Do you want to know your exact ACT score up to six digits of precision? Every digit can help when you want to know your exact performance. I've used real ACT data, newly-released in 2021, to calculate these ultra-high-precision percentiles.
What Are Percentiles for the ACT? Revisiting the Question
If you'd like to review what ACT percentiles are, check out this excellent article that clearly explains them. Put simply, your ACT percentile ranking lets you know how well you did compared to other test takers. If you got a 55 percentile (sometimes spelled %ile), that means you scored better than 55% of students who took the ACT.
Unlike test scores, your percentile is not a gauge of your performance out of 100. While test scores usually indicate the fraction of questions you answered correctly (for example, if you got a 90% on a test, you got 90% of questions right), a percentile shows the fraction of other test takers you beat.
What Are the ACT Percentile Ranges?
Most charts, including ones developed directly by the ACT, only have two digits of precision when they give percentiles. This means that scores of 35 and 36 both map to 99th percentile, and, while a 34 maps to 98th percentile, you can't be sure whether that means 98.9 or more like 97.5.
For many purposes, two digits just doesn't give you enough precision. For example, if you score a 36 on the ACT, that means only about than 4,000 other students did as well as you, while scoring a 35 means nearly 12,000 did as well as you. That's a significant difference; however, both these scores map to the 99th percentile. This means that, if you're scoring close to the top of the ACT range, having access to high precision percentiles is very helpful.
Higher precision can also help students receiving less than near-perfect ACT scores. For instance, if you're trying to get into a competitive college, every percent matters, the same way a fraction of a second can determine who wins a race at sporting competitions.
As an example, say you learn that you improved from the 60th percentile to the 61st percentile for the ACT. This doesn't tell you everything you'd like to know. Your improvement could be a tiny jump from 60.4 to 60.5, or it could be a much more significant improvement from 59.5 to 61.4. Put another way, having higher precision helps you understand your progress and achievements more.
And now, here is the table, based on data released in 2021:
ACT Scores and High Precision 6-Digit Percentiles
|ACT Composite Score||Percentile|
Methodology: How did we come up with these percentiles? To calculate them, we used official data released by the ACT that gives the exact number of students who earned certain scores. Using that information, we summed the exact number of students to get the percentile. Within a single score group (e.g. students scoring exactly a 34), we presume exactly half are above.
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Do Percentiles Change From Year to Year?
The data in the ACT score report covers ACT scores from 2015 through 2021, and during this time percentiles have not changed much at all. Therefore, this data can be used to analyze ACT scores from the past several years. However, you shouldn't use it to analyze scores that are significantly older than that (for example, scores from 2006) because long-term drift does affect the ACT.
Want to start prepping for the ACT but aren't sure where to start? Check out these 5 tips on preparing for the ACT.
Aiming for a top score? Read this guide, written by a perfect-scorer, to learn how to get a perfect 36 on the ACT.
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Fred is co-founder of PrepScholar. He scored a perfect score on the SAT and is passionate about sharing information with aspiring students. Fred graduated from Harvard University with a Bachelor's in Mathematics and a PhD in Economics.