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Historical ACT Percentiles for 2014, 2013, 2012, and 2011

Posted by Dora Seigel | Dec 3, 2015 1:00:00 PM

ACT General Info

 

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For those currently taking the ACT or those who took the ACT in 2011-2014, you may wonder how your percentile compares to students with the same score in other years? In this guide, I'll explain what percentiles are, how they work for the ACT, and why they matter. 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 diving in, let's define what an ACT percentile actually is. A percentile score is NOT the same as a percentage score you receive on a test in school (i.e. when you receive 85% on your Biology test, you answered 85% of questions correctly. Rather, an ACT percentile score lets you know how you did in comparison to other test-takers, which makes your score easier to understand since it’s on a rather ambiguous scale (1-36). 

For instance, if you have a 25th percentile score,  you scored higher than 25% of ACT test-takers. If you have a 98th percentile score, you scored higher than 98% of test-takers. The higher your percentile score is, the better you compared to others who've taken ACT.

On an in-class test, you can have a high test score (such as 90%) and have a relatively low percentile score (10%) if the test was very easy for your class (i.e. 90% of your class scored above 90% on that test). However, you can also have a low test score (such as 20%) and have a relatively high percentile score (90%) if the test was very hard for your class (i.e. only 10% of your class scored above 20%).

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?

Generally, for a specific scaled ACT score, the percentile of that score stays the same from year to year, but there can be some very slight changes (typically at most 3% from year to year). NOTE: If you’re unsure how the scaled score (1-36) is determined, learn how to calculate ACT score.

The reason there are only minimal percentile changes for a specific scaled score from year to year is that the ACT is equalized specifically to ensure the same curve every test date. As an example of the slight variation in percentile for a specific score, a score of 31 was the 96th percentile in 2014, but it was the 97th percentile in 2011-2013. On the other hand, a score of 32 had the same percentile for all four years, 98th percentile.

What does it mean for percentiles for each scaled score to stay about the same from year to year? As I mentioned earlier, the ACT tries to keep the score distributions the same from year to year so that the same scaled score means the same across different years. Ideally, a 32 means you scored better than 98% of test-takers in 2011 and 2014 (and any other year).

Which means no one test date (or test year) is advantaged over another. All test dates are equalized to ensure similar (if not the same) score distribution.  

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Why Care About Percentiles? Especially Percentiles From Other Years?

Your score percentile is somewhat important because it helps colleges compare your ACT score to those of other applicants. It’s important for colleges to have a sense of how you compare to students across the country because if colleges just looked at your scaled score without any other information, they would not have a good sense of what makes a good score and what makes a bad score.

For example, if you’d received a 33 composite score and a college did not have the percentile, the college admissions officer might judge that as a school test and think you received 33 out of 36 that about 92% that’s an A-, good but not great. However, with the percentiles, the colleges know a 33 is a 99th percentile score, meaning you scored better than 99% of test-takers, which is excellent.

Percentiles allow colleges to get a sense of how test-takers do on the ACT and compare you to the rest of the country.   

You should care about percentiles from other years because you are applying to college with students who took the ACT in other years. For example, although you may have taken the ACT in 2013 as a junior in high school, some of your classmates might have taken the ACT in 2014 as seniors in high school. You’re all still applying to college the same year.

While you and your classmate both scored 29, your percentile score was 93, while his was 92. Your 29 is slightly more impressive than his. You scored better than 93% of test-takers, while he scored better than 92% of test-takers.

Comparing percentiles for specific scaled scores across years is useful to know how you stack up against students who took the ACT a different year but are applying to college at the same time as you.

While percentile scores are important, the ACT score range for your target college is the more important consideration. If you’re unfamiliar with the ACT score range, the ACT score range for colleges is the range in which the middle 50% of admitted students’ ACT scores fall. For instance, Yale’s ACT score range is 31-35. 25% of admitted students scored at or below a 31, and 75% scored at or below a 35.

Universities rely primarily on score ranges when making admissions decisions. For this reason, you’ll want your score to be at or above the 75th percentile (for example, 35 for Yale) to give yourself the best chance of being admitted. To find ACT score ranges for your target schools, search “[College Name] ACT Scores Prepscholar.” For a more detailed explanation, including how to calculate your target score, read our other guide

Universities care about the score range over the score percentile because:

  • A college’s score range is often a consideration in college ranking lists, so colleges want to admit students with higher scores so that the college will be ranked higher.
  • Universities publish their score range each year, so the higher the range, the more impressive it seems to the public.

While ACT score percentiles are an important part of the college admissions process, your final ACT composite number is the number that is most significant.

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Okay, maybe not this historical

 

ACT Percentiles for 2011-2014

Below, I’ve listed the ACT composite score percentiles for each composite scaled score from 2011-2014. 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. 

ACT Scaled Score

2014 Percentile

2013 Percentile

2012 Percentile

2011 Percentile

ACT Scaled Score

36

100

100

100

100

36

35

100

100

100

100

35

34

100

100

100

100

34

33

99

99

99

99

33

32

98

98

98

98

32

31

96

97

97

97

31

30

95

95

95

95

30

29

92

93

93

93

29

28

90

91

90

91

28

27

87

87

87

87

27

26

83

84

83

83

26

25

79

79

79

79

25

24

74

75

74

74

24

23

68

69

68

68

23

22

62

63

62

62

22

21

56

56

55

55

21

20

50

50

48

48

20

19

43

43

41

41

19

18

36

36

34

34

18

17

30

30

28

28

17

16

24

24

21

22

16

15

18

18

16

16

15

14

12

12

11

11

14

13

7

8

6

7

13

12

4

4

3

3

12

11

1

1

1

1

11

10

1

1

1

1

10

9

1

1

1

1

9

8

1

1

1

1

8

7

1

1

1

1

7

6

1

1

1

1

6

5

1

1

1

1

5

4

1

1

1

1

4

3

1

1

1

1

3

2

1

1

1

1

2

1

1

1

1

1

1

 

 

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ACT English Historical Percentiles 2011-2014

Below, I’ve listed the ACT score percentiles for each English scaled score from 2011-2014.

ACT Scaled Score

2014 Percentile

2013 Percentile

2012 Percentile

2011 Percentile

ACT Scaled Score

36

100

100

100

100

36

35

100

100

100

100

35

34

98

99

99

98

34

33

97

97

97

97

33

32

95

95

96

96

32

31

93

94

94

94

31

30

92

92

92

92

30

29

90

90

90

90

29

28

87

88

88

88

28

27

85

86

86

85

27

26

82

83

82

82

26

25

79

79

78

78

25

24

74

75

74

73

24

23

69

70

68

67

23

22

64

64

63

63

22

21

58

59

57

56

21

20

52

52

50

49

20

19

45

45

43

43

19

18

40

40

38

38

18

17

36

36

33

34

17

16

32

32

29

29

16

15

27

26

24

24

15

14

21

21

18

18

14

13

16

16

14

14

13

12

13

13

11

12

12

11

10

10

9

9

11

10

7

7

6

6

10

9

4

4

4

4

9

8

2

2

2

2

8

7

1

1

1

1

7

6

1

1

1

1

6

5

1

1

1

1

5

4

1

1

1

1

4

3

1

1

1

1

3

2

1

1

1

1

2

1

1

1

1

1

1

 

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ACT Math Historical Percentiles 2011-2014

Below, I’ve listed the ACT score percentiles for each Math scaled score from 2011-2014.

ACT Scaled Score

2014 Percentile

2013 Percentile

2012 Percentile

2011 Percentile

ACT Scaled Score

36

100

100

100

100

36

35

100

100

100

100

35

34

99

99

99

99

34

33

98

98

98

98

33

32

97

97

97

97

32

31

96

96

96

96

31

30

95

95

95

94

30

29

93

94

93

93

29

28

91

92

91

91

28

27

88

88

88

88

27

26

84

84

84

84

26

25

78

79

78

79

25

24

73

73

73

73

24

23

67

67

66

67

23

22

61

61

60

60

22

21

57

56

54

55

21

20

53

52

51

51

20

19

49

48

46

46

19

18

44

42

40

41

18

17

37

36

34

34

17

16

28

27

25

26

16

15

15

15

14

14

15

14

6

6

5

5

14

13

2

2

2

2

13

12

1

1

1

1

12

11

1

1

1

1

11

10

1

1

1

1

10

9

1

1

1

1

9

8

1

1

1

1

8

7

1

1

1

1

7

6

1

1

1

1

6

5

1

1

1

1

5

4

1

1

1

1

4

3

1

1

1

1

3

2

1

1

1

1

2

1

1

1

1

1

1

 

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ACT Reading Historical Percentiles 2011-2014

Below, I’ve listed the ACT percentiles for each Reading scaled score from 2011-2014.

ACT Scaled Score

2014 Percentile

2013 Percentile

2012 Percentile

2011 Percentile

ACT Scaled Score

36

100

100

100

100

36

35

99

99

99

99

35

34

98

99

98

99

34

33

97

97

97

97

33

32

95

95

95

95

32

31

92

93

93

93

31

30

89

90

90

90

30

29

86

87

87

87

29

28

84

84

85

85

28

27

81

82

82

82

27

26

78

79

78

79

26

25

74

76

75

75

25

24

71

72

71

71

24

23

66

66

66

66

23

22

61

62

60

61

22

21

56

56

55

55

21

20

48

49

48

48

20

19

42

43

42

42

19

18

35

37

36

36

18

17

31

31

29

30

17

16

25

26

24

25

16

15

20

21

20

20

15

14

16

16

15

15

14

13

11

12

10

10

13

12

7

8

7

7

12

11

4

4

3

3

11

10

2

2

2

2

10

9

1

1

1

1

9

8

1

1

1

1

8

7

1

1

1

1

7

6

1

1

1

1

6

5

1

1

1

1

5

4

1

1

1

1

4

3

1

1

1

1

3

2

1

1

1

1

2

1

1

1

1

1

1

 

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ACT Science Historical Percentiles 2011-2014

Below, I’ve listed the ACT score percentiles for each Science scaled score from 2011-2014.

ACT Scaled Score

2014 Percentile

2013 Percentile

2012 Percentile

2011 Percentile

ACT Scaled Score

36

100

100

100

100

36

35

99

100

100

100

35

34

99

99

99

99

34

33

98

99

99

99

33

32

97

98

98

98

32

31

96

97

97

97

31

30

95

96

96

96

30

29

93

94

95

95

29

28

92

92

93

93

28

27

90

90

91

90

27

26

86

87

87

87

26

25

83

84

83

83

25

24

77

77

77

77

24

23

70

70

69

70

23

22

63

64

62

62

22

21

55

57

55

56

21

20

48

48

47

47

20

19

41

40

38

38

19

18

32

33

31

31

18

17

27

26

24

24

17

16

21

22

19

20

16

15

16

17

15

15

15

14

13

13

12

11

14

13

9

10

8

8

13

12

6

7

6

6

12

11

4

4

4

4

11

10

2

2

2

2

10

9

1

1

1

1

9

8

1

1

1

1

8

7

1

1

1

1

7

6

1

1

1

1

6

5

1

1

1

1

5

4

1

1

1

1

4

3

1

1

1

1

3

2

1

1

1

1

2

1

1

1

1

1

1

 

What’s Next?

Learn more about what qualifies as a good ACT score for your college and how to calculate your target score.

Or, if you already have a goal, try out our 15 top tips for taking the ACT or our 20 hour prep guide.

Finally, make sure you're studying the right way with our guide to reviewing your mistakes.

 

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.

Free eBook: 5 Tips to 4+ Points on the ACT

 

Have friends who also need help with test prep? Share this article!
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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