Your SAT-taking friends are probably talking about percentiles constantly, but did you know that ACT percentiles exist too? Although this aspect of the ACT isn’t talked about as much, it’s good information to have on hand and see what role it plays in your college applications. If you want to learn more about ACT percentiles, how they’re important, and where your composite score ranks; then keep reading.

What is a Percentile?

You’ll hear this word being thrown around a lot when people talk about standardized tests, usually more so with the SAT than the ACT. Essentially, a percentile compares your score with everyone else who took this test. Most importantly however, the ACT percentiles tell how much higher your score is compared to everyone else who took the ACT.

Let’s say your ACT percentile is 85. This means that your score is higher than 85% of ACT test-takers. You will never see someone with a 100 percentile, because achieving a perfect ACT score has been done multiple times. Because of this, the highest of the ACT percentiles is 99.

ACT Percentiles Chart

So now that we have a better understanding of what a percentile is and what function it serves, we can get to the fun part: figuring out what your ACT percentiles are. Keep in mind that although these numbers reflect the most recent data, they will change from year to year as more people take the ACT. When people talk about the percentiles, they’re typically referring to the composite ACT percentiles, but I’ve included the percentiles for the rest of the subjects as well.

Score Composite Percentiles English Percentiles Math Percentiles Reading Percentiles Science Percentiles
36 99 99 99 99 99
35 99 99 99 99 99
34 99 98 99 98 99
33 99 97 98 97 98
32 98 95 97 95 97
31 96 93 96 92 96
30 95 92 95 89 95
29 92 90 93 86 94
28 90 88 91 84 92
27 87 85 88 81 90
26 83 82 84 78 87
25 79 79 78 75 83
24 74 74 73 71 77
23 68 69 67 66 70
22 63 64 62 61 63
21 56 58 57 55 56
20 50 52 53 48 48
19 43 45 49 42 40
18 36 40 43 36 33
17 30 36 37 31 27
16 24 32 27 25 22
15 18 27 15 21 17
14 12 21 6 16 13
13 7 16 2 11 9
12 4 13 1 7 6
11 1 10 1 4 4
10 1 7 1 2 2
9 1 4 1 1 1
8 1 2 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

(via ACT.org)

Okay, But Do the ACT Percentiles Actually Matter?

As cool as this information is, you’re probably wondering if it actually matters in the grand scheme of your college applications. The simple answer is: sort of. ACT percentiles help colleges see how you did compared to the rest of the test takers and applicants. That being said, the ACT percentiles don’t hold a lot of weight when it comes to the admissions process.

What does matter to colleges is whether your ACT scores fall into their ACT score ranges.

Each college has its own percentiles for the standardized tests and it’s much more important for you to focus on the school percentiles as opposed to the country-wise percentiles. So getting into the 99th percentile for the country is cool and might get you some scholarship offers, but hitting the 75th percentile for the school you’re applying to increases your chances of being accepted. What’s great about this is that colleges have to publish their score ranges every year so this information is just a Google search away.

At the end of the day, it’s your ACT composite score that really matters. And colleges want to admit students with higher scores. So let’s talk about how you can make that happen.

How to Boost Your ACT Score

My secret weapon to boosting my students’ ACT scores is to pair them with a top-scoring ACT tutor. Tutoring seems to have a bad rep or somehow means admitting you’re a failure — at least that’s what my students tell me at first. But tutoring all but guarantees improved performance on tests along with a ton of other benefits. Practicing outside of your tutoring sessions gives you an extra edge, because you’re repeatedly studying the material instead of focusing on it once a week. Plus breaking down your studying obligations into smaller chunks makes it more manageable and keeps you from cramming.

As interesting as ACT percentiles are and the bragging rights that come with it if you have a high enough sore, it’s not usually a factor that will sway college admissions committees to your side. You will be better off spending your time focused on researching the ACT ranges for the colleges you’re going to apply to and aiming for your score to at least be inside that range. It’s better if your score is on the higher end, because schools report their ranges every year and having students with higher scores makes them look good. Be sure to work with your tutor regularly and study in small time blocks over the week and you’ll be on your way to getting a high ACT score.

What do you think about standardized tests and percentiles? Do you pay attention to them? Let us know in the comments below.