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Historical ACT Percentiles for 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, and 2011

Posted by Dora Seigel | Jan 27, 2019 1:00:00 PM

ACT General Info

 

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For those currently taking the ACT or who took it in 2011-2018, you might wonder: how does your percentile compare with students who got 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 2011-2018 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 is. 

First off, a percentile is not the same as a percentage score you get 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 with other test takers. This in turn makes your score easier to understand since the ACT uses a pretty ambiguous scale of 1-36

For instance, a 25th percentile score means you scored higher than 25% of ACT test takers, while a 98th percentile score means you scored higher than 98% of test takers. In short, the higher your percentile is, the better you did compared with others who took the ACT.

For instance, on an easy in-class test (on which most students scored 90% or above), you could get a high test score like 91% and get a relatively low percentile like 10%. However, if the test were very hard for your class (e.g., only a few students scored above 20%), you could get a low test score like 28% and a relatively high percentile score like 95%.

Percentile shifts tend not to be as extreme as this example since the ACT is equated, but I’ll discuss this more in-depth later on.

Nonetheless, ACT percentiles are helpful for understanding your scaled scores, as percentiles allow you to determine where you fall in comparison with 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. That said, there can be some very slight changes (typically 3% at most from year to year). If you’re unsure how scaled ACT scores are determined, learn how to calculate your score.

The reason there are only minimal percentile changes for a specific scaled score from year to year is that the ACT is equated to ensure the same curve on 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 the 97th percentile in 2013.

What does it mean for percentiles for each scaled score to stay about the same from year to year? As I mentioned earlier, ACT, Inc., tries to keep the score distributions the same so that one scaled score indicates the same level of ability across different test dates. For example, a score of 32 means you scored better than around 97-98% of test takers in 2013 and 2016 (and any other year).

Ultimately, this means that no one test date (or test year) is advantaged over another. All test dates are equated to ensure similar (if not identical) score distribution. 

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

Your ACT percentile is important because it lets colleges compare your ACT score with those of other applicants (and, more generally, students across the country). Why is this important? If colleges looked at just your scaled score without any other information, they wouldn't have a clear sense of what makes a good ACT score and what makes a bad one.

For example, if you got a 33 composite score and colleges didn't know your percentile, admissions officers might judge the ACT as a school test and think you got 33 out of 36—about 92% or an A-, which is good but not great. However, with ACT percentiles, colleges can know that a 33 is actually a 99th percentile score, meaning you scored better than 99% of test takers!

Essentially, percentiles allow colleges to get a sense of how test takers perform on the ACT and allow them to compare you with students in the rest of the country.

You should care about ACT percentiles from other years because you are applying to college with students who might have taken the ACT in other years, too. For example, although you might have taken the ACT in 2016 as a high school junior, some of your classmates applying to the same colleges as you might have taken it later in 2017 as seniors.

Say you and your classmate both scored 33, but you took the ACT in 2015 and he took it in 2016. Your score places you in the 99th percentile but puts him in the 98th percentile. This makes your 33 just slightly more impressive than his.

Comparing ACT 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 the same colleges and at the same time as you.

While percentile scores are important, the ACT score range for your target college is the more important consideration. 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 32-35—meaning 25% of admitted students scored at or below 32, and 75% scored at or below 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 schools, search “[School Name] ACT scores PrepScholar.” For a more detailed explanation, with tips on how to calculate your target score, read our guide to what a good ACT score is

The main reasons colleges care about their particular score ranges over national ACT percentiles are as follows:

  • A college’s ACT score range is often a consideration in college ranking lists. As a result, colleges want to admit students with higher ACT scores so that they will be ranked higher.
  • Colleges publish their score ranges each year. Thus, the higher the score 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 score is the number that is most significant.

 

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OK, maybe not this historical.

 

Historical ACT Percentiles for 2011-2018

Below, I’ve listed the ACT score percentiles for each composite scaled score from 2011-2018. I used data provided by ACT, Inc., to assemble this and the charts below (for the percentiles for individual sections).

Remember, a percentile is the percentage of test takers who scored at or below a certain scaled ACT score. 

ACT Score

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

36

100

99

99

99

99

99

99

99

35

99

99

99

99

99

99

99

99

34

99

99

99

99

99

99

99

99

33

98

98

98

99

99

99

99

99

32

97

97

97

97

98

98

98

98

31

95

95

96

96

96

97

97

97

30

93

93

94

94

95

95

95

95

29

91

91

92

92

92

93

93

93

28

89

88

89

89

90

91

90

91

27

86

85

86

86

87

87

87

87

26

82

82

83

82

83

84

83

83

25

78

78

79

78

79

79

79

79

24

74

73

74

73

74

75

74

74

23

69

68

69

68

68

69

68

68

22

63

63

64

62

62

63

62

62

21

58

57

58

56

56

56

55

55

20

51

51

51

50

50

50

48

48

19

45

44

45

43

43

43

41

41

18

39

38

39

37

36

36

34

34

17

32

31

32

30

30

30

28

28

16

26

25

26

24

24

24

21

22

15

20

19

19

18

18

18

16

16

14

14

13

14

12

12

12

11

11

13

8

7

8

7

7

8

6

7

12

4

3

4

3

4

4

3

3

11

1

1

2

1

1

1

1

1

10

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

9

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

8

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

7

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

6

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

5

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

4

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

3

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

2

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

  

 

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ACT English Historical Percentiles 2011-2018

Below, I’ve listed the ACT score percentiles for each English scaled score from 2011 to 2018. 

ACT English Score

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

36

100

99

99

99

99

99

99

99

35

99

99

99

99

99

99

99

99

34

97

97

98

98

98

99

99

98

33

95

95

96

96

97

97

97

97

32

93

93

94

95

95

95

96

96

31

92

92

93

93

93

94

94

94

30

91

91

91

91

92

92

92

92

29

88

88

89

89

90

90

90

90

28

87

86

88

87

87

88

88

88

27

85

84

85

84

85

86

86

85

26

82

81

82

82

82

83

82

82

25

79

79

79

78

79

79

78

78

24

75

74

75

73

74

75

74

73

23

70

69

70

69

69

70

68

67

22

64

64

65

63

64

64

63

63

21

59

58

59

58

58

59

57

56

20

53

53

53

52

52

52

50

49

19

47

47

47

46

45

45

43

43

18

43

43

43

41

40

40

38

38

17

39

39

39

36

36

36

33

34

16

35

34

35

32

32

32

29

29

15

29

29

29

27

27

26

24

24

14

23

22

23

21

21

21

18

18

13

18

17

17

16

116

16

14

14

12

14

13

14

3

13

13

11

12

11

10

10

11

10

10

10

9

9

10

6

6

7

7

7

7

6

6

9

3

3

4

4

4

4

4

4

8

2

2

2

2

2

2

2

2

7

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

6

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

5

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

4

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

3

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

2

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

 

 

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ACT Math Historical Percentiles 2011-2018

Below, I’ve listed the ACT score percentiles for each Math scaled score from 2011 to 2018.

ACT Math Score

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

36

100

99

99

99

99

99

99

99

35

99

99

99

99

99

99

99

99

34

97

99

99

99

99

99

99

99

33

95

98

98

98

98

98

98

98

32

93

97

97

97

97

97

97

97

31

92

96

96

96

96

96

96

96

30

91

95

95

95

95

95

95

94

29

88

93

94

93

93

94

93

93

28

87

91

91

91

91

92

91

91

27

85

88

88

88

88

88

88

88

26

82

83

84

83

84

84

84

84

25

79

78

79

78

78

79

78

79

24

75

73

75

73

73

73

73

73

23

70

68

69

68

67

67

66

67

22

64

63

64

62

61

61

60

60

21

59

59

59

58

57

56

54

55

20

53

55

56

54

53

52

51

51

19

47

51

52

49

49

48

46

46

18

43

46

47

43

44

42

40

41

17

39

38

40

37

37

36

34

434

16

35

29

30

27

28

27

25

26

15

29

18

18

16

15

15

14

14

14

23

8

8

7

6

6

5

5

13

18

3

4

3

2

2

2

2

12

14

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

11

10

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

10

6

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

9

3

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

8

2

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

7

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

6

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

5

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

4

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

3

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

2

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

 

 

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ACT Reading Historical Percentiles 2011-2018

Below, I’ve listed the ACT percentiles for each Reading scaled score from 2011 to 2018.

ACT Reading Score

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

36

100

99

99

99

99

99

99

99

35

99

99

99

99

99

99

99

99

34

97

97

98

98

98

99

98

99

33

95

95

96

97

97

97

97

97

32

93

93

94

94

95

95

95

95

31

90

90

91

92

92

93

93

93

30

88

88

89

89

89

90

90

90

29

85

85

86

86

86

87

87

87

28

83

82

83

83

84

84

85

85

27

80

79

81

80

81

82

82

82

26

77

77

78

77

78

79

78

79

25

74

74

74

74

74

76

75

75

24

71

70

71

71

71

72

71

71

23

66

65

66

66

66

66

66

66

22

60

60

60

60

61

62

60

61

21

54

53

56

54

56

56

55

55

20

48

48

48

48

48

49

48

48

19

43

42

43

42

42

43

42

42

18

37

37

37

36

35

37

36

36

17

31

30

31

30

31

31

29

30

16

27

26

26

25

25

26

24

25

15

22

21

22

20

20

21

20

20

14

17

16

16

15

16

16

15

15

13

12

12

12

11

11

12

10

10

12

8

7

7

7

7

8

7

7

11

4

5

4

3

4

4

3

3

10

2

2

2

2

2

2

2

2

9

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

8

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

7

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

6

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

5

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

4

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

3

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

2

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

 

 

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ACT Science Historical Percentiles 2011-2018

Below, I’ve listed the ACT score percentiles for each Science scaled score from 2011 to 2018. 

ACT Science Score

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

36

100

99

99

99

99

99

99

99

35

99

99

99

99

99

99

99

99

34

99

99

99

99

99

99

99

99

33

97

97

98

98

98

99

99

99

32

96

96

97

97

97

98

98

98

31

95

95

96

95

96

97

97

97

30

94

94

94

94

95

96

96

96

29

92

92

92

93

93

94

95

95

28

91

90

89

92

92

92

93

93

27

88

88

86

89

90

90

91

90

26

86

85

83

87

86

87

87

87

25

82

82

79

82

83

84

83

83

24

77

77

74

76

77

77

77

77

23

70

70

69

69

70

70

69

70

22

64

63

64

62

63

64

62

62

21

56

55

58

55

55

57

55

56

20

49

49

51

48

48

48

47

47

19

42

41

45

40

41

40

38

38

18

36

35

39

33

32

33

31

31

17

29

28

32

27

27

26

24

24

16

23

22

26

22

21

22

19

20

15

18

16

19

16

16

17

15

15

14

14

12

14

12

13

13

12

11

13

10

8

8

9

9

10

8

8

12

6

5

4

6

6

7

6

6

11

3

3

2

3

4

4

4

4

10

2

1

1

2

2

2

2

2

9

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

8

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

7

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

6

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

5

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

4

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

3

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

2

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

 

 

What’s Next?

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

Already got an ACT score goal? Then try 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.

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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