ACT Scores — Setting Realistic Expectations

ACT Scores — Setting Realistic Expectations

By: Jeanne Anderson PhD

The perfect 36! That is what many students (and their parents) aspire to when students take the ACT. There were 2,090,342 students in the Class of 2016 who took the ACT and 2,235 received a 36. Students scoring a 33, 34 or 35 are in the 99th+ percentile, a 32 are in the 97th percentile, a 31 are in the 96th percentile and a 30 are in the 94th percentile.

To put those in perspective, where does your student rank in their high school class? In a class of 200, the top 1% (a 33, 34 or 35 ACT score) would be ranked number 1 or 2 in the class. The top 6% in the class (a score of 30) will be one of the top 12 students in the class. There are many factors that impact class rank; therefore, this is a generalization. But it does put the expectations of 30+ scores in perspective.

The following web address will take you to the National Distributions of Cumulative Percent’s for ACT Test Scores (from the ACT website): http://www.act.org/content/dam/act/unsecured/documents/Multiple_Choice_STEM_Ranks2016.pdf

The average composite score (50th percentile) for the class of 2016 was a 20.8 out of 36. Students who scored a 25 were at the 79th percentile.

On a final note, preparation can help students improve scores on the ACT. The majority of students’ scores align with their school performance. Realizing that only 6% of students reach the 30+ score can provide perspective for realistic goals and expectations.

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