2016 (Unofficial) National Merit Commended Cutoff Score is Out!

Now that we know this year’s (unofficial) National Merit Commended cutoff score is a 209, we wanted to take a look back at how we did, and what this means for our Semifinalist predictions. To clarify, while the NMSC has not officially posted this score on their website, we have had multiple reports from parents and students who have contacted NMSC directly. Until further notice, we will proceed with this score in mind as the (unofficial) Commended student cutoff score.

How did we do?

Taking a look back at our Updated PSAT Cutoffs post, our range for Commended was between a 200-210, but more importantly, our estimate for North Dakota, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Wyoming were 210’s. Historically, these states’ NMSF scores have generally coincided with the national Commended cutoff, and with only a 1-point difference between the two, it seems that our model is performing quite well. This bodes well for the rest of our predictions, which we hope will prove to be accurate once the official NMSF cutoff scores are announced.

What does this Commended score mean for students?

Firstly, it’s important to note that while the ND, SD, WV, and WY scores have historically lined up with the national Commended cutoff score, this is by no means a guarantee that any of these states’ NMSF cutoffs will be a 209. If you look at the historical data, these scores have shown subtle fluctuations, so we cannot say for certain that a 209 will be the exact National Merit Semi-finalist cutoff for these states.

It’s also interesting to note that College Board has essentially confirmed a tighter grouping of National Merit scores when compared to previous years’. When constructing our predictions, many posters expressed a concern we initially had as well, that the estimated cutoffs seem to be fairly high and tightly grouped. Consider last year’s Commended, a 202 out of 240, compared to this year’s scores of 209 out of 228. When looking at these numbers, it may seem that this year’s test must have been easier, since the cutoff score is higher, but that’s not necessarily true! Since the entire scoring system has been changed, it’s not fair to directly compare cutoff scores, as College Board may have changed the raw score to scaled score conversion on their backend to reflect the new update.

Finally, as always, though this news suggests our methodology is overall performing well in terms of predictive power and accuracy, we must stress that our predictions are by no means definitive. While we hope our numbers will line up well with the official cutoffs, states’ cutoff scores do display minor fluctuations from year to year, so the official score required for National Merit Semifinalist may be slightly higher or slightly lower than our predictions. Once the official NMSF numbers are released by the NMSC, we’ll be sure to perform an analysis and debrief to see how we fared in the big leagues!

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    1. Hi Sam! Since our estimates seem to be pretty on the money, we don’t anticipate updating or altering our predictions, as the commended score does not reveal a whole lot of additional information. However, if we receive additional data or publications are made available by College Board/NMSC, we’ll definitely update everyone, so keep a tab on us!

    1. Nancy,

      It appears so, and if so then this would be the minimum cutoff score required to be recognized. However, a score of 208 is still very good! National merit is incredibly competitive, so not making the cutoff is really nothing to hang your head over. This score suggests that she will do quite well on the SAT, and ultimately the SAT is far more important in applying to college.

      Hope this helps!

      1. Florida is 217 this year. Straight from NMSQT’s mouth. Kidd with 1490/1520 did not make the cut… Sorry. Scores went through the roof this year with the new test.

  1. My son scored a 213 in Alabama. With the release of the commended cutoff score, do you predict that a 213 will receive the semifinalist status? Last year, Alabama’s cutoff score was a 209 with a commended cutoff of 202. Do you predict that the 7 point difference will hold true this year? Thanks!

    1. Hi Jeremy, it doesn’t seem like there is a good 1-to-1 correlation between the old scoring scale and the new one, so we don’t anticipate Alabama’s Semifinalist cutoff being 7 points higher than the commended cutoff. And based on the commended score of 209, it looks like our predictions are holding well, so we’re hoping to see that our Projected Cutoffs are +/- 1 point of the actual cutoffs when released this fall

  2. Bill,220 in florida.could you see florida going higher than that considering the new commended cutoff at 209?by the way,my son is homeschooled,so we got the letter stating as much.

  3. Bill,220 in florida.Since the commended has gone up to 209 do you see florida going as high as 220?Our son is homeschooled and we did get a letter saying 209.

    1. Hi Dan! We definitely don’t expect the Florida cutoff to rise that high, and you should be secure with a 220 in Florida, though of course no one will know for sure until August/September

    1. Hi Eric! Our current estimate for Maryland is a 218, though keep in mind this is just an estimate and may not be the actual cutoff!

    1. Hi Rakesh, unfortunately it doesn’t look like you would qualify for Commended since the unofficial cutoff is 209 this year

  4. If your kid is told that he is commended, does that mean he will not be a semifinalist? Or does everyone over the commended threshold get that notification?

  5. So a 209 will get commended status, but probably wont make the cutoff for Semi Finalist in Florida…even though the student is in the top 1% on all sections?

    1. Monique,

      That’s correct, a 209 should earn commended status but it is not likely to be high enough to earn Semifinalist status in Florida. Keep in mind that only about 50,000 students (out of approximately 1.5 million test takers) are even recognized, and of those students only about 16,000 go on to become Semifinalists; it’s incredibly competitive, so if you achieved commended status you should be seriously pleased with that result.

      Hope this helps!

  6. With the commended score set at 209, how does a PSAT score of 218 in Texas fall into your predictions. I’ve seen estimates anywhere from 217 to 221. What does your latest information tell you about the predicted cutoff for National Merit Semi finalist

  7. Hello,

    How would a 222 fare in CA? Many have been saying that the cutoff may go up as high as 223 or 224 based on the released statistics and Commended cutoff. Is what they are saying accurate?

    1. Hi! A 222 should be pretty safe, though of course no one will know for sure until the official cutoffs are released. We certainly don’t anticipate the California cutoff rising that high, as that would mean DC or NJ would have incredibly high cutoffs.

  8. Ok, this is not related to the topic, but here it goes:

    Hey Bill!
    I’m in my freshman year of college in my hometown in Brazil, but since my high school GPA was really bad and not impressive at all, I decided that it would be better if I could apply as a transfer student, even if it’s a lot more competitive than the application process for first-year students. But the thing is, I think I must give you a brief explanation on how things work here in Brazil, because the school system here is totally different.
    So, I’m from the south of Brazil, and I live in one of the largest metropolitan cities (but nearly not as large as Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo, still, it’s in the top ten or so), and I graduated from a private school (but private schools in Brazil are nothing like the ones in America). But the you see, the problem is that the majority of schools in Brazil don’t care about extracurricular activities. My school didn’t have clubs or anything like that, If you didn’t like soccer you could just go home as far as they were concerned. The physics and math geniuses had the opportunity to participate in the regional and national competitions, but if you’re a kid with dyscalculia and ADD like me, you could pretty much just forget about it. So with my low GPA and without any good extracurricular activities I couldn’t even dream about applying to my dream college as a first year student so of course I had to wait, and that’s what I did. But I guess my chances are pretty low even now. Of course, things have changed now that I’m in college, I have excellent grades and when I did the SATs last year and got good results, too. And I’ve joined two college clubs that are related to my interests, like the college newspaper since I love to write and I’m majoring in Journalism.
    I haven’t recieved an award or anything like that, and I don’t even know if those are avaliable for freshman students, since the majority of the awards go to seniors because of articles and stuff. But I’ve placed first on the college entrance exam rank (because here the process of admissions is a lot different; while in the US it is based on your high school GPA, extracurriculars, SAT scores, essays and so on, here each college has an entrance exam, and I took two of these exams, for different universities of course, and got first place in one and ninth in my current college’s exam) but does that even count? I bet they don’t take things like that into consideration, but I might be wrong.
    So to conclude, my actual question is: Can I do something to improve my chances of getting into an Ivy League? What are my chances, exaclty, do I have any?

    Sorry if it’s too long, I just thought it would be better to sum it up a bit of my ”academic background” so that you could give me better advice. Thanks a lot!

    1. Hi! Thanks so much for writing to us! This is a bit of a complicated situation, but you certainly have a shot at transferring to an Ivy League school, though of course it will be difficult, as it would be for anyone applying to an Ivy League. What we would suggest to bolster your application is to 1) Do well in your current classes, both so you can demonstrate an absolute mastery of your current subjects and so you can receive strong letters of recommendation 2) Work and re-work your personal statement so that it clearly and emphatically demonstrates your passion and academic need to attend an Ivy League 3) demonstrate passion and enthusiasm in your current extracurriculars — make sure to apply yourself in your journalistic pursuits as that will translate into passion on paper.

      Best of luck in the process!

  9. I’m considered by the National Merit to be a home-schooled student. My residency is in Texas however by online high school is in Nebraska. I took the test at a center in South America where I was located at the time. I’m not exactly sure what that means in terms of which state I would qualify for. However, I got an selection index of 206, which would be below the cutoff. However, the online program which I use emailed my parents and I stating that I placed within the top 50k test takers and should receive info too my mailing address in September regarding my status. I’m not sure what to think now after hearing the commended cutoff score is 209, is it possible that taking my test out of the country affected it?

    1. Hi Bryan! This certainly is a strange situation, and your taking of the test abroad shouldn’t have any impact on the commended cutoff. We can’t give you a definitive answer, so I would high recommend you contact the NMSC directly or perhaps ask your guidance counselor/test administrator for more information. Keep us updated if you find something out!

  10. Hi. My daughter got a 212 in Ohio. Do you predict this will be high enough for NM semi-finalist in Ohio? Thanks!

    1. Marie,

      We are predicting a National Merit Semifinalist cutoff score of 216 in Georgia. You can learn more about our Semifinalist cutoff scores here.

      People initially learned about the cutoff score just by calling the National Merit Scholarship Corporation directly and asking. This information spread very quickly online, and has been confirmed by a lot of people. It’s very likely that you will be recognized as a Commended student.


      Hope this helps!

    1. Deb,

      The commended cutoff score has been announced by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation as a 209, so it likely your son will be recognized as a commended student.


  11. My daughter got a 217 as a Junior last fall. She completed her Junior year in h.s. but is jumping right into her BS program this fall and skipping 12th grade (she got her GED in NC which allows 17 year old non-residents to do so). Question is: Will she be considered Commended?

  12. Does a sophomore who received a 209 get recognized or is this only applicable to juniors who take the PSAT test?

    1. Tina,

      The National Merit Scholarship Competition is specifically for 11th graders, or for students who are on an accelerated high school graduation path; that is, the test that counts for the NMSC is the one you take one year before you graduate. If you are on the usual four-year degree path, then it is the PSAT you take in 11th grade that counts.

      Hope this helps!

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