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.
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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.
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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