# SAT / ACT Prep Online Guides and Tips

For those currently taking the ACT or who took it in 2011-2014, 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 2011-2014 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 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.

## 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.

OK, maybe not this historical.

## Historical ACT Percentiles for 2011-2014

Below, I've listed the ACT score percentiles for each composite scaled score from 2011-2014. 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 2014 2013 2012 2011 36 99 99 99 99 35 99 99 99 99 34 99 99 99 99 33 99 99 99 99 32 98 98 98 98 31 96 97 97 97 30 95 95 95 95 29 92 93 93 93 28 90 91 90 91 27 87 87 87 87 26 83 84 83 83 25 79 79 79 79 24 74 75 74 74 23 68 69 68 68 22 62 63 62 62 21 56 56 55 55 20 50 50 48 48 19 43 43 41 41 18 36 36 34 34 17 30 30 28 28 16 24 24 21 22 15 18 18 16 16 14 12 12 11 11 13 7 8 6 7 12 4 4 3 3 11 1 1 1 1 10 1 1 1 1 9 1 1 1 1 8 1 1 1 1 7 1 1 1 1 6 1 1 1 1 5 1 1 1 1 4 1 1 1 1 3 1 1 1 1 2 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1

### ACT English Historical Percentiles 2011-2014

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

 ACT English Score 2014 2013 2012 2011 36 99 99 99 99 35 99 99 99 99 34 98 99 99 98 33 97 97 97 97 32 95 95 96 96 31 93 94 94 94 30 92 92 92 92 29 90 90 90 90 28 87 88 88 88 27 85 86 86 85 26 82 83 82 82 25 79 79 78 78 24 74 75 74 73 23 69 70 68 67 22 64 64 63 63 21 58 59 57 56 20 52 52 50 49 19 45 45 43 43 18 40 40 38 38 17 36 36 33 34 16 32 32 29 29 15 27 26 24 24 14 21 21 18 18 13 116 16 14 14 12 13 13 11 12 11 10 10 9 9 10 7 7 6 6 9 4 4 4 4 8 2 2 2 2 7 1 1 1 1 6 1 1 1 1 5 1 1 1 1 4 1 1 1 1 3 1 1 1 1 2 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1

### ACT Math Historical Percentiles 2011-2014

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

 ACT Math Score 2014 2013 2012 2011 36 99 99 99 99 35 99 99 99 99 34 99 99 99 99 33 98 98 98 98 32 97 97 97 97 31 96 96 96 96 30 95 95 95 94 29 93 94 93 93 28 91 92 91 91 27 88 88 88 88 26 84 84 84 84 25 78 79 78 79 24 73 73 73 73 23 67 67 66 67 22 61 61 60 60 21 57 56 54 55 20 53 52 51 51 19 49 48 46 46 18 44 42 40 41 17 37 36 34 434 16 28 27 25 26 15 15 15 14 14 14 6 6 5 5 13 2 2 2 2 12 1 1 1 1 11 1 1 1 1 10 1 1 1 1 9 1 1 1 1 8 1 1 1 1 7 1 1 1 1 6 1 1 1 1 5 1 1 1 1 4 1 1 1 1 3 1 1 1 1 2 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1

### ACT Reading Historical Percentiles 2011-2014

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

 ACT Reading Score 2014 2013 2012 2011 36 99 99 99 99 35 99 99 99 99 34 98 99 98 99 33 97 97 97 97 32 95 95 95 95 31 92 93 93 93 30 89 90 90 90 29 86 87 87 87 28 84 84 85 85 27 81 82 82 82 26 78 79 78 79 25 74 76 75 75 24 71 72 71 71 23 66 66 66 66 22 61 62 60 61 21 56 56 55 55 20 48 49 48 48 19 42 43 42 42 18 35 37 36 36 17 31 31 29 30 16 25 26 24 25 15 20 21 20 20 14 16 16 15 15 13 11 12 10 10 12 7 8 7 7 11 4 4 3 3 10 2 2 2 2 9 1 1 1 1 8 1 1 1 1 7 1 1 1 1 6 1 1 1 1 5 1 1 1 1 4 1 1 1 1 3 1 1 1 1 2 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1

### ACT Science Historical Percentiles 2011-2014

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

 ACT Science Score 2014 2013 2012 2011 36 99 99 99 99 35 99 99 99 99 34 99 99 99 99 33 98 99 99 99 32 97 98 98 98 31 96 97 97 97 30 95 96 96 96 29 93 94 95 95 28 92 92 93 93 27 90 90 91 90 26 86 87 87 87 25 83 84 83 83 24 77 77 77 77 23 70 70 69 70 22 63 64 62 62 21 55 57 55 56 20 48 48 47 47 19 41 40 38 38 18 32 33 31 31 17 27 26 24 24 16 21 22 19 20 15 16 17 15 15 14 13 13 12 11 13 9 10 8 8 12 6 7 6 6 11 4 4 4 4 10 2 2 2 2 9 1 1 1 1 8 1 1 1 1 7 1 1 1 1 6 1 1 1 1 5 1 1 1 1 4 1 1 1 1 3 1 1 1 1 2 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.

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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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