ACT Score Percentiles | How They Work

What exactly are ACT score percentiles? How do they work? Believe it or not, these percentiles play a role in what school you’ll get into eventually. Let’s discuss why.

Interested in knowing the average ACT score in your home state?

What Are ACT Score Percentiles?

Your ACT score percentile rank is a metric that compares your ACT score with everyone else who took that test administration.

Your percentile zeroes in on how many people you scored equal to or higher than. The ACT gives students a percentile ranking for their composite scores, as well as the four subject-area scores.

However, your ACT score percentile is not like a grade out of 100. It’s a comparison between you and the other students who took that test. This is an important distinction that many students understandably mistake.

How ACT Score Percentiles Work

For example, if your test ranking is in the 70th percentile, that means you individually scored the same as or higher than 70% of your fellow test-takers. It doesn’t automatically mean that you correctly answered exactly 70% of the test questions.

In reality, because of the ACT’s trickier nature, if you did correctly answer 70% of the questions, you’d be approximately in the 75th percentile.

Where ACT Score Percentiles Currently Are

Now that you know about percentile rankings, let’s go over what the ACT percentiles actually are, both for composite scores and individual section scores.

You can use the following chart to find percentile rankings for your ACT composite score and for each section (English, Math, Reading, and Science).

To find your percentile, look for your score between 1 and 36 on the left-hand side, and then slide over to the correct subject area or composite to see your percentile ranking. For example, a composite score of 30 has a 93rd percentile ranking.

However, that score of 30 only equates to an 86th percentile ranking for Reading section scores. Again, it’s not a one to one ratio between scored points and score percentiles. Bear that in mind moving forward.

Score English Math Reading Science Composite
36 100 100 100 100 100
35 99 99 98 99 99
34 96 99 96 98 99
33 94 98 94 97 98
32 92 97 91 96 96
31 91 96 89 95 95
30 89 94 86 93 93
29 88 93 84 92 90
28 86 91 82 90 88
27 84 88 80 88 85
26 82 84 77 85 82
25 79 79 74 82 78
24 75 74 71 77 74
23 71 70 66 71 70
22 65 65 61 64 64
21 60 61 55 58 59
20 55 58 50 51 53
19 49 54 44 45 47
18 45 49 39 39 41
17 41 42 34 32 35
16 37 33 29 26 28
15 32 21 24 19 22
14 25 11 19 14 16
13 19 4 14 10 10
12 15 1 10 7 5
11 11 1 5 4 2
10 7 1 3 3 1
9 3 1 1 1 1
8 2 1 1 1 1
7 1 1 1 1 1
6 1 1 1 1 1
5 1 1 1 1 1
4 1 1 1 1 1
3 1 1 1 1 1
2 1 1 1 1 1
1 1 1 1 1 1

Why Percentiles Matter

Colleges use percentiles to compare applicants against each other during application season. 

If you score in the 95th percentile, for example, schools will take you quite seriously. Why? Because you’ve scored better than 95% of the students who took the ACT nationwide.

We’ve said it before: college admissions are like building a sports team. it’s all about building the best possible class every year. The higher quality students a school can attract, the better its reputation grows, the more revenue it can generate for itself.

Keeping an eye on your percentile ranking and composite score can give you a good idea about what kinds of schools you’ll likely have a better chance of being admitted to or not.

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