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Historical ACT Percentiles for 2010, 2009, and 2008

Posted by Dora Seigel | Dec 4, 2015 3:00:00 PM

ACT General Info

 

body_percents-1.jpg

If you just took the ACT or if you took the ACT in 2008-2010, you might be curious as to how your percentile score compares to students with the same scaled score in other years? In this guide, I'll explain what percentiles are, how they work on the ACT, and why they matter (even the older ones). I'll also give you ACT percentile charts for 2011-2014, so you can see how your scores stack up against historical ones.

 

What Is an ACT Percentile Score? 

Before I get started, I need to define what an ACT percentile actually is. An ACT percentile score is NOT the same as a percentage score you receive on school quiz (for example, when you score 91% on your Physics test that means you answered 91% of questions correctly).  

Instead, an ACT percentile score tells you how your scaled score compared to that of other test-takers. More specifically, the percentile is an approximation by the ACT of how many recent US high school graduates took the SAT and scored at or below your score. A percentile score makes your scaled score easier to comprehend since it’s on a vague scale (1-36).

As an example, if you have a 30th percentile score, you scored higher than 30% of ACT test-takers. If you have an 84th percentile score, you scored higher than 84% of test-takers. The higher your percentile score is, the better you compared to others who took that ACT.

If you took an in-class test, you could have a high test score (such as 95%) and have a relatively low percentile score (17th) if the test was very easy for your class (83% of the class scored above 95% on that test). On the other hand, you could have a low test score (such as 35%) and have a relatively high percentile score (88%) if the test was very hard for your class (only 12% of the class scored above 35%). 

On the ACT, percentile shifts tend not to be as extreme as this example since the ACT is equalized, but I’ll discuss this more in depth later on. Nonetheless, ACT percentiles are helpful for understanding your scaled scores, since percentiles allow you to determine where you fall in comparison to other test-takers.

 

Do ACT Percentiles Change Over Time?

For a specific scaled ACT score, the score percentile stays about the same from year to year (typically within 2-3%). If you don’t know how your ACT scaled score (1-36) is calculated, learn how to calculate ACT score before reading further.

There are only minuscule percentile changes for a specific scaled score from year to year because the ACT is equalized specifically to ensure the same curve every test date. To show the slight variation in percentile for a specific score, a scaled score of 18 was the 33rd percentile in 2008, but it was the 34th percentile in 2009 and the 35th percentile in 2010. However, a score of 33 had the same percentile for 2008-2010, 99th percentile.

What does it mean for percentiles for each scaled score to remain about the same from year to year? As I said above, the ACT attempts to keep score distributions the same from year to year so that the same scaled score means the same across different years. That way, a 33 means you scored better than 99% of test-takers in 2008-2010 (and any other year).

What this means for you is that no one test date (or test year) is better (or easier) than another. All test dates are equalized to make sure there is a similar score distribution.  

 

Why Care About ACT Score Percentiles? Especially Percentiles From Other Years?

You should care about your ACT score percentile because it helps college admissions officers compare your scaled score to those of other applicants. Admissions officers need percentile scores to have a sense of how you compare to students across the country. If they just saw your scaled score without any other information, they wouldn’t have any sense of what makes a good ACT scaled score and what makes a bad one.

For instance, if you’d received a 33 composite score and an admissions office didn’t know the score percentile, they might judge that as a quiz grade and think if you scored 33 out of 36, then you got a 92% or A-, good but not great. Instead, since they have score percentiles, admissions offices know a 33 is a 99th percentile score, meaning you scored better than 99% of test-takers, which is excellent.

Percentile scores allow college admissions offices to have an understanding of how test-takers do on the ACT and how you stack up to the rest of test-takers.   

But why should you care about percentiles from other years? Because you’re submitting your college apps at the same time as students who took the ACT in other years. Although you may have taken the ACT in 2009 as a junior in high school, other students might have waited to take the ACT until 2010 as seniors in high school. This doesn’t change the fact that you’re all still applying to college the same year.

While you and your friend, who took the test in 2010, both received a composite scaled score of 30. Your percentile score was 96 while his was 95. What this means is your 30 is slightly better than his 30. You scored better than 96% of test-takers while he only scored better than 95% of test-takers.

Comparing percentiles for a specific scaled score across different years is a useful tool to understand how you compare to other applicants who took the ACT a different year.

While ACT percentile scores are important, knowing how you fall in the ACT score ranges for your target colleges is much more important. If you don’t know what a college’s ACT score range is, the quick explanation is it’s the range in which the middle 50% of admitted students’ ACT scores fall. I.E., Yale’s ACT score range is 31-35. This means 25% of admitted Yale students scored below a 31, and 75% scored at or below a 35.

Schools mostly use their score ranges when making admissions decisions. As a result, no matter your percentile score, you’ll want your ACT composite scaled score to be at or above the 75th percentile (for example, 35 for Yale) to give yourself the best shot of getting in.

To locate the ACT score ranges for your dream colleges, search “[College Name] ACT Scores Prepscholar” in Google. For an in-depth explanation of score range, including how to calculate your target score, read our guide to good and bad ACT scores.

The reasons schools care about their score range over your score percentile are:

  • Their score range is typically a part of the evaluation for college ranking list, so schools want to admit students with higher scaled scores so that the school will be ranked higher.
  • Schools publish their scaled score range every year, so the higher the range, the more impressive it seems to the general public.

While ACT score percentiles are important, your overall ACT composite score is the number that is most significant in your college application.

 

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ACT Percentiles for 2008-2010

Here I’ve created a table showing the ACT score percentiles from 2008-2010 for each composite scaled score. I used data provided by the ACT to assemble this chart and the charts below (for the percentiles for individual sections).

Remember, the percentile score is the percentage of test-takers who scored at or below that scaled score. I.E. below, in 2008, if your composite score was a 32, you scored better than 99% of test-takers:

ACT Scaled Score

2008 Percentile

2009 Percentile

2010 Percentile

ACT Scaled Score

36

100

100

100

36

35

100

100

100

35

34

100

100

100

34

33

99

99

99

33

32

99

98

98

32

31

97

97

97

31

30

96

96

95

30

29

94

93

93

29

28

91

91

91

28

27

88

88

88

27

26

84

84

84

26

25

80

79

79

25

24

75

74

74

24

23

69

69

68

23

22

62

62

62

22

21

55

56

55

21

20

48

48

48

20

19

40

41

41

19

18

33

34

35

18

17

26

27

28

17

16

20

21

22

16

15

14

15

16

15

14

9

10

11

14

13

5

5

7

13

12

2

2

3

12

11

1

1

1

11

10

1

1

1

10

9

1

1

1

9

8

1

1

1

8

7

1

1

1

7

6

1

1

1

6

5

1

1

1

5

4

1

1

1

4

3

1

1

1

3

2

1

1

1

2

1

1

1

1

1

  

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ACT English Historical Percentiles for 2008-2010

Here I’ve created a table showing the ACT percentiles from 2008-2010 for each English scaled score.

ACT Scaled Score

2008 Percentile

2009 Percentile

2010 Percentile

ACT Scaled Score

36

100

100

100

36

35

100

100

100

35

34

99

99

99

34

33

97

97

97

33

32

96

96

96

32

31

95

95

95

31

30

93

93

93

30

29

91

91

91

29

28

89

88

88

28

27

86

86

85

27

26

83

83

82

26

25

79

79

78

25

24

74

74

73

24

23

69

69

68

23

22

64

63

63

22

21

58

57

57

21

20

50

50

50

20

19

42

43

43

19

18

37

37

38

18

17

32

33

34

17

16

27

28

29

16

15

22

23

24

15

14

16

17

19

14

13

12

14

15

13

12

9

11

12

12

11

7

8

9

11

10

5

5

6

10

9

3

3

4

9

8

2

2

2

8

7

1

1

1

7

6

1

1

1

6

5

1

1

1

5

4

1

1

1

4

3

1

1

1

3

2

1

1

1

2

1

1

1

1

1

 

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ACT Math Historical Percentiles for 2008-2010

Here I’ve created a table showing the ACT score percentiles from 2008-2010 for each Math scaled score.

ACT Scaled Score

2008 Percentile

2009 Percentile

2010 Percentile

ACT Scaled Score

36

100

100

100

36

35

100

100

100

35

34

99

99

99

34

33

98

98

98

33

32

97

97

97

32

31

96

96

96

31

30

95

94

95

30

29

93

93

93

29

28

91

91

91

28

27

87

88

88

27

26

83

84

84

26

25

79

79

79

25

24

73

74

74

24

23

67

68

68

23

22

62

62

62

22

21

57

58

57

21

20

52

52

52

20

19

47

47

47

19

18

41

41

42

18

17

33

35

35

17

16

24

25

26

16

15

14

14

14

15

14

6

6

6

14

13

2

2

2

13

12

1

1

1

12

11

1

1

1

11

10

1

1

1

10

9

1

1

1

9

8

1

1

1

8

7

1

1

1

7

6

1

1

1

6

5

1

1

1

5

4

1

1

1

4

3

1

1

1

3

2

1

1

1

2

1

1

1

1

1

  

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ACT Reading Historical Percentiles for 2008-2010

Here I’ve created a table showing the ACT score percentiles from 2008-2010 for each Reading scaled score.

ACT Scaled Score

2008 Percentile

2009 Percentile

2010 Percentile

ACT Scaled Score

36

100

100

100

36

35

99

99

99

35

34

98

99

99

34

33

97

97

97

33

32

96

95

95

32

31

94

93

93

31

30

91

90

91

30

29

88

87

88

29

28

85

84

85

28

27

81

81

82

27

26

78

78

78

26

25

74

74

75

25

24

70

71

70

24

23

65

66

66

23

22

58

60

60

22

21

53

55

54

21

20

47

47

48

20

19

41

41

41

19

18

34

35

36

18

17

30

31

31

17

16

24

25

25

16

15

19

19

20

15

14

14

14

15

14

13

9

9

11

13

12

5

6

7

12

11

3

3

4

11

10

1

1

2

10

9

1

1

1

9

8

1

1

1

8

7

1

1

1

7

6

1

1

1

6

5

1

1

1

5

4

1

1

1

4

3

1

1

1

3

2

1

1

1

2

1

1

1

1

1

 

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ACT Science Score Historical Percentiles for 2008-2010

Here I’ve created a table showing the ACT  percentiles from 2008-2010 for each Science scaled score.

ACT Scaled Score

2008 Percentile

2009 Percentile

2010 Percentile

ACT Scaled Score

36

100

100

100

36

35

100

100

100

35

34

99

99

99

34

33

99

99

99

33

32

98

98

98

32

31

97

98

98

31

30

97

96

96

30

29

95

95

95

29

28

94

93

93

28

27

92

91

91

27

26

89

89

87

26

25

85

84

84

25

24

78

77

77

24

23

72

72

71

23

22

65

64

63

22

21

56

57

56

21

20

49

49

47

20

19

39

38

38

19

18

30

30

31

18

17

23

23

24

17

16

18

19

19

16

15

13

14

14

15

14

10

10

11

14

13

7

7

8

13

12

5

5

5

12

11

3

3

3

11

10

1

1

2

10

9

1

1

1

9

8

1

1

1

8

7

1

1

1

7

6

1

1

1

6

5

1

1

1

5

4

1

1

1

4

3

1

1

1

3

2

1

1

1

2

1

1

1

1

1



What’s Next?

Learn more about the ACT and college application process:

 

Disappointed with your ACT scores? Want to improve your ACT score by 4+ points? Download our free guide to the top 5 strategies you need in your prep to improve your ACT score dramatically.

Raise Your ACT Score by 4 Points (Free Download)

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Dora Seigel
About the Author

As an SAT/ACT tutor, Dora has guided many students to test prep success. She loves watching students succeed and is committed to helping you get there. Dora received a full-tuition merit based scholarship to University of Southern California. She graduated magna cum laude and scored in the 99th percentile on the ACT. She is also passionate about acting, writing, and photography.



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