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WA Ghostwriter

The student news site of Westford Academy

WA Ghostwriter

The student news site of Westford Academy

WA Ghostwriter

Whitman earns perfect score on AP Chemistry exam

Deepa Gautam
Whitman stands in the his AP Chemistry classroom, with the periodic table behind him. He is holding a self-printed 3D model of an atom.

Whether it be in founding his own 3-D printing business, participating in triathlons, or simply taking high-level classes, senior Jack Whitman has always found ways to challenge himself and achieve at a level most people cannot imagine. Because of this, taking Advanced Placement (AP) Chemistry his junior year seemed to be a natural decision; he had enjoyed honors chemistry during sophomore year and was eager to pursue a deeper understanding of the subject.

When scores came out in July, Whitman found out that he had earned a 5, the AP equivalent of an “A” on the AP Chemistry exam, putting himself in the top 15% of test takers. However, it wasn’t until nearly two months later that Whitman learned the true extent of his success: he was one of 23 students worldwide to achieve every point possible on the exam. 

The college-level test, taken by more than 141,000 students last year, assesses students’ understanding of concepts taught year-long, with 60 multiple choice and seven open response questions. Most of the questions on the test require an in-depth understanding of complex chemical reactions and often lend themselves to long winded math calculations – both of which make even the most meticulous students susceptible to errors.

“Going into the test I knew that I knew the content, so there was certainly a possibility for me to get a perfect score, but just with the volume of questions and responses, it’s tricky to do,” Whitman said. “It’s a stretch to ever expect something that rare […] so when I found out, I was super excited about it.”

In fact, according to AP Chemistry teacher Timothy Knittel, Whitman’s accomplishment is not only incredibly rare, but something he had never imagined possible in all his years of teaching the subject. Knittel points towards Whitman’s own dedication towards chemistry as the source of his success, describing him as driven, enthusiastic, and an “all-around amazing” individual.

A close-up of a model atom created by Whitman. Whitman 3D printed and customized this fictitious element, with a symbol “Kn”, on his own as a gift for Knittel.

“Jack is outstanding, both as a student and person. [In class] he was always invigorated by what he was doing,” Knittel said. “Whether it was just doing an assignment or discussing something, it was always with this energy and a smile on his face. He just invests himself completely in everything that he does, and he does so many things. I haven’t seen that very often [in a student].”

Evidently, Whitman’s passion for learning is not limited to the chemistry classroom. Last year, he earned a majority of the Class of 2024 department awards for excellence in subjects ranging from physics and computer science to history and chemistry.

“I like to try to spread across many subjects because I think that if you can do one subject really well, you can try to expand the skills that make you great at that subject into other things,” Whitman said. “And that’s what I tried to do with Spanish and history, which was really different from chemistry and physics, but I was still able to have success in all of them.”

Watch the video below to see Whitman’s top three pieces of studying advice for WA students (advice starts at 00:22).

As for his success in chemistry, Whitman focused his efforts on gaining a deeper understanding of the material throughout the year, rather than cramming in the days leading up to the exam. In fact, a week prior to his AP Chemistry exam, Whitman was participating in the Spanish Exchange and recounted only five to six hours of studying between classes and group activities in Spain. 

A detailed look into the 3D capabilities of the atomic model Whitman printed. (Deepa Gautam)

“The way I see it, preparing for the exam starts in September, but you need to understand the content when it’s taught,” Whitman said. “I made sure to study with all the lecture videos and I took advantage of all the practice quizzes and questions before every single test. I would try to do them so that when I looked at [a question] I would know exactly how to do it in my head.”

 Growing up, he remembers gaining interest in chemistry as a young child when his mother, a chemical engineer, showed him simple, yet captivating chemistry demonstrations. This genuine enthusiasm and curiosity for the subject growing up would go on to fuel his success in the class and his other endeavors.

“I think taking chemistry has given [me] a different understanding of everyday life. Like, you go by your day and you don’t realize how much of everything is chemistry,” Whitman said. “[…] Of all the classes I have taken at WA, there’s a good chance [the one I enjoyed the most] would be AP Chem. It was the most hands-on with the labs and […] the depth that we got into was really high.”

According to his lab partner and long-time friend, Marvel Zheng, Whitman was always willing to help his peers out and enjoy himself during labs, while simultaneously excelling in the class. 

“He always put a lot of effort into the class and did his best to dig deeper than what was just given in class,” Zheng said. “[…] He just has that consistency and discipline to just finish all his work early and do so well.”


With his involvement in numerous activities outside of the classroom, Whitman’s discipline, paired with passion, has led him to impressive achievements throughout high school.  These range from co-captaining the varsity Cross Country team and regularly participating in triathlons (having won 15 to date), to running his own 3-D printing business, serving as a lead coach at Code Wiz, leading volunteer effort at the Cameron Senior Center and local elementary schools, and serving on the cabinet of both Programming Club and Spanish Club at WA. 

“A lot of my proudest [high school] moments have come to me in the last few years; I was very happy with how I did at the award ceremony, and getting my scores back this year, and this perfect score,” Whitman said. “And physically and athletically too, being able to get onto the varsity cross country team in sophomore year and just setting personal records as well. I’m pretty proud of just seeing my work pay off in those places.”

In the future, Whitman aims to major in computer engineering, incorporating his interests in math, science, and computers. As he reflects back on his high school career and years ahead, Whitman looks forward to continually challenging himself, both physically and academically. 

“I think a lot of [my motivation] comes from wanting to put my best effort forward. I never study for a test thinking I’m just going to take a bad grade on it and not prepare for it as much,” Whitman said. “I always want to perform the best I can, and that’s what motivates me. I don’t know if there’s some exact factor; it’s just kind of me.”

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