Mississippi student one of six on Earth to earn perfect AP Psych score

Leo Mei, 16
Leo Mei, 16(Madison Central High School)
Published: Nov. 3, 2021 at 2:11 PM CDT
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MADISON, Miss. (WLBT) - Most high school students boast about being the star quarterback, a homecoming queen or king, or even student government association president.

But Leo Mei is in a category of his own - one he doesn’t really care to brag about.

The 16-year-old junior at Madison Central High School is one of six students in the world to ace the Advanced Placement Psychology Exam for 2021.

Yes - the world.

“It feels unreal!” Mei laughed. “Because AP tests, there’s a lot of questions and a lot of points that are possible, and because of that, it’s really easy to miss points as well.”

The two-hour college prep test gauges your understanding of psychological concepts and ability to analyze behavioral studies.

It’s nothing for Leo Mei - he takes six AP courses that he calls fun and he winds down by reading science fiction books.

The junior stood tall in spirit Thursday inside Madison Central’s library, with a black business suit and solid red tie. He was just as prepared for our interview as he was for the AP test, but he never expected a perfect score.

“I remember reading that six people in the world made a perfect score, and I thought, well, I’m probably not going to be one of them,” he laughed. “So, I was really, really surprised by the news.”

The test results didn’t catch Madison Central Principal Sean Brewer off guard.

“Leo just consumes information that he’s interested or fascinated about,” Brewer said. “It’s that driving force of effort and hard work and challenge that we see daily.”

So, how difficult is the AP Psychology exam?

It’s scored on a scale of 1 to 5. According to the Albert Team, the average passing rate is 66.9%, with an average score of 3.15, but it’s rare to get a perfect 5.

Here’s a sample question from a previous AP Psychology exam if you’d like to test your skills:

A psychologist conducted a study at her home during an annual activity of children wearing masks and going door-to-door receiving candy. Some of the children arrived alone, while others arrived in a group. Over the course of the night, the psychologist asked half of the children to remove their masks when they arrived at her door. The remaining half kept their masks on. The psychologist told every child to take only one piece of candy. She then went inside the house, leaving the bowl of candy outside. This gave children the opportunity to take additional candy. The psychologist measured the percentage of children who took additional candy. The psychologist’s hypotheses were that children would take more candy when they were alone and that children would take more candy when they were masked. The results are shown in the graph below; assume all differences are significant.

A. Identify the operational definition of the dependent variable in this study.

B. Explain how the data support or do not support each of the psychologist’s hypotheses.

C. Explain why the psychologist cannot generalize her findings to all children.

D. Explain why the study is not a naturalistic observation.

E. Explain how each of the following might have played a role in the children’s behavior.

  • Modeling
  • Deindividuation
  • Lawrence Kohlberg’s pre-conventional stage

Students had 50 minutes to answer this question and another one just like it on the 2019 AP Psychology exam, administered by College Board.

400 AP tests were taken last year by AP students at Madison Central High School. Some students took the test more than once. It’s a testament to the learning culture Principal Brewer said he’s thankful for.

“At some schools, in some places, being great academically is not the in-thing to do, but here that’s just not the case,” the principal said. “There’s a large collection of students that are high flyers and high-performers, and they feed off one another.”

As for Leo Mei, he’s driven by his two biggest influencers - mom and dad.

“They were both raised in China and relatively poor families, and through hard work, they made it to the highest universities in China, and they eventually came here. In my opinion, they have one of the biggest success stories ever, and that motivates me.”

His parents are both medical researchers - cancer research for his mom - and a type of public health for his dad.

And in the Mei household, hard work is an everyday expectation, which explains this teenager’s humility.

“I don’t think that I’m special per se because I’ve taken an IQ test; I have average intelligence, but I think that what makes a difference is trying to aim, to shoot for what you think you want to do,” the aspiring doctor said.

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