We want to provide an update on our previous post: What PSAT Scores Make the Cut for National Merit in 2016? Our initial estimations were based on a “sliding scale” method. Because the National Merit Scholarship Corporation is not using your PSAT score (i.e. the score ranging from 320 to 1520) and is instead converting to a Selection Index Score which ranges from 48-228, we made those estimations with the mindset that the choice to use a convoluted Selection Index was so that these scores could more easily be compared to previous PSAT scores. The maximum Selection Index Score is only 12 points fewer than the previous maximum score, therefore it is reasonable to expect cutoff scores to be shifted by this amount.
Additionally, we have just computed a new set of Projected Cutoff Scores based on College Board’s Concordance table. It is worth noting that this table, while official, is a rough, early estimate provided by College Board. Initially, we took a conservative approach and used the most rigorously graded section, the Reading Test, as the baseline for our composite Selection Index Score, but we found that this almost uniformly resulted in most states’ PSAT cutoffs falling between 210 and 215, which is a much smaller range than is typical of a PSAT cutoff spread. We don’t believe the official spread will be so tightly grouped, so we estimate the official stepwise function as a rough linear relationship, giving us the Projected Cutoff listed in the table and graph below. This newly updated data has a more normal distribution of values and should serve as a better estimation of the official PSAT cutoff score than a raw 1-to-1 interpretation of the College Board Concordance Table.
|Old PSAT Cutoff Score||Sliding Scale Cutoff||Projected Cutoff|
|District of Columbia||225||211-215||220|
No one will know what the cutoff for National Merit will be until next September, when the National Merit Scholarship Corporation announces the cutoffs by state. What we do know now is the following:
- The cutoff is still defined as the top ½% per state, meaning the cutoff will vary from state to state.
- The old PSAT was scored from 60 to 240. The new PSAT Index Selection Score is scored from 48 to 228, representing a shift of 12 points from the previous scale.
Given this, our initial approach to estimating the National Merit cutoff by state for the new October 2015 PSAT was to consider a likely shift in cutoff score by 12 points. Our previous estimation included a two-point margin buffer each way to account for errors or unexpected score results. Our second approach to estimating National Merit Semifinalists cutoff scores by state incorporates the data set provided by College Board’s Concordance Table, while also accounting for what will likely be a larger range of scores by state.