What PSAT Scores Make the Cut for National Merit in 2016?

UPDATE 2: We have added an additional estimate for Texas’ cutoff based on new data. You can find that post here.

UPDATE: Many commenters have asked about College Board’s Concordance Table. You can find an estimation that incorporates the Concordance Table here.
Now that PSAT scores have been received, the question that most people want answered revolves around the cutoff scores for National Merit Semifinalist standing. In other words: What is the minimum score that will qualify me to be a National Merit Semifinalist? This is certainly an immensely significant cutoff, mainly due to the benefits and scholarships that come with being a National Merit Scholar. The 16,000 National Merit Semifinalists from the class of 2017  will be notified sometime in September. As you eagerly await this announcement, here is some context for determining how close your score might be to the cutoff (and which side of it you may find yourself). These are the qualifying scores for each state from the past several years (note that each state is different):

(NOTE: The National Merit Scholarship Corporation will use your PSAT Selection Index Scores to determine your National Merit Semifinalist eligibility, NOT your PSAT Score. Learn more about this here! This is reflected in the estimated score ranges listed below. )

EDIT: Many people are asking why the estimated cutoff scores are lower than previous cutoff scores, and the answer is that the PSAT has changed. You can learn more about this here. Because the test has changed, previous years’ scores will not be particularly useful to you in making estimates regarding potential cutoff scores, but have been provided for context.

State Estimated Cutoff for Class of 2017 (PSAT taken in Oct 2015) Class of 2016 (PSAT taken in Oct 2014) Class of 2015 (PSAT taken in Oct 2013)
Alabama 195-199 209 207
Alaska 192-196 206 210
Arizona 201-205 215 213
Arkansas 190-194 204 206
California 209-213 223 222
Colorado 201-205 215 213
Connecticut 206-210 220 220
Delaware 202-206 216 215
District of Columbia 211-215 225 224
Florida 200-204 214 211
Georgia 204-208 218 215
Hawaii 200-204 214 214
Idaho 194-198 208 211
Illinois 201-205 215 215
Indiana 199-203 213 212
Iowa 196-200 208 207
Kansas 199-203 213 213
Kentucky 196-200 210 210
Louisiana 197-201 211 208
Maine 197-201 211 212
Maryland 208-212 222 221
Massachusetts 209-213 223 223
Michigan 196-200 210 210
Minnesota 200-204 214 215
Mississippi 195-199 209 207
Missouri 195-199 209 209
Montana 190-194 204 206
Nebraska 195-199 209 209
Nevada 197-201 211 208
New Hampshire 199-203 213 212
New Jersey 211-215 225 224
New Mexico 194-198 208 210
New York 205-209 219 218
North Carolina 201-205 215 212
North Dakota 188-192 202 201
Ohio 201-205 215 213
Oklahoma 194-198 208 206
Oregon 201-205 215 217
Pennsylvania 203-207 217 216
Rhode Island 198-202 212 212
South Carolina 197-201 211 209
South Dakota 188-192 202 203
Tennessee 198-202 212 212
Texas 206-210 220 218
Utah 192-196 206 208
Vermont 200-204 214 213
Virginia 208-212 222 219
Washington 205-209 219 219
West Virginia 188-192 202 201
Wisconsin 194-198 208 208
Wyoming 188-192 202 204

What do I make of these?

If you are a junior, these past cutoff scores can be helpful in gauging your chances of becoming a National Merit Semifinalist. However, be careful about drawing conclusions based solely on these, because the cutoffs can change unexpectedly from year to year.

If you are a sophomore, use these cutoff scores as a tool to determine how close you are to meeting your goals on the PSAT/NMSQT and what you need to do to improve between now and October. Keep in mind that the PSAT is one of the most important tests that you will take during high school, and unlike the SAT, you only have one shot to make it count. For something that can significantly influence your future, it is wise to spend time getting prepared.

An option that many people choose is professional test preparation. Testmasters was founded in 1991 and has become one of the largest and fastest-growing educational companies in the United States. Testmasters offers classroom courses, 1-on-1 courses, online courses, and books for standardized exams including the HSPT, ISEE Lower, Mid, and Upper Levels, GMAT, GRE, LSAT, PSAT/SAT, SAT Subject Tests, ACT, and the EIT & PE Professional Engineering Exams in many states around the country. Since its inception, over 120,000 students have taken courses from Testmasters.

** For the class of 2017, please note that these are estimated National Merit Cutoffs.  The cutoff for National Merit is based on scoring in the top ½% in the state: the better other students do on the PSAT in your state, the higher your state’s cutoff score will be. The official cutoff scores will not be announced until mid September of 2016.  Until then, the above are good estimates and should give you some guidelines on your performance.

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283 Responses to What PSAT Scores Make the Cut for National Merit in 2016?

  1. Hua says:

    The new PSAT ranges from 320 to 1520. Your Expected Qualifying Scores for the Class of 2017 National Merit Semifinalists are totally wrong. Need to convert to new PSAT scales.

    • Bill says:


      Note that the PSAT score you receive, which is scored on a range of 320 to 1520, is NOT the score the National Merit Scholarship Corporation will use to determine the cutoff scores for National Merit Semifinalists. The New PSAT Selection Index Score is the score used to determine National Merit Finalist and Semi-Finalist eligibility. The Index score ranges from 48 to 228. You can read more about what your different PSAT scores mean here.

      Hope this helps!

      • El says:

        Hi Bill! May I ask where you were able to find the information that the new PSAT Selection Index Score is out of a range of 228? Was it from an official College Board resource? Thanks!

        • James says:

          Hi El!
          The information on the Selection Index score is briefly detailed in this College Board Post, in the bottom section titled NMSC selection Index. The maximum score for each of the Test sections is 38, so according to their methodology, the maximum Selection Index score would be (38+38+38)*2=228.

      • John says:

        The fact that the selection index ranges from 48 to 228 this year is the problem. In previous years the maximum selection index was actually 240, making an SI of 215 this year a lot different from an SI of 215 last year. This means the numbers given from previous years are not actually very helpful.

        • Bill says:


          That is correct. The Selection Index Score has changed. Previous years’ scores are provided for context. If you are interested in learning more about our estimated cutoff scores, particularly as they relate to College Board’s Concordance Table, you may do so here.

          Hope this helps!

      • Howard says:

        Will 223 make the NMSF in NJ?

        • Bill says:


          National Merit is incredibly competitive. Approximately 50,000 students in the country are honored each year, and of those 50,000 only about 16,000 will go on to be National Merit Semifinalists. That said, a score index of 223 is very good. According to both of our projections that score should be sufficient, but of course there are no guarantees until September.

          Hope this helps!

    • Goat says:

      Divide your reading score by 5, then math by 10. Add those 2 and that’s your index score out of 228

  2. William says:

    Thank you for this timely piece. In interpreting your cutoffs, if someone is at 215 in a state like DC, where you put the range 211-215, are you saying that they would be one short of the number needed, i.e., 216? Or instead, that a score at or above that level should be fine. Apologies to be so clueless.

    • Bill says:


      A 215 would put you in the top range of our expected cutoff for that state, so it is likely that it would be sufficient to earn a Semifinalist spot.

      Hope this helps!

  3. John says:

    Bill, this is a HUGE post on your part. 1) Will a 215 suffice for Delaware? 2) Virginia? and 3) The New England Boarding School category? Assuming that such a category exists, which I am not 100% sure of. By your numbers, a 215 should suffice for every State if I read this correctly. Also, how confident are you with these numbers?

    • Bill says:


      A 215 is well above our estimated cutoff score for both Delaware and Virginia. While there is no “New England Boarding School” category, the cutoff score for students attending boarding schools is the highest cutoff score among the states in whatever region of the country that student attends boarding school. So, for example, for a student attending a boarding school in the northeast, his or her cutoff score will likely be whatever the cutoff score is for Massachusetts, as that state tends to achieve the highest standardized test scores annually (although, note that we expect a 215 to exceed the cutoff for Massachusetts); similarly, for a student attending a boarding school in southwest, his or her cutoff will be determined by whichever state has the highest cutoff score in that region.

      Although these are estimates, we are confident that they will prove to be accurate.

      Hope this helps!

      • Sue says:

        Bill, that was not actually true last year. Massachusetts cutoff last year was 223, but the boarding school cutoff for New England (confirmed by CB) was 225 (the highest cutoff- DC, NJ). So, I don’t believe they are now going by boarding school region, but pooling the boarding schools into 1 region with International Expats and the DC kids. Anyway, CB confirmed that for the class of 2016, the cutoff was 225 in New England Boarding schools (called ‘Region 1’).

        Another interesting tidbit: The states get their portion of the 16,000 NMSF allocations by using the total number of high school seniors in that state, not test takers. How would they calculate that for BS and International schools? Do they take every BS and international high school that has US to come up with that denominator? Its a black box.

        • James says:

          Hi Sue, thanks for sharing this information! The info on boarding schools and international seems to be a bit fuzzier than what we have on states, but we’d love to hear more if you know!

          • Anne says:

            My daughter attends a boarding school in Michigan which is part of region 3, however the cut off last year was 220, which was higher than any state in the region.

          • Bill says:


            Boarding school cutoffs are particularly tricky because these estimations are just that – estimations. For the purpose of national merit merit, she will need to meet or exceed the cutoff score of the highest scoring state in her region.

            Hope this helps!

  4. Amanda says:

    Hello, thank you so much for posting this estimated cutoff. By looking at the difficulty of this PSAT test, would you say that the students are likely to do better or worse? (comparing to previous year in a given state). Also, if I scored 215 in Maryland, do you think it is pretty safe? I know some other sites predict it up to 218-220, but I think that’s a little too high. Personally, I felt that this new PSAT was harder than last year, but could it possibly be true that other people felt that it was easier?

    • James says:

      Hi Amanda!
      As a whole, students should be doing about the same on the New PSAT when compared to the Old PSAT. Because these test scores are calculated with respect to the testing population, any major variations in test content should be normalized. For example, if College Board put an impossible problem on the exam that no one got right, then the overall score would reflect this, giving students more leeway to get problems wrong. We expect this exam to be on average more difficult than previous PSATs, in both the math and the reading/writing sections, so on average, students should do about on par with how they’ve done on previous PSATs or SATs. As for your 215, check out our updated post to see an additional estimation on how you might be doing!

  5. Doyle Brunson says:

    I believe your estimated 2017 cutoffs are significantly too low.

  6. Rick Woods says:


    Have you seen the concordance tables from the College Board? https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/pdf/psat-nmsqt-preliminary-concordance-tables-2015.pdf
    Your predictions seem way to generous. For example, KY SI for 2014 exam of 210 correlates with SI of 215 for 2015 exam.

    What am I missing here?

  7. Levster says:

    I got a 210. Good enough for florida?

    • James says:

      Hi Levster! 210 is in the ballpark for both our sliding scale and projected cutoffs, so you definitely have a chance for Florida, though no one will be certain about the cutoff until September!

  8. Matt says:

    Hey Bill, I have a 213 in Maryland. How confident are you that this will be NMSF? And how do you respond to claims that your table and that of Prep Scholar which I am sure you have seen have cutoff estimations that are too low. In other words, why are you confident in the validity of your estimations?

    • Michael says:

      Hi Matt, our updated estimate for Maryland puts the cutoff around a 218, and we’re planning an updated post tonight showing that this should be about the ballpark for the cutoff.

  9. Jane says:

    Hi Bill,
    I got a 1450 SI218 according to my score report, however, I am in the high competitive DC area. According to your estimates, it seemed I might still have a chance to be listed. But I also saw lots of discussions today on the concordance equivalents chart that collegeboard just published. http://phs.princetonk12.org/guidance/Spotlight/S03A7EC5E-03A7ECF9.1/understanding-psat-nmsqt-scores.pdf,
    According to the above chart, my score is actually equivalent to 217 or 218 on year 2014’s scale when the cutoff in that year for the DC area was 224. So I am very confused with the concordance equivalents concept, and am wondering how you did to come out your estimates?

    many thanks!

  10. Veronica says:

    Based off of results I have heard so far these number seem really low. Will you be updating this if/when you receive more information.

  11. Marie says:

    With a score of 196, would you expect to be commended in Massachusetts?

  12. Ned says:

    Why is it that you guess the ranges of cutoffs will be much lower this year than previous years?
    Alabama 195-199 – 2017
    Alabama 207 – 2016
    Alabama 209 – 2015

  13. Bill says:

    Why are the estimated cutoffs so much lower this year than other years

    • James says:

      Hi Bill, the estimated cutoffs are lower than previous years because the selection index, which NMSC uses to determine national merit status, are scored out of 228, not 240.

  14. Lisa says:

    I’ve been looking online for this information, but where do Dept. Of Defense schools fall? We’re stationed overseas, but attending the American high school.

    • James says:

      Hi Lisa! It’s possible that DoD schools would fall under the umbrella of American students taking the exam internationally, but we don’t have an exact answer because we’ve never encountered this before. The National Merit Scholarship Corporation phone number is (847) 866-5100, so we’d suggest either giving them a call or perhaps contacting your DoD school counselor. Please let us know if you find this information out because this is a really interesting case.

  15. SY says:

    Your expectation for cut off score for 2017 is too much nice. When I checked the collegeboard conversion chart, 1470 (SI range around 218-222) is equivalent to old PSAT 223.
    In california, the cut off score was 223 last year. So cut off score for California might be around 1470( SI 218-220) I guess.

  16. Jeff says:

    Just wondering why your estimated cutoffs are so much lower than the previous year’s actual cutoff?

  17. Hirosme says:

    THX a TON for this clutch article. I’m a little suspect tho because in my Washington state school we consistently have 1-3 people each year as semifinalists, but I know at least 6 people with scores well over your estimated cutoff. Fluke or could these estimates be a little low?

    • James says:

      Hi Hirosme!

      No problem! These posted scores are just one estimation, and we provide another set of estimations here. It’s entirely possible that your school does have at least 6 Semi-Finalists, but then again, no one knows for sure what the cutoff will be until September.

  18. Stef says:

    So if I have a 198 selection index and I am in Nevada, does that mean I have a chance of being a finalist?

    • James says:

      Depending on how the NMSC decides to place the cutoff, you definitely have a chance, though it’s anybody’s guess as to whether the NMSC will use the sliding scale or concordance-style cutoffs.

  19. Joey says:

    Why are the expected qualifying scores of this year so much lower than the qualifying scores of past years?

  20. Vee says:

    Thanks! Why are the cut-off scores predicted for 2017 lower than those in previous years? Is it because it’s the New PSAT?

    • James says:

      Exactly! The new PSAT’s Selection Index, which is used to determine national merit positioning, is out of 228, not 240.

  21. Henry says:

    Is a 219 in California sufficient to become a semifinalist?

    • James says:

      Hi Henry, a 219 is in our range for both the sliding scale cutoff and the projected cutoff, so you should have a very good chance at becoming a semi finalist, though no one will know for sure until September!

  22. Charles says:

    How come the 2017 scores are slightly lower than previous years’ scores?

    • James says:

      Hi Charles, the sliding scale cutoffs are lower because the new SAT’s selection index is scored out of 228, not 240.

  23. Michael says:

    Hello. Thank you for this Article. I took the new PSAT as a freshman and received a 197. Am I on the right track for semifinalist/finalist in Florida?


    • James says:

      Hi Michael!
      A 197 is definitely on track for scoring well as a junior on the PSAT! Just keep practicing and doing well in school, and you should be in good shape. If you want additional resources, check out the Testmasters page for practice materials and online courses!

  24. Suj says:

    Thank you so much for this information. I just have one question: how did you guys determine the estimated cut off date? Is it just converted from last year’s index so it matches the redesigned PSAT? Thanks!

  25. Benjamin Zhang says:

    Hello, I received a 203 and I live in the state of Kansas. How reliable are these measurements, and do I have a good chance?

    • James says:

      Hi Benjamin, there is no guarantee on these estimates, as these are just rough estimates, but we detail our methodology and additional estimates in this post. Depending on how the NMSC decides to draw cutoffs, you may qualify for semi-finalist, though in any case, a 203 is a very good PSAT score and bodes well for your performance on the real SAT 🙂

  26. Dong Bui says:

    How do you know the Minnesota cutoff is accurate? Was the cutoff verified by a Minnesota student that received their scores?

    • James says:

      The cutoff scores for all states are just rough estimates and absolutely not definitive! The NMSC won’t release the official cutoffs until September, so this is just a rough guideline for what we predict the final cutoffs will be.

  27. Tammy says:

    Thanks for this article. I am a mom of a Junior in IL who scored 214. If your estimates are correct, this is pretty high across the board for all the states. Then, it is likely that my student will qualify to apply to the Scholars program after the official announcement in September of 2016. Do I understand this properly?

  28. Emma says:

    Why are the estimates so much lower than the actual cutoffs from the two previous years? I scored a 211 this year and live in Kansas, so based on your estimates, I could be a semifinalist. I’m just very confused as to why all of your estimates seem so low.

    • James says:

      Hi Emma, the new PSAT is scored differently, with the selection index being out of 228, not 240, leading to the lower sliding scale scores. The test is also harder, but the primary reason behind the score difference is this change in maximum score. We also have another set of estimates in this post, which you might want to take a look at.

  29. C1220 says:

    Are the class of 2017 range numbers correct for Wis? They dropped significantly from the 2016 and 2015 ranges so just double checking.

  30. Mike says:

    Bill, thanks for posting this, excellent information.
    I’m from Wisconsin and noticed the cutoff is listed as 164-168 this seems very low… Is this correct ????

  31. Jay says:


    Why are the estimated cutoff ranges for the class of 2017 generally lower than the past cutoff scores?
    Was the test taken in 2015 harder than prior years resulting in lower scores?

    • James says:

      Hi Jay, the new PSAT is scored differently, with the selection index being out of 228, not 240, leading to the lower sliding scale scores. The test is also harder, but the primary reason behind the score difference is this change in maximum score.

  32. Elisa Marie says:

    Can you explain the factors that lead you to predict lower score ranges for the Class of 2017 verses previous years? Thank you.

  33. Raj says:

    Bill: This is a great information and timely. So, what I am understanding is in New Jersey Class of 2016 cutoff is 225 but for class of 2017 it will be 211-215 range? Why is this lower than before? If I get 218 and in New Jersey will I qualify for NMSC? Thanks for your help and posting detailed report.

    • Michael says:

      Hi Raj, sorry for the late reply, but we revised our estimate and now believe that a 220 will be the cutoff for New Jersey, so a 218 is definitely in the ballpark!

  34. Lola says:

    I got a 1330 as my total score and a 204 as the selection index. I live in Virginia. Is there any chance that I could get a National Merit Scholarship? If not, are there any other awards? I scored in the 99th percentile for reading and writing but only the 92nd percentile for math. Also, I’m Hispanic, and I was wondering what the National Hispanic Scholarship is.

    • Michael says:

      Hi Lola, a 204 falls below our Virginia cutoff, but that might very well qualify for the National Hispanic Scholarship, which we unfortunately don’t have the data for.

  35. asdf10char says:

    Illinois is 2201-205? Lol. On another note, would you think 214 is likely to make it for California?

  36. Ann says:

    I am aware that if you become a semi-finalist there are additional qualifications in order to qualify to be a finalist. I have 2 questions: 1) If someone took the old SAT do they also need to take the new SAT? and 2) What score do you need on the actual SAT?

    • Michael says:

      Hi Ann, there has been no indication from the NMSC that the new SAT will be required; if you took the old SAT and did well enough, that should be okay. As a rule of thumb, you want to score in the same top percentile or so on the actual SAt.

  37. Mike H. says:

    It would be helpful to understand your methodology for your estimates for class of 2017. They appear overly optimistic (low) based on a fairly comprehensive set of data that is developing on the College Confidential thread PSAT Discussion Thread 2015. I am particularly interested in my daughter’s prospects with a 218 in California (1470 PSAT score).

    FWIW, the state where test is taken discrimination is something I find disgusting in a Common Core Universal national standards. It’s NATIONAL Merit, not Normalized state-by-state merit. These kids are subject to the same standards and applying to the same schools. NMSF status has a demonstrable monetary value at many schools.

  38. Trey says:

    So if I received a 205 in Minnesota, how confident can I be that I will be a semifinalist?

  39. Sara says:

    In Texas if your index score was a 213 are you likely to place a spot in semi finalist when it is announced in September

  40. Linda says:

    Do you think a index 217 will be enough for Connecticut?

  41. David says:

    Hey Bill,
    Thanks for this post it is great to look at. You listed the estimated cutoff for WA would be about 205-209, how likely do you think a score of index score of 204 would make it? Do you think based on the fact that it is a new test the actual cutoff scores will be higher or lower?
    Thanks again for this article, it is quite helpful

    • Michael says:

      Hi David, we’re believing that these initial estimations were too liberal and that the new Washington cutoff might be around a 217

  42. Josh Cole says:


    Why are the 10/2015 test index ranges so much lower than the prior years? For example, my daughter received a 208 in MI, which puts her significantly north of the estimated range, but short of the 210 index for prior (recent) years. Your thought on her qualification for MI at a 208?

    • Michael says:

      Hi Josh, check out our updated post for more information, and keep an eye out for an update coming out in the next day or so which should hopefully validate these estimations. As for a 208, that’s right below our projected cutoff

  43. Scott says:

    Just wondering what data you used to calculate the estimated National Merit cutoffs for the class of 2017 so that I can judge for myself their accuracy. This was a very helpful article by the way.

    • James says:

      Hi Scott!
      We just published a new set of estimations, with explanations on how we came to both. Long story short, since the new Selection Index Score is very similar to previous PSAT scores (228 Selection Index maximum compared to a 240 PSAT maximum), we initially used a sliding scale method. We also added an additional prediction using the popular College Board Concordance table, but again, more detail is in that post.

  44. T says:

    Hi Bill,

    What about a NMSC Index of 206 in SC? Just got the results today.

  45. Gina says:

    You might want to fix the typo for Wisconsin.. I’m pretty sure that’s meant to say “194-198” or something near that vs “164-168” as written.

  46. Will says:


    First off this post was so helpful thank you! I just wanted to ask you really quickly how you made these predictions and why they are so much lower than previous years scores (In my state, Kansas, the estimate is at least 10 points lower than the previous year). Do you base it off of score averages from this years test (class of 2017)? If so, how do you know those averages? I scored a 211 so I am somewhat caught in the middle of the two scores (higher than your estimate, but lower than previous cutoffs for my state). I just wanted to know why that is and how accurate you think these estimates will hold true as I am really hoping my score will qualify me. Thanks!

  47. Sheba says:

    Hi – the cutoffs you estimate for 2017 are quite a bit lower than the actual cutoffs for nearly all states in 2015 and 2016, as shown in your article.

    Texas for example was 218 in 2015, 220 in 2016; but your estimated range for 2017 is 206-210.

    Why do you estimate a cutoff ranges several points lower for 2017? If anything most state’s cutoffs appear to be creeping higher.

    thanks for any clarification.

  48. Chris says:


    I am from Wisconsin and I was wondering if it is true that the cut-off prediction is 164-168. Is this a typo?

  49. Sara says:

    We are in California. My daughter has achieved 214. Will she be semi finalist? Thanks.

  50. Celeste says:

    Hello Bill,
    Thanks for your post. My child got 223 (in California), but she is a sophomore. Will she need to re-take it next year? Her school sponsored the test this year for both Jr and sophomore. I think 223 is good score. Does it mean anything to the sophomore students at all beside a practice run?

    • James says:

      Hi Celeste!
      A 223 is a VERY good score, especially as a sophomore. Unfortunately, the National Merit Scholarship competition is only for juniors, so she will still have to take the “real” PSAT this coming fall. However, with scores like that already, as long as she keeps fresh and keeps practicing, she shouldn’t have a worry come November!

  51. anonymous says:

    Hi Bill,

    Do you mind detailing your methodology or some sort of explanation of how you reached these numbers?

    Thank you!

  52. Trey H. says:

    Thanks for a great read, scores just came in today, and I am sitting at a 202 Selection Index, in your opinion do you think this will suffice all the way to National Merit Finalist? Also I’m from Alabama to gauge the scores.

    • Michael says:

      Hi Trey, we updated our Alabama estimate to a 213, so a 202 might not qualify, though it’s in the ballpark for Commended!

  53. Ben says:

    Why are the estimated qualifying scores for the class of 2017 so much lower than the qualifying scores the past two years?

    • Bill says:


      The PSAT was changed last year, so the class of 2017 took a brand new, never before administered PSAT exam. One of the many things that changed with this redesigned PSAT exam was the scoring scale. Additionally, the National Merit Scholarship Corporation is your Selection Index Scores for the purpose of establishing National Merit cutoff. So, in short, the qualifying scores are different because the test is different. You can learn more about understanding your PSAT scores here.

      Hope this helps!

  54. Valerie Musial says:

    We live in Alabama. My daughter just received her score and it is a 210. If I am reading this correctly, she should feel confident that she will be a semi-finalist for our state?

  55. B zheng says:

    How did you make these estimates? Don’t you have to have insider information? Thanks.

    • Bill says:


      This has been a fairly common question in this comment section. People have also asked about College Board’s Concordance Table as well. You can read more about our analytic here.

      Hope this helps!

  56. Tim says:

    Hey Bill how confident should I be if I got a 211 in Texas seeing that the range is 206-210?

    • Bill says:


      A 211 is a great score! You should be very proud of that score. Other posters have pointed that our estimated scores are not consistent with the estimations published on College Board’s Concordance Table; however, we feel like those scores are too conservative and do not take into account the score discrepancies between states. However, as many people have asked about the Concordance Table, we generated a new estimate which takes the Concordance Table into consideration. You can read more about this here. To answer your question directly – you should feel fairly confident, but ultimately we won’t know the exact cutoff scores until September.

  57. Vijay Kumar says:

    For PSAT taken Oct 2105, the SF qualifying score for North Carolina says 201-205 and different ranges for other states.
    What is usually the range for winning the National Merit Scholarship? Is there certain number of students selected per state based on how high they have scored in their state or is this one national level?
    Thanks for providing insight for a clueless parent 🙂

    • Michael says:

      Hi Vijay, we’re expecting a 215 for North Carolina. The cutoff is based on the maximum number of students per state that can become NMSF, and this number is determined by seeing how each state’s population is proportional to the overall population.

  58. Andrea says:

    I am aware there are other requirements besides your score in order to qualify for national merit finalist and that you need to take the SAT and have a comparable score. If you took the earlier version of the SAT do you also need to take the new version? And what would be considered a comparable score?

    • James says:

      Hi Andrea, the old version of the SAT should count as your “comparable score,” as most, if not all, universities aren’t differentiating between the two for current juniors. While there’s no exact quantity for comparable scores for the PSAT, as long as you aren’t wildly off the mark on the real SAT, you should be fine 🙂

  59. Brian says:

    Thanks for the information. Why are your estimates for the 2016 test so much lower than in the prior years? In New York, for example, the cut-off for the 2015 test was 219, but you are predicting 205-209 for the 2016 test. (My daughter received a 220, which hopefully will prove good enough even with the higher scores.)

  60. Sherry says:

    Hi Bill,
    Your estimated qualifying scores for class of 2017 appear to be lower than the past cut off scores. Can you please explain why? Thank you.

    • Bill says:


      The PSAT that was administered in October 2015 was administered according to a redesigned exam format – so, the test actually changed. One of the things that changed was the way the test is scored, and also which scores are specifically used for the purpose of establishing a cutoff for National Merit. This is why there is an apparent discrepancy between last year’s cutoff scores and the estimated cutoff scores for the class of 2017. You can read more about this here.

      Hope this helps!

  61. beth says:

    Why are the scores so much lower than last year?

    • Bill says:


      The score range that is being used to determine the cutoff for National Merit has actually changed. You can find a detailed explanation here.

      Hope this helps!

  62. Margaret says:

    Can you check the scores for Wisconsin – then seem quite low compared to the rest of the states….

  63. Jay Shannon says:

    It looks like the estimated qualifying scores for the class 0f 2017 are lower than the past qualifying scores. For example, Louisiana was 208 for 2015, 211 for 2016 and estimated to be 197-201 for class 0f 2017.

    Was the test harder this year resulting in lower scores?

  64. Sam says:

    Firstly, I greatly appreciate your effort to help “de-shroud” the mystery of qualifying index scores for NMS qualifications. I got a 206 in Ohio, which according to your predictions should qualify. While your predictions are in line with another popular testprep website (the only other I could find so far offering predictions), there is much on-line banter (parents and students alike) that these numbers are significantly lower than what will actually occur (based on looking at concordance tables and other, (frankly quite confusing) discussions that I found too tiring to consider). Can you please detail how you came up with your scale? Is this merely the ratio of: (228/240) X the 2014 qualifying score for each state? If so, can you give some discussion as to why you are convinced that that is all there is to it. Thanks in advance for your help.

    • James says:

      Hi Sam! We actually made a whole new post explaining our rationale while also providing an additional set of estimations. Check out the post here and let us know if you have additional questions about our methodology and reasoning!

  65. I noticed a small typo that you may want to correct:

    Illinois 2201-205

    Thanks for the post — I’ll be sharing it with my students with credit to Test Masters!

  66. Tom says:

    Hi! I scored a 210 and am from Florida. What do you think is the tolerance on these estimations?

    • James says:

      Hi Tom, since these are estimations, the margin of error can’t quite be determined (as there’s no real data to compare them to!). However, a rough rule of thumb is +/- 2 points should get you into that range.

  67. Patrick says:


    Your 2017 estimates drop last year’s cutoff scores in the range of 12 points each. I am reading posts elsewhere that suggest the concordance tables are indicating less of a drop. Are those tables useful or not?

    • James says:

      Hi Patrick!
      You can view our full thoughts on the concordance tables in this post, but to make a long story short, we believe the Concordance Table scores are a far too conservative estimate. They rank students rather harshly and don’t allow for a wide spread of cutoff scores, unlike the current PSAT.

  68. Kmon says:

    Why are your estimated qualifying scores for class of 2017 so much lower than the historical cutoffs?

    • Bill says:


      The scale that the National Merit Scholarship Corporation will use to determine National Merit eligibility has changed from last year, which explains why our estimates appear low. You can learn more about this here.

      Hope this helps!

  69. Nancy says:

    So at the risk of becoming an extremely anxious mom until September 2016, should I feel fairly comfortable that my daughter in Ohio with a score of 206 will become a semifinalist?

    • Bill says:


      A score of 206 is very good and you should be very proud of your daughter for her accomplishment! To answer your question, according to College Board’s Concordance Table, a 206 would likely not be enough to earn semifinalist status in Ohio; however, we really think that College Board’s expected cutoffs are much too conservative and will not prove to be wholly accurate. That said, unfortunately, we won’t know for sure until September. If you are interested in seeing a re-run of these estimations that incorporates College Board’s Concordance Table, you can view that here.

      Hope this helps!

  70. Sarah says:

    Bill, Thank you for posting estimates. Just wondering if your estimates are based on a sample of the actual new PSAT score results that came out or based on previous old PSAT scores adjusted to new scale? Thanks again for helping ease our wait.

    • James says:

      Hi Sarah! These estimates are a combination of previous PSAT scores and our knowledge about the new scoring scale. We also posted an additional set of estimations given College Board’s official Concordance table, along with some additional information about our methodology. Check that out here!

  71. Parimala Kasu says:

    My son made 196 selection index (1300), Oklahoma cut off is 194, where does he stand.

  72. Seeman says:

    Bill, Thanks for the post. My child scored 215 in California. Do you think that will suffice for National Merit Scholarship?


    • Michael says:

      Hi Seeman, a 219 is our new projection for California, so a 215 may or may not qualify, depending on how the official cutoff lines up.

  73. Nancy says:

    So would you think its fairly safe to assume my daughter in Ohio with a score of 206 will become a semifinalist? Are these predicted ranges usually accurate?

  74. Kate says:

    Bill– I’ve seen other estimates that differ slightly from yours. How did you arrive at this estimate? Also, does the range correlate to the range in each state over the past few years?

    • Bill says:


      There have been a lot of questions in this comment thread asking us to explain how we arrived at our scores. Additionally, a lot of people have pointed out that our score estimates are not consistent with College Board’s Concordance Table. We feel that the Concordance Table is much too conservative and will not accurately reflect the differences in cutoff score by state, but because so many people have asked about this we generated a new article explaining how these scores were arrived at and also positing a second cutoff estimate that incorporates the data set provided by the Concordance Table. You can find it here.

      Hope this helps!

  75. Paula says:

    Now, why September? The semi-finalist pool is based solely on the score which is out now. The only reason I can think of is to generate more interest for the then juniors to sign up for the October PSAT.

    • James says:

      Hi Paula,
      The National Merit Scholarship Corporation always releases cutoff scores around September. Why they choose to release them so late after the PSAT score release beats us, so your guess is as good as ours!

  76. Rich says:

    I am a little confused by your ranges when compared to the prior year cutoffs you provide. For example, in Alabama the cutoff was 209 last year and 207 the year before yet your range for this year is 195-199. Seems like a large drop. Can you clarify?

    • Bill says:


      The PSAT (and SAT) have undergone some pretty significant changes over the past year (although, the redesigned SAT exam won’t be released until this March, when it will be administered for the first time). Aside from the change in content, question type, and structure, a significant change to these two exams is the scoring scale that is used for each exam. Additionally the scores specifically used for National Merit has changed as well. This change in scoring is what accounts for the drop from last year to this year. You can learn more about understanding your PSAT score here.

      Hope this helps!

  77. Ben says:

    Why are the qualifying scores for the class of 2017 so much lower than the qualifying scores for the past two years.

    • Bill says:


      The scores are lower because the actual score range changed. Can you learn more about understanding your score on the PSAT here.

      Hope this helps!
      Hope this helps!

  78. Joe says:

    Bill, my son just scored a 206 for the State of TN, Do you think he will be a semi-finalist or just earn the commendable honor?

    • Bill says:


      Based on our initial estimate a 206 would be enough to earn semifinalist status in Tennessee. However, we re-ran our estimates incorporating the data set from College Board’s Concordance Table, which yielded a different result. You can see our second estimate here. Historically the difference in cutoff score by state has varied quite drastically from state to state, and we feel like College Board’s data is a bit too conservative and does not accurately capture the disparity in scoring between states. All that said, the short answer to your question is a score of 206 is very good, but we won’t know whether it is good enough for National Merit until September.

      Hope this helps!

    • James says:

      Hi Joe!

      No one knows for sure what the cutoff for Semi-Finalist or commendable will be, so at this point in the year, it’s difficult to say. We’ve provided some additional context on our cutoff estimations in this post here, so I hope that helps!

  79. aamir zuberi says:

    222 in texas ?

    • Bill says:


      A score of 222 will likely be high enough to earn National Merit Semifinalist status in Texas (but we won’t know for sure until September).

      Hope this helps!

  80. Ethan says:

    Would you like to provide some of your reasoning on the estimates? There is a lot of talk online about the Preminary Concordance Tables released by the College Board and the percentile ranks being reported in the score reports. The Concordance Tables seem to be a bit harsher than the percentile ranks. So we live in DC (thus my concern). My twins both got a selection index on the Oct 2015 test of 223 — theoretically easily making the cutoff you show of 215. But when you use the Concordance tables to take their subsection scores and convert them to last year’s Selection Index it shows that last year their Selection Index would have been 226 or 227, much closer to the actual cutoff last year of 225. I haven’t done similar comparisons for students with lower scores, but I’m wondering if you have?

    • James says:

      Hi Ethan!

      We made a new post explaining our reasoning on the estimates, along with an additional set of predictions based on the Concordance Tables. Read about that in this post!

  81. Luhar says:

    How are you calculating the expected cutoffs? Why are they expected to drop this year?

  82. Dave says:

    Ok, so I have read several posts on several websites and they tend to agree with your numbers. My son scored a 222, which is significantly higher than any of the states. He is extremely bright and I knew the score would be high, but am I missing something here. His Math and English scores were both 740 out of 760 and it says he is top 1%. I just don’t want to get his and our hopes up when I am just reading it wrong.
    Thanks for the initial post, BTW.

    • James says:

      Hi Dave!
      A 222 is VERY good, even in light of our new cutoff estimations! Though no one can know for sure what the cutoff for the Class of 2017 will be until 2017, I would not be too worried about his score, though I completely understand not wanting to get your hopes up just in case the official cutoff ends up being incredibly high. A Selection Index score of 222/228 and a PSAT score of 1480/1520 is again very, very good, so I would personally feel very comfortable being in your position.

      Let us know if you have any additional questions!

      • Dave says:

        Thanks for the reply and the new post with the graph and new set of numbers on the link you provided one of the other posters. My son has decided to be philosophical. “It’s gonna be what it’s gonna be.” However, I did see him researching SAT prep books at the bookstore last night, so I am gone take that with a grain of salt.
        Thanks for crunching the numbers and sharing them. I am completely lost on this issue. dm

        • James says:

          Hi Dave!

          We think your son has a great outlook on the PSAT and on life in general! It’s definitely a good idea to let things be and not to let a number control his life or cause needless anxiety.
          If he’s still looking for SAT prep materials, you can also check out the Testmasters Bookstore, along with the online course offerings!

  83. Ryan M says:

    Bill – Thanks for the data points! Quick question: Why do you anticipate such a drop in qualifying scores for most states for the class of ’17 versus the classes of ’15 and ’16?

    • James says:

      Hi Ryan!
      There was a large drop in our estimations for Class of 2017 scores because of the new way College Board is computing PSAT qualifying scores. For more information on that change, check out our post What Does My PSAT Score Mean. We also updated our original post with additional cutoff estimations, so check that out on this page!

  84. JJ says:

    (1) Wonder why 2015 estimate is lower than 2013 & 2014?
    (2) Will 220 in California suffice this year? Thx a lot!

    • James says:

      Hi JJ!
      Our initial 2015 estimate was lower than the 2013 and 2014 scores due to the new way College Board is computing PSAT qualifying scores. For an additional set of cutoff estimations, check out our updated post on what PSAT Scores might make the cutoff. As for your 220, that is certainly a very good score, but no one will know for sure what will make the cutoff until College Board releases the official cutoffs in September 2016.

      Let us know if you have any other questions!

  85. Pete says:

    Thanks for the useful info. Do you have any information or calculations related to the National Hispanic Recognition Program for the class of 2017? I know it’s not as prestigious as the National Merit program but it is still a noteworthy recognition.
    Thanks again for your help.

    • Michael says:

      Hi Pete, unfortunately, we don’t have data on National Hispanic Recognition just based on how our model is constructed!

  86. Sarah says:

    Hi Bill,
    This morning I thought I understood the New PSAT Score Cutoff Calculations but now I am lost – with all these numbers like concordance score, selection index, raw score and the SAT like score… (I guess I am not a smart mom),
    so I am going to just ask you in plain:
    What do you think of a NMSC Selection Index of 216 in Virginia – would my kid make the semifinalist cutoff in Virginia or not? Thank you so much.

    • Bill says:


      I think a 216 is extremely competitive, but we just simply won’t know what the cutoff score actually is until September. Keep in mind that of the approximately 50,000 students who are honored for their PSAT score, only about 16,000 will go on to become National Merit Semifinalists. Even if your student doesn’t achieve Semifinalist status, this score should probably be high enough for recognition as a Commended Student, but, again, we won’t know for sure until September.

      Hope this helps!

  87. Sarah says:

    This morning I thought I understood the New PSAT Score Cutoff Calculations but now I am lost – with all these numbers like concordance score, selection index, raw score and the SAT like score… (I guess I am not a smart mom),
    so I am going to just ask you in plain:
    What do you think of a NMSC Selection Index of 216 in Virginia – would my kid make the semifinalist cutoff in Virginia? Thank you so much.

  88. PD says:


    Thank you for posting this. I got a SI of 210 (Scored 99% apparently) and I live in Michigan. I hope this makes the cutoffs…
    Regardless, how is college board going to determine what the SI cut off is?

  89. Nina says:

    I realize that this is just an estimate, but do you think that a 212 in CA would make the cut? PrepScholar predicts the cutoff for CA at 210…but since your post provides an estimated range rather than a number, I’m unsure as to whether a 212 would make the cut, since it’s within the range but lower than 213 (the highest number of that range).
    Thanks in advance!!

  90. Nina says:

    Also, do you have any predictions as to what the national cutoff for commended scholar would be? Any predictions are appreciated 😀
    Thanks again!

  91. Amy says:

    Confused on new cutoff for Illinois.
    Thanks so much for your work on this!

    Old cutoff was 215
    Original sliding projection was 201-205
    Now adjusted new projection is back at 215

    Based on what I have read, it seems the new cutoffs would drop at least a little. I’m not understanding why it would still be a 215? Wouldn’t this mean you would actually have to have done better than in previous years?

    My son got a 208 so we hope the sliding scale projection ends up being correct! Either way, we are very proud of him!

    • Bill says:


      The data set provided by College Board via their Concordance Table does some very strange things at the high and low ends of their projections (which is particularly unfortunate because all of the students who will potentially qualify for National Merit all reside at the high end of the spectrum, obviously). This is the primary reason we have expressed reservations as to the accuracy of the Concordance Table. We feel like the Concordance table is much too conservative, but even though it is only a preliminary projection it does come from an official source and therefore cannot be entirely discounted. I would expect a score of 208 to at least earn Commended Student status, but we won’t know for sure until September.

      Your son should definitely be congratulated for his performance! A 208 is a very good score!

      Hope this helps!

  92. Joy says:

    Hi! I have a selection index of 223, which indicates (hopefully) a high likelihood of qualifying for any cutoffs for my region. I was wondering, however, if there are other significant factors that affect the selection index and may prevent me from becoming a semifinalist. I’m not sure how this works, but 16,000 is an awfully small group, and I don’t want to have any unwarranted expectations. If you could explain their criteria to me, I would be very greatful.

    • Bill says:


      Although there are of course no guarantees until the official notifications go out in September, based on our estimations a score of 223 will almost assuredly earn you National Merit Semifinalist status. The determination for Semifinalist status is based entirely on your PSAT score. Other criteria, such as your GPA, SAT score, and the difficulty of your high school curriculum, will be taken into consideration when you apply to be a Finalist. You might have seen this, and it is from last year, but this informational handout from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation may be useful in answering any additional questions you have.

      Hope this helps!

  93. Moe says:


    I received a score of 1170 index of 177, within the 90% percentile, is this “good” for a sophomore? How can I improve for next year? Thanks!

    • Bill says:


      College Board typically releases a detailed annual study for both the PSAT and SAT, and we won’t know much about national averages until this information is released. Without that contextual information it is hard to make assessments about whether a score is “good” or not. That said, as a sophomore, if you scored in the top 90% you can be reasonably happy with your score. Ultimately though, if your goal is National Merit, your score will have to improve significantly from last year to this year. If you have not already, our recommendation would be to complete a formal test preparation course. You can learn more about the specific course we recommend here. Regardless of how you go about preparing for the PSAT & SAT, in our experience the students who tend to achieve truly exemplary scores practice, a lot, so you should be sure to incorporate taking practice exams into whatever preparation regimen you decide on.

      Hope this helps!

  94. Sarah says:

    I feel very lost with all these concordance table scores and projected cutoff, and the reported Selection Index – are they all the same; and then there is the big score/1520.

    So I am just going ask you in plain what my kids’s score on the report means –
    State: Virginia
    Selection index 216
    Score 1460/1520
    Do you think it is good to become a semifinalist in Virginia?
    I really appreciate your input. Thank you so much.

    • James says:

      Hi Sarah! The National Merit Scholarship Corporation is only considering the selection index score, not the “big score.” A 216 SI score is very close to our projected cutoff estimate, and since it is just an estimate, and likely a conservative one at that, we think your student has a good shot at semifinalist! However, no one will know for sure until August/September, when the official results come out.

  95. Pat says:

    I took the 2015 new PSAT test and got a 210 for my selection index. Do you think this will qualify in Illinois? If I do ‘qualify’ what exactly does this mean for me? Thanks

    • James says:

      Hi Pat! A 210 is slightly lower than our Illinois cutoff estimate of 215, but again, these are just estimates! I’d say you’re still in the ballpark for National Merit Semifinalist, but no one will know for sure until August/September, when official cutoffs are released. If you do qualify, your counselor will receive a National Merit application packet which you will have to fill out with essays and your extracurricular/leadership activities. From there, the NMSC will determine who advances from semifinalist to finalist.

  96. Jason says:


    So for the 2015 test, my son score 710 R/W and 700 Math. That means an index score of 212. We reside in Texas. My gut says this will not be enough for him to be selected as a semi-finalist. As a sophomore, he scored perfect on the Math (80). Now, according to the College Board Concordance Table, he would have scored a 69 on last year’s exam. I understand test by test, year by year issues.

    But what concerns me is the percentile that gave him this year. His report states he is the 99th percentile. Of course, I am proud of my son. But he already has his hopes up of semi-final status because of the percentile they reported. It is the only tangible evidence he has since the scores from one year to the next do not really have much to do with one another.

    So, my question is this. You have stated several time that you suspect the Concordance to be too conservative. Is the percentile given to specific scores on this year’s test a part of this suspicion?


    • James says:

      Hi Jason, I would personally give more credence to the official percentile rank than the concordance table. The whole purpose of any concordance table is to provide a way to compare different test scores (New SAT vs. Old SAT, ACT vs. SAT, etc.), and percentile ranks are honestly the best way to do that. The official College Board concordance table was just an early projection CB themselves made in how they expected students to score on the previous PSAT compared to the new one, and it’s very likely that they overestimated how well students would do, which would lead to the concordance table being too rigorous. That said, National Merit semi-finalists roughly score within the top .5% percentile, so the percentile ranking is also not terribly accurate as it includes roughly twice as many students as will make the cutoff. A 212 is a solid score and one your son should be proud of, and at this point in time, National Merit is anyone’s game. Regardless of how things might turn out in September, a 212 bodes very well for how your son will do on the real SAT, which is honestly more important in actual college admissions.

  97. Darcy says:

    Understanding results are not official until September 2016,
    can you please estimate the National Merit Commended score?
    Is there notification to colleges about a student who gets Commended status?

    • Michael says:

      Hi Darcy, we’re estimating a 210 for commended. There is no official notice sent to colleges, but commended can certainly be included on a resume or application!

  98. Danny says:


    Thanks for the update. I have an SI 209 which is probably too low for my state (CT) for SF based on concordance but I was wondering about commended status. The cutoffs you derived for your concordance projections for the lowest scoring states are all at 210. Historically it seems commended status tallies with the lowest scoring states and hovered around 202 SI. When I do concordance for my PSAT score and SI I come in around 204 and I’m in 99% national and user, which seems I would make commended even with concordance or on percentile basis. But the cutoff you derived seems to say I would be just shy of commended.

    • Michael says:

      Hi Danny, we’re making an updated post today that suggests our projected cutoff is in the right ballpark, for better or for worse.

  99. Tina says:

    I’m still a little confused with the update posted. Will a 208 in the state of Georgia likely be a semi-finalist?

  100. Anshul says:

    Do you think a 198 in Mississippi will be enough

    • Bill says:


      It really depends on how well students in your class in Mississippi performed. Although Mississippi tends to rank a little lower on PSAT scores when compared to other states, usually occupying a place somewhere in the lower-middle of national rankings, whether or not your score will be high enough for National Merit won’t be determined until the official announcements go out in September.

      Hope this helps!

      • Anshul says:

        Based on your experience and estimations, do you think a 198 will cut it in Mississippi. I understand it is relating to other students in the state, but just a guess. Also, the top 320 students in the state will become semifinalist right? 16,000/50 is 320.

        • Bill says:


          Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but based on the scores our students are reporting to us, and based on the scores students are reporting in online forums like this one, I am getting the impression that the cutoff scores will ultimately be closer to the updated projections and not the sliding scale projections. This would remove a score of 198 in Mississippi from contention for National Merit.

          To your second question, it is not necessarily the top 320 students in each state as each state’s population is taken into consideration when making determinations about the number of students that are considered eligible for National Merit per state.

          Hope this helps!

  101. Ajit Iyer says:

    Apologies if this question has already been asked. What is the estimated cutoff in 2017 for International students (ie, US citizens living & studying overseas). In general, I’ve noticed that this is the same as the cutoff for DC. My daughter scored 212.

    • Michael says:

      Hi Ajit, we didn’t officially put out an International student estimate, but you’re right that it is usually around the DC cutoff, so that should be a good estimate.

  102. Anne Grabois says:

    I made a 201 and am from Texas. I know that isn’t high enough for National Merit but what do you think about Commended? My score sheet says I’m in the 98% (study group) overall and 97% of actual projected users overall. So would that mean it’s good enough for Commended? Thanks for your help.

  103. Gary says:

    Hey! So I scored a 213 SI on the PSAT and I was wondering if that had any chance to get National Merit in Texas. Also, how were these estimates reached?

    • Bill says:


      We’ve posted an update to this post. You can find it here. This post explains how the initial projections were arrived and also posits new estimations that incorporate College Board’s Concordance Tables.

      Hope this helps!

  104. Brian says:

    So, in California you expect the lowest score that will make the cutoff to be between 209-213. So if you are 209, you may or may not make it but if you are 213 you probably will, though just. Is that the way to interpret these ranges?

  105. Chris says:

    Do you know have a guess of what the national cutoff for commended scholar will be

    • Bill says:


      We expect to post an update on commended scholars and other similar recognized statuses tomorrow! Be sure to check back.


  106. Kate Bean says:

    Would love to see updated predictions based on the release of “Understanding Your Scores….” just released by the College Board!

    (And on that note, how about a 212 for NE??)


    • Michael says:

      Hi Kate! We’re posting another update today, which suggests that our projected cutoffs are in the right ballpark for actual cutoffs. As for NE, a 212 might be slightly below what the cutoff might be.

  107. Mary says:

    Thank you for all your analysis on this issue!

    My child scored a 1370 on the PSAT taken in October, 2015. According to the score sheet, this score is in the top 99% of the “Nationally Representative Sample” and the top 98% of the “PSAT/NMSQT User” Percentile. Her Selection Index score is 206.

    Is my child likely to be at least “commended” due to the fact that her score is in the top 1-2% nationally (depending on which percentile is used)? My understanding is that the top 3% nationally will at least be commended (50,000 students out of 1.5 million).

    Also, if I’m reading the concordance tables correctly, they seem very conservative. Her 206 this year would be the equivalent of a 201 last year, which misses the 2016 cutoff in our state by quite a bit. It seems off that she would score in the top 99% for the Class of 2017, yet when her score is converted to a 2016 score using the tables, she misses the 2016 cutoff by several index points.

    I’d love your thoughts on this.

    • Michael says:

      Hi Mary, the Nationally Representative Sample is actually a little misleading, since College Board includes students who did not take the PSAT in that number, thereby inflating the percentile as you noticed. Based on your child’s score, it seems that she is in good shape to be commended.

  108. Bobby says:

    Bill, I have a 213 in Maryland which puts me at around 99.4 % nationally. Last year, the Maryland cutoff was 221, three below the national 99.5%. According to the percentiles released, my score would correlate with a 222 or 223 but the concordance has me at a 213 on the old format. Do I have a legitimate shot at NMSF( 50 percent or higher)?in other words, how much can I trust the percentiles?

    • Michael says:

      The percentiles are just a rough rule of thumb, but in our experience, they are fairly accurate in determining NMSF positioning.

  109. Dave says:

    The most recent ‘Understand your score 2015’ has SI 200 for 97%, SI 205 for 99%, and SI 214 for 99+%.

    From my son’s report, the preliminary Concordance table is way too conservative in estimate of percentage. My guess for California is around 214 based on past data since California cutoff point is usually just below 99+%.

  110. Stacy2017 says:

    Will old SAT scores qualify the new PSAT? My child got a 224SI (1500) in Virginia. He also got a 2400 on the old Oct ’15 SAT and really doesn’t want to take another standardized test. Also, what are the determining factors that take a kid from NM semi finalist to finalist and then to scholarship winner? (grades? essay? recommendations? gender? race?) Thanks!

    • Michael says:

      Hi, College Board has not indicated a preference for SAT — old vs. new– so the 2400 will certainly be good enough for national merit! Further, to go from semi finalist to finalist, your student and his counselor will have to fill out an application packet, which will include grades, essays, recommendations, extracurriculars, and other application information.

  111. Michael says:

    Hi I took the PSAT this year, I am a junior, and I received a 208. I live in Illinois and with the rules that apply to my year I am above the cutoff. Does this range measure minimum to be commended or to be a semifinalist?

    • Bill says:


      I would recommend taking a look at our UPDATED estimations. We actually expect the cutoff in Illinois to be around 215, and we expect the commended cutoff to be around 210. We have recently obtained a new data set, so we will be releasing one more estimated cutoff scores post soon, so you might check back in a week for more information.

      Hope this helps!

  112. Deb says:

    In Ohio, my daughter has a 196 score….is there any chance whatsoever for herto get commended?

  113. Victoria says:

    if only 50,000 out of the 1% on top will make as semifinalist. What does it mean to be in the 98% national percentile with an index score of 203 in Florida. Based on your predictions, my daughter could have a shot, but it also says that she is not in the top 1%. I’m confused.

    • Bill says:


      Interestingly, the national percentile is not actually indicative of how your student performed when compared to students who took the test. The national percentile is representative of all students in that grade, and includes estimations for students who did not actually take the exam. The user percentile, which you have to download through your online PSAT score report, actually tells you how your student performed compared to students who took the test. You read more about this here.

      To your question, this means a student with a national percentile of 98% is not likely to have made the cutoff.

      Hope this helps!

  114. Joe says:

    You predict the “commended” cutoff to be at 210? According to the College Board, a 210 for the 2015 PSAT is 99% percentile. In fact, a 205 is also a 99% percentile. a 214 is 99+%! So what you are saying is that you expect a hell of a lot more 99% percentiles. The only way your prediction can come true is 1) the College Board is mistaken. Or 2) MANY more Juniors took the PSAT this year, meaning there was a major baby boom in 1998 that produced a lot more 17 year-olds today. People with lower SI Scores, in the 200-213, should not get discouraged because there is no way of knowing for sure. Please read the College Board’s percentile estimates here on page 11: https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/pdf/2015-psat-nmsqt-understanding-scores.pdf

    • Bill says:


      There are actually two percentile scores generated through your PSAT score report: the National Percentile and the User Percentile. The National Percentile is the percentile ranking included with your physical score report; this percentile ranking actually incorporates estimates of students who would have taken the test but didn’t – in other words, the National Percentile, the ranking most readily available to students as, again, it is included with your physical score report, has been artificially inflated. This is why there are so many 99%s. The User Percentile only includes those students who actually took the test, and is therefore a more accurate reflection of how a student scored compared to his or her peers, or the actual users. This percentile ranking is only accessible through your online score report, and even then it is only available after clicking through several pages. You can read more about this here.

      All that said, you’re correct, people should not be discouraged as these projections represent educated guesses on our part, and we just won’t know for sure until the fall announcements.

      Hope this helps!

  115. Madalyn says:

    Hi! Home school mom here and checking for my daughter. We’re in MS, she made a 210 SI. Have read all the estimates, so assume she might get a commendation at least?

    • Bill says:


      According to our projections a 210 should be sufficient for commended student status, but we’ll just have to wait and see. Good luck!

      Hope this helps!

  116. Melanie says:

    My son and his classmates at a very competitive public high school in Texas have been doing a lot of comparing of PSAT scores at school, and it sounds like there are lots and lots of high scores (1480 +). They were not comparing selection indexes, but we can extrapolate pretty easily. (My son had a 1480 with a 760 in Math, and his Selection Index is 220.) So, I predict very high cutoff scores, and I am not even feeling confident about his 220. Granted, he was mainly comparing with the big brains in the class, and this is a school that tends to produce quite a few National Merit Finalists (15 last year).

    • Bill says:


      Either way a score of 220 is excellent, and your son should be very proud of his accomplishment. A score of 220 should be sufficient for National Merit Semifinalist status in Texas; although you might check back in a day or two for an update.

  117. Randall Voorhees says:

    My daughter selection index is 217 (New Jersey). Any shot at being a semi-finalist? It should also be pointed out that many students with the highest scores, that is, the most “meritorious,” will not become semi-finalists because of the College Boards desire for geographic diversity.

    • Bill says:


      Unfortunately, a score of 217 puts you just outside what we expect the cutoff score to be in New Jersey. Your point about geographic diversity is spot on; the National Merit Scholarship Corporation wants to ensure that there is uniform representation according to population density. On the plus side, a 217 is a fantastic score, so you can expect to do quite well on the SAT, and a 217 should also be enough to earn you commended student status.

      Thanks for reading!

  118. Sherri says:

    How does the College Board handle scores for students who are dependents of military members stationed overseas? They are not part of any state. They are part of the DoDEA school system. How are their scores compared? I thought I had posted this question last week, but don’t see it on the feed now, so maybe I didn’t submit. Your help is greatly appreciated.

    • Michael says:

      Hi Sherri! I thought we’d answered that too, but perhaps it got lost in a spam filter somewhere! It’s likely that a DoD student would fall under the International Students category, which in previous years has lined up with Washington DC’s cutoff score. However, I would either call the National Merit Scholarship Corporation or your guidance counselor to be doubly sure!

  119. BryanSmith says:

    I’ve been following this process throughout; am I safe with a 221 in New Jersey? Initially, I thought I was safe with the sliding scale estimates, but the new estimates have me worried for my status. I know it’s just the PSAT, but I still really want to know my situation.

    • Michael says:

      Hi Bryan, a 221 is above our projected cutoff, so it looks like you should be in good shape, but no one will know for sure until this fall what the official cutoff is

  120. Michelle S says:

    Why are the projected cutoff scores for Louisiana so much lower for 2017 than the previous years?

  121. Ally says:


    I’m a bit confused and hoping you can explain to me. On this chart it says the estimated cutoff score for Kentucky is 196-200. However, on the chart in your updated article it says the projected cutoff is a 213. Which one is more accurate? I have a 210 and thought I had a chance, but now it seems I won’t qualify for semifinalist.


    • Michael says:

      Hi Ally! We believe the 213 Projected Cutoff will prove to be more accurate, and though it’s above your 210, keep in mind that this is an estimate, so you still have a shot since you’re in the ballpark!

  122. snickers1234 says:

    Actually,doesn’t the cutoff for commended come out this spring?Once that score is known it will be easier to come up with a reasonable guess for nmsf for different states.

    • Michael says:

      Hi, you are correct! Commended students will be notified in the coming months, but remember that Commended is based on a national cutoff, not an individual state cutoff.

  123. snickers1234 says:

    True again Micheal.I understand that each state has a certain amount of nmsf due to population relating to amount of juniors taking test.That they go from top scores down to score that most closely fills that states quota,coming up then with the cutoff.I also realize that,usually,only the parents of,or the kids themselves,kids that scored very well on the psat are going to post on here as they feel their child has a chasnce.So it is still hard to get a feel of any kind of cutoff expectation per state.But a commended cutoff would at least be a start.

  124. Giveypup says:

    Is the (old) SAT performance that factors into National Merit Scholar status superscored? We are talking about a 224 SI (California) on the PSAT and a 2370 (old) SAT, when superscored. Unsuperscored, the highest (old) SAT, taken in one sitting, is 2270. Thanks for advising.

    • Michael says:

      Hi! The NMSC does not superscore SAT scores when going from NMSF to NMF, however, a 2270 in a single sitting should be good enough for the competition, as traditionally, the “qualifying” SAT score has floated around a 2000, which you are far above

  125. lfiske says:

    Hi , I scored a 202 in Alabama, do you think that will be high enough for Commended or Semifinalist? Thanks

    • Bill says:


      A 202 is a very good score! It is indicative of an ability to score very well on the SAT; however, we are predicting the cutoff for Alabama to be a 213.

      Hope this helps!

  126. Chris Allen says:

    My son received a index score of 215. He resided in the state of ,Kentucky. How all are his chances to moving on with national merit opportinities.

  127. Ann Davis says:


    My cousin’s daughter made a 1370 in Ohio… and she is black. Is that going to be enough to get Commended AND/ OR National Achievement Scholar in that state? Will they email her parents with the notification or does the school find out first in April and then tell the family?

    • Michael says:

      Hi Ann! Do you know the Selection Index your cousin’s daughter has? It should be on the score report along with the 1370 number. Your school should receive the notification of Commended first and then pass that information along to you!

  128. Neil Dutt says:

    Dear Michael,

    I have two boys, who are US citizens but have been studying in India for the last decade. The have secured 204 and 209 in PSAT examination held in Oct/2015. PSAT score card shows 99 percentile for both of them.

    What are their chances of getting:
    1) Letter of Commendation
    2) National Merit Semi-Finalist

    Will appreciate a reply at your earliest convenience.

    Best regards,

    Neil Dutt

    • Michael says:

      Hi Neil, for students abroad, the NMSF score is typically around Washington D.C.’s cutoff, which we’re estimating to be around a 220. However, with a 204 and 209, you definitely have a good shot at Commended!

  129. Isaac says:

    Dear Michael,

    I attended a competitive boarding school in Michigan at the time I took this test and I got a 219 for my selection index. Soon after that, I moved to Missouri (public school) due to some personal issues. Will I be scored on the boarding school index, Michigan index, or Missouri index. Should I contact NMSC? Also, do you think a 219 would be enough to qualify for any of the regions above?

    • Michael says:

      Hi Isaac! For complicated issues like this, we definitely recommend reaching out to your guidance counselor, since they probably have the most up to date information about this!

  130. Debra says:

    My son has a score of 209 in Pennsylvania? Do you think this will qualify for commended status?

    • Bill says:


      The National Merit Scholarship Corporation has been telling people that the cutoff score for commended status is a 209, so it is likely that your son will qualify.

      Hope this helps!

  131. Jeff Gronewold says:

    My son scored a 219 in Nebraska. This appears to make the cut off. My question is what is anticipated to be a qualifying SAT score on the new exam?

    • Michael says:

      Hi Jeff! For the old SAT, scores around a 2000 (around the 93rd percentile) would typically suffice for the NMSC. For the New SAT, that should roughly correspond to around a 1300, though we won’t know the official percentile ranks until the New SAT information is released in May.

  132. Munna says:

    My son scored 206 in PSAT taken in October of 2015. He is a rising senior in Mississippi. Do you think he will make to the semifinalist? If yes, what SAT score he needs to be considered?

  133. Shuwei Cai says:

    I had a score of 1400 and a selection index of 207 do you think I will get NMSF?

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