Toughest ACT Curves of the Past Decade

We sifted through almost every single released ACT curve from the past decade to show you the worst and the best.

A tough curve means that even a few wrong answers will make your score plummet.

A forgiving curve means that a few wrong answers won’t hurt your score too much.

If you don’t know what a curve is or how you’re scored based on one using your raw score, I highly recommend you start here for some background information.

First, a note about curves: some curves are harsh at the top yet forgiving in the middle (1-2 wrong will make your score plummet, but once you’re up to 9-10 wrong, your score doesn’t drop as much as you get more wrong). Other curves are forgiving at the top and harsher in the middle (1-2 wrong won’t make your score drop too much, but once you’re up to 9-10 wrong, your score drops a bit more as you get more wrong).

Because most of the students reading this blog are aiming for the top, we focused on how harsh the top of each curve was (scores of 30+).

Read further below for how we determined curve harshness.

ACT English Curves

ToughestMost Forgiving
Raw ScoreJun 2012Jun 2015
753636
743536
733435
723335
713235
703134
693033
682932
672831
662731
652730
642629
632628
622528
612527
602427
592426
582426
572325
562325
552325
542224
532224
522124
512123
502123
492123
482022
472022
462022
451921
441921
431920
421820
411820
401719
391719
381618
371618
361617
351517
341516
331516
321416
311415
301315
291315
281214
271214
261114
251113
241113
231012
221012
21911
20911

ACT Math Curves

ToughestMost Forgiving
Raw ScoreApr 2005Dec 2008
603636
593436
583336
573235
563135
553134
543034
533033
522933
512932
502831
492830
482729
472729
462728
452628
442627
432627
422526
412526
402425
392425
382424
372324
362323
352223
342222
332121
322121
312020
302019
291919
281918
271818
261818
251817
241717
231717
221716
211616
201616

ACT Reading Curves

ToughestMost Forgiving
Raw ScoreDec 2009Red Book 3*
403636
393436
383336
373135
363034
352933
342832
332731
322630
312529
302428
292428
282327
272226
262225
252124
242124
232023
222022
211921
201820
191719
181718
171617
161616
151515
141415
131414
121313
111313
101212
91112
81111
71011

* Red Book 3 stands for the third test in The Real ACT, 3rd Edition, which contains five actual past exams.

ACT Science Curves

ToughestMost Forgiving
Raw ScoreJan 2006Dec 2013
403636
393436
383236
373035
362935
352834
342732
332631
322630
312529
302528
292427
282326
272325
262225
252224
242123
232123
222022
212022
201921
191920
181920
171819
161819
151718
141717
131616
121515
111414
101413
91312
81211
71110
6109
 

Methodology

Warning: For ACT Geeks Only

We graded each curve on several factors. First, we looked at the minimum raw score (minimum # correct) needed to get a 30 for each section. The higher the minimum, the tougher the curve.

Red – the toughest curves
Green – the most forgiving curves

ENGLISHMATHREADINGSCIENCE
Out of 75Out of 60Out of 40Out of 60
Red Book 169523337
Red Book 267523235
Red Book 367533234
Apr 200569533336
Jun 200568513536
Dec 200568523435
Jan 200667503337
Apr 200668533335
Jun 200668533435
Apr 200766523436
Apr 200867503533
Dec 200868493432
Apr 200967503634
Jun 200967503535
Dec 200968533635
Apr 201069533436
Apr 201169523536
Apr 201269513534
Jun 201269513434
Dec 201267513435
Apr 201367523433
Dec 201366523432
Apr 201467513434
Jun 201466503335
Dec 201467523434
Apr 201566523234
Jun 201565513434

* Red Book is short for The Real ACT, 3rd Edition. Red Book 1 stands for the first test in that book.

To get the toughest curves, we looked for those with the highest minimums and filtered out the rest. Because there are multiple curves with the same minimum, we took each of the remaining curves and averaged the scaled scores above the 30 mark. The lower the average, the tougher the curve. The higher the average, the more forgiving the curve.

For example, the June 2015 English section:

jun-2015-act-curve

Finding the average of the scaled scores above the red line for the English section, we get

\[\dfrac{30 + 31 + 31 + 32 + 33 + 34 + 35 + 35 + 35 + 36 + 36}{11} = 33.4545\]

Here are the overall results that we used for the basis of comparison:

ACT English Curves

TOUGH:

Test Date:Red Book 1Apr 2005Apr 2010Apr 2011Apr 2012Jun 2012*
Average:3333333333.285733
* Because of the ties, we averaged out a few more scores further down along each curve. The Jun 2012 test won out as the toughest curve.

FORGIVING:

Test Date:Jun 2015
Average:33.4545

ACT Math Curves

TOUGH:

Test Date:Red Book 3Apr 2005Apr 2006Jun 2006Dec 2009Apr 2010
Average:32.62532.12532.7532.753333.125

FORGIVING:

Test Date:Dec 2008
Average:33.75

ACT Reading Curves

TOUGH:

Test Date:Apr 2009Dec 2009
Average:3332.8

FORGIVING:

Test Date:Red Book 2Red Book 3Apr 2015
Average:33.111133.666633.2222

ACT Science Curves

TOUGH:

Test Date:Red Book 1Jan 2006
Average:33.7533

FORGIVING:

Test Date:Dec 2008Dec 2013
Average:33.666633.8888

It turned out to be pretty accurate in quantifying how tough or forgiving each curve was.

Enjoy!