ACT Percentiles and Score Rankings

What's an ACT Percentile Ranking?

An ACT percentile ranking is a measure that compares your ACT test score to the scores of other test takers. It provides information about how your score compares to the scores of a specific group of test takers, such as all test takers or a particular subgroup. The percentile ranking indicates the percentage of test takers who scored below your score.

For example, if your ACT percentile ranking is 75%, it means you scored higher than 75% of the test takers in the comparison group. This ranking is based on the scaled score, which ranges from 1 to 36 for each of the four ACT test sections (English, Math, Reading, and Science).

ACT percentile rankings are valuable because they provide context for your individual score. They allow you to understand how you performed relative to other students and how your score compares nationally. It helps colleges and universities evaluate your performance in relation to other applicants.

It's important to note that percentile rankings can vary for each section of the ACT. For example, your percentile ranking in Math may be different from your percentile ranking in English. Additionally, the percentile ranking can change over time as more test takers are added to the comparison group.

Overall, understanding your ACT percentile ranking can give you a sense of how your score stacks up against other test takers and provide insight into your college admissions prospects. It's one of the factors that admissions committees consider when evaluating your application.

What About ACT Subscore Percentiles?

ACT subscore percentiles provide a breakdown of how students' performance compares to others in specific sections of the ACT test. Each section of the ACT (English, Math, Reading, and Science) is further divided into subscores, providing more detailed information about a student's performance in specific skill areas. Here is an overview of ACT subscore percentiles:

1. English Subscore Percentiles:

- Usage/Mechanics: This subscore measures grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure.

- Rhetorical Skills: This subscore measures a student's ability to analyze the style and effectiveness of written passages.

2. Math Subscore Percentiles:

- Pre-Algebra/Elementary Algebra: This subscore measures foundational math skills.

- Intermediate Algebra/Coordinate Geometry: This subscore measures more advanced algebraic concepts and coordinate geometry.

- Plane Geometry/Trigonometry: This subscore measures geometric and trigonometric concepts.

3. Reading Subscore Percentiles:

- Social Studies/Sciences: This subscore measures a student's ability to comprehend and analyze social science and science passages.

- Arts/Literature: This subscore measures a student's ability to comprehend and analyze arts and literature passages.

4. Science Subscore Percentiles:

- Data Representation: This subscore measures a student's ability to interpret and analyze data presented in various formats, such as graphs and tables.

- Research Summary: This subscore measures a student's ability to understand and evaluate scientific research summaries.

ACT subscore percentiles provide valuable insights into a student's performance within specific sections and skill areas. They can help students and colleges assess strengths and weaknesses in different subject areas. It's important to note that subscore percentiles may vary from section percentiles, as they focus on more specific skills and content. By reviewing subscore percentiles, students can gain a better understanding of their proficiency in different subject areas and make targeted improvements if needed.

Does My ACT Percentile Actually Matter?

Yes, your ACT percentile does matter, as it provides important information about how your scores compare to those of other test-takers. Here are some key points to consider regarding the significance of ACT percentiles:

1. College Admissions: ACT percentiles are often used by colleges and universities as a benchmark to evaluate applicants. Admissions officers consider your percentile ranking in conjunction with other factors, such as GPA, extracurricular activities, and essays. A higher percentile indicates a stronger performance relative to other test-takers and can positively impact your college application.

2. Scholarship Opportunities: Many scholarships and financial aid programs consider ACT percentiles when awarding funds. Higher percentiles can make you a more competitive candidate for merit-based scholarships, potentially leading to increased financial support for your college education.

3. Academic Placement: Some colleges and universities use ACT percentiles to determine course placement, particularly in subjects like math and English. A higher percentile can demonstrate your readiness for more advanced coursework, allowing you to bypass remedial classes and start at a higher level.

4. Self-Assessment: ACT percentiles provide insights into your strengths and weaknesses in different subject areas. By comparing your percentiles across sections, you can identify areas where you excel and areas where you may need additional study or practice. This information can guide your future academic pursuits and help you make informed decisions about college majors or career paths.

5. National Comparison: ACT percentiles offer a national comparison of your performance. They allow you to see where you stand relative to other test-takers and can provide a sense of achievement and perspective. Percentiles can help you gauge the overall competitiveness of your scores and set realistic expectations for college admissions.

While ACT percentiles are important, it's crucial to remember that they are just one aspect of your college application. Admissions decisions are typically based on a holistic review of multiple factors. It's essential to focus on the entire application package and showcase your strengths beyond standardized test scores.


In conclusion, ACT percentiles and score rankings provide valuable information about how your ACT scores compare to those of other test-takers. They play a significant role in college admissions, scholarship opportunities, academic placement, and self-assessment. Higher percentiles can enhance your college application, increase your eligibility for scholarships, and indicate your readiness for more advanced coursework. However, it's important to remember that ACT percentiles are just one aspect of your application, and colleges consider a range of factors when making admissions decisions. Focus on showcasing your overall strengths and achievements to present a well-rounded application.