There is currently a disconnect between the high electrocatalyst oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) performance measured ex situ, using the rotating disc electrode (RDE), and the in situ membrane electrode assembly (MEA) performance. The disconnect in the electrocatalyst performance raises questions both about the pitfalls of the RDE technique at extrapolating the performance to higher overpotentials and how to improve the in situ catalyst layer performance to meet ambitious fuel cell targets. This work aims to bridge the gap by measuring the ORR ex situ performance under high mass transport conditions, at high overpotentials, using the floating electrode (FE) technique. Here, we determine the performance of three Pt/C electrocatalysts using the FE in 1 M HClO4 and 1 M H2SO4 to show that the MEA activities measured at 80 °C, 150 kPag were substantially lower than the room temperature and pressure performance of the same catalyst in 1 M HClO4 using the RDE and FE methods and also lower than the FE in 1 M H2SO4, implying MEA limitations are not purely due to sulfonate adsorption from the Nafion. Finally, FE and MEA data was modeled which obtained jo values on the FE (oxide free conditions) which were 4–6× larger, at 11–26 μA cm–2, than those measured on the MEA. The difference is interpreted as due to better water removal in the FE system. This work shows that MEA catalyst layers are vastly underutilized, due to poor water transport, and current densities equivalent to 10–16 A cm–2 at 0.65 V for 400 μgPt cm–2 (25–40 A mg–1) are achievable, whereas the current mass activity of MEAs is <40% of this value at 25 and 80 °C, 150 kPag.