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Zheng earns perfect score on Advanced Placement U.S. History exam

MADISON – Jerry Zheng, a junior at James Clemens High School, reached a perfect score on the Advanced Placement U.S. History exam . . . a feat achieved by only six people in the world.

“I’ve loved history since I was a little kid, reading through most of the library’s history section,” Zheng said. Reading about the Revolutionary and Civil wars, he found “the premise and events in both wars the most interesting events in history.”

“However, my greatest motivation on achieving an extremely high score on the exam was to show a return for those who put so much effort to help me on my journey to become a better, more educated version of myself,” Zheng said. “My AP teacher, Mrs. Patrice O’Donnell, not only spent many hours creating course content and teaching the course but also graded my practice essays and the huge pile of work she already had.”

His parents taught him about the course’s niche subjects, such as U.S.-China relations in the Cold War era. They bought textbooks and review books. “Driven by their help, I put in a great deal of my own effort to make their gift to me net a great return,” Zheng said.

His studying strategy relied on brief sessions of study and frequent reviewing. “Cramming not only is insanely inefficient but also means you retain information (briefly), so you may as well have not studied at all,” Zheng said.

Two months before the AP Exam, Zheng shifted into high gear, spending 2.5 weeks studying the Princeton Review, his notes and completing unit review questions.

Next, he completed many mock exams and every multiple-choice set he could locate. He worked on eight sets of essays, with O’Donnell grading four. “I wanted to demonstrate a comprehensive knowledge of history by scoring high on this exam,” Zheng said.

Zheng’s favorite period of U.S. History is the Revolutionary War era. He compared/contrasted the state of the nation then to now. “At the nation’s founding, political parties did not exist. Washington strongly advised against them. At the rate political polarization is currently trending, I’m willing to bet Washington’s corpse is rolling in his grave,” Zheng said.

Conversely, Zheng’s least favorite period was 1491 to 1607, with few milestones of importance.

At James Clemens, Zheng is president of the Computer Science Team and participated in Math Team and CyberPatriot Team. He is a two-time qualifier for American Invitational Mathematics Exam, was Gold Level competitor in USA Computing Olympiad and operated the Southeast regional Computer Science Tournament.

“I made homecoming court this year . . . quite the fun experience,” Zheng said. He also volunteered for Beast Academy and as AYSO junior referee.

His hobbies are origami for relaxation, re-reading fiction novels from elementary school, video games, soccer and tennis.

“I’ve decided to major in computer science, ideally getting a master’s degree. I haven’t decided where to attend college. I do have several options I’m researching in close detail,” Zheng said.

His parents are Haibiao Zheng and Xiaoying Lou, who both work as software developers for ADTRAN.

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