What's the difference between a good ACT score and a great ACT score? One way colleges make that distinction is by looking at ACT score percentiles.

ACT score percentiles help colleges compare students with one another, rather than just looking at everyone's individual score. Learn more about your ACT score percentile so you can maximize both your study time and admission chances. Then, find out your current score percentile using our detailed charts.

## What's an ACT Percentile Ranking?

Your percentile ranking is a comparison of your ACT score with everyone else who took the test. Specifically, your percentile tells you how many people you scored equal to or higher than. The ACT will give you a percentile ranking for your composite score as well as for your four subject-area scores. (For more info on how the ACT is scored and how your composite is calculated, check out our guide.)

Your ACT score percentile is not like a grade out of 100; rather, it's a comparison between you and other students.

For example, if you get in the 70th percentile, this means you scored the same as or higher than 70% of test takers. It doesn't mean you got exactly 70% of the test questions correct. (In fact, the ACT is tricky enough that if you got about 70% of the questions right, your ranking would be closer to the 75th percentile.)

## What Are the Current ACT Score Percentiles?

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, but a Reading section score of 30 has an 87th percentile ranking.

Here's the most recent ACT percentile data from 2023:

 Score English Math Reading Science Composite STEM 36 100 100 100 100 100 100 35 99 99 98 99 99 99 34 97 99 96 99 99 99 33 95 98 94 97 98 98 32 94 97 92 96 97 97 31 92 96 90 95 95 96 30 91 95 88 94 94 95 29 90 94 86 93 92 93 28 88 92 84 91 90 91 27 87 90 81 89 87 89 26 85 87 79 87 85 87 25 82 83 76 84 81 83 24 79 79 74 80 78 79 23 75 75 69 74 74 75 22 71 71 64 67 69 70 21 66 68 59 62 64 65 20 60 65 53 56 59 60 19 55 61 48 50 53 54 18 51 56 43 44 47 48 17 47 50 39 37 41 40 16 43 41 34 30 35 32 15 38 29 30 24 28 23 14 31 17 25 18 22 15 13 25 8 19 13 14 8 12 20 3 14 9 8 4 11 16 2 8 6 3 1 10 10 1 4 3 1 1 9 5 1 2 1 1 1 8 2 1 1 1 1 1 7 1 1 1 1 1 1 6 1 1 1 1 1 1 5 1 1 1 1 1 1 4 1 1 1 1 1 1 3 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1

One important thing to note is that there's really no difference in percentiles at the highest and lowest score ranges. At the upper end, anything higher than a 34 composite score is in the 99th-100th percentiles. Similarly, at the lower end, any composite score between 1 and 10 is in the 1st percentile.

However, things change quickly in the middle. For example, a 3-point jump from 17 to 20 raises your percentile from the 41st to the 60th—or from below average to just above average.

To take another example, a 3-point jump from 26 to 29 takes you from the 87th percentile to the 93rd percentile. Getting into the 90th percentile is fantastic because it puts you in the top 10% of all test takers.

What all of this means is that if you get a lower or middle-range composite score, raising it by just a few points can have a dramatic effect on your percentile ranking and therefore your college admission chances.

In addition, unless you're shooting for the most elite schools, if you get a 34 composite or higher, you probably shouldn't worry about having to retake the ACT.

## What About ACT Subscore Percentiles?

ACT subscores give you more detail about your performance on the ACT and what specific areas you can improve on.

However, as of late 2016, ACT, Inc. no longer releases public information about percentile ranks for ACT subscores, so the only place you can get information about your performance on subscores compared with other test takers is your own ACT score report. If you haven't taken the ACT and are curious, you can take a look at this sample score report for the 2022 testing year.

Note that colleges likely will not look too closely (if at all) at your subscores. When it comes to the ACT, your overall composite score is most important. It's the number most colleges use when reporting admitted student score ranges and the score most often used to determine scholarship recipients.

Ultimately, subscores can be used to give more context about your performance, but they're not be-all and end-all numbers.

## Does My ACT Percentile Actually Matter?

Percentile rankings are important because they help colleges compare your ACT performance with those of other test takers. But the ACT score ranges for the colleges you're applying to are far more important than your overall percentile ranking.

Colleges have average ACT score ranges for admitted students that usually don't change drastically from year to year, and they rely on these ranges when making admissions decisions. This range is the middle 50%, or the 25th and 75th percentile scores, of admitted applicants.

To find ACT score ranges for a college, search "[School Name] ACT scores PrepScholar." By doing this for all of the colleges you want to apply to, you can come up with a target ACT score. Your goal score will be equal to the highest 75th percentile score for your schools.

The goal is to get an above-average ACT score for your dream college.

For example, say you got a 30 on Math (95th percentile) and a 24 on English (79th percentile). Without percentile data, it would be hard to say exactly how much better you did on Math than on English. But with rankings, you can see that your Math score is excellent and your English score, while strong, could be improved—a 3-point jump to 27 could net you an 87th percentile score.

To sum up, percentiles are a very helpful tool, both for college admissions officers looking at your application and for you in your own studying. But rather than obsessing over your ranking, aim for a score that is competitive for the colleges you want to go to—this will give you the best shot at getting into your dream school!

## What's Next?

Dreaming big? Find out what ACT scores you need to get into the Ivy League. And if you're aiming for perfection, check out our guide to a perfect 36, written by our resident full scorer.

Need help studying for the ACT? We teach you how to come up with your own ACT study plan in our expert guide.

The ACT now offers online testing. Learn more about the change, and if you can take a digital test, now.