also some beauty in it being absolute and always being right. There’s always a right answer.”
Argueta’s calculus teacher, Anthony Yum, was also blown away with his achievement. Yom, 35, appears to have inspired his students to dedicate their after-school time and weekends to solving math problems in his classroom. He treats his students like a sports team and recalled how all the students wore matching blue T-shirts sporting their names like jerseys on test day.
For the third year in a row, all of Yom’s AP calculus students have passed the test. Last year, all 21 students who took the exam passed with flying colors. Seventeen of them received the highest score of 5. He said of his students:
“I think they don’t want to disappoint each other. Talent can only take you so far. These kids put in so many hours.”