Understanding ACT percentiles is critical to knowing how you compare with other students on your ACT scores. They also are what college admissions use when deciding whether or not they will admit you into their school. We’re going to explain the ACT percentiles so that you can feel confident that you understand exactly how they work and what they mean for your admissions!
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What are ACT Percentiles?
Simply put, ACT percentiles compare your scores to all the other scores of test takers so that you know how many students you did better than and worse than on the same ACT test day. ACT percentiles are presented as a number, so a 75 ACT percentile score would mean you scored higher than 75% of all the test takers who took the ACT on the same day as you. Conversely, 25% of test takers scored better than you on ACT test day.
Sometimes people incorrectly assume that the ACT percentile is the percentage that you answered correctly. Keep in mind that this is a false assumption and the ACT percentile score only compares you with other test takers.
How Can You Find your ACT Percentiles?
You do not need to do much digging to find your ACT percentiles after taking the ACT. The ACT will provide you with your individual ACT percentiles for your composite score, the four individual sections, as well as the subscores for each section.
As you can see by the ACT score report, the ACT will provide your ACT percentiles on a national scale as well as statewide. Your scores for each are actually quite important.
The Difference Between Your US Rank and State Rank
As the name implies, your US rank is the comparison between you and all other test takers in the USA. The State Rank compares you against only test takers from that day in your state. Some college admissions actually care more about your State Rank than your US Rank.
Why? Well, most colleges have a number of students admitted that they want from each state so they can point out that they have students from all 50 states in their freshman class. What does that mean for you? Well, if you are in a state where the ACT scores are lower than the Nation’s scores, then your State Rank would be higher than your US Rank, which is what some of these schools look at first when considering students from specific states.
Based on the photo of the score report above, the student’s State Rank 58% ACT Percentile is actually higher than the US Rank 56% ACT Percentile. That means his/her score was actually better compared to those in her state than it was compared to the entire nation.
Keep in mind that just because you scored higher in your state than on a national level, that does not necessarily mean you will get admitted to your school of choice, but rather could be an advantage if you are from a low-scoring state.
ACT Percentiles for Subscores
The ACT sub scores you can see in this score report show you specific types of questions you did better and worse than other students.
This can be extremely helpful if you are planning to retake the ACT, as it shows you where your strengths and weaknesses lie in terms of types of questions. You can refer to ACT’s Understanding Your Scores to see what else your Score Report will show you.
ACT Percentile Score Chart
Percentile from ACT.org’s 2017 scores
What ACT Percentile Is Good?
There is no magic ACT percentile that’s guaranteed to admit you into your dream school, but there is a range of ACT percentiles you want to aim for. The ACT score range for the school you are applying to should be more important than your State and US Percentile ranking. That means looking at the admissions states for your dream school. The ACT score range is broken into the middle 50% score, meaning 25% score higher than this middle 50% and 25% score lower than the 50% range score. To be admitted into the school of your choice, you want to fall above the middle 50% score range (also equals the 75th percentile when compared to other students in the specific school’s admissions statistics) so make sure you study and prep accordingly!