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

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.

    Here we compare the Concordance Table raw cutoff to our Projected Cutoff and previous years’ PSAT Cutoff. Given our range from 200 to 225, which is what most states’ PSAT cutoffs have traditionally been, the College Board Concordance Table Cutoff fails to properly mimic previous years’ PSAT cutoffs, especially at the high and low ends. Further, the raw Concordance Cutoff closely resembles a stepwise function, with large jumps between a 210 Selection Index Score and a 215. Our Projected Cutoff smooths out these jumps and hopefully provides a better estimation of what cutoff scores might be.
Old PSAT Cutoff Score Sliding Scale Cutoff Projected Cutoff
Alabama 209 195-199 213
Alaska 206 192-196 212
Arizona 215 201-205 215
Arkansas 204 190-194 211
California 223 209-213 219
Colorado 215 201-205 215
Connecticut 220 206-210 217
Delaware 216 202-206 216
District of Columbia 225 211-215 220
Florida 214 200-204 215
Georgia 218 204-208 216
Hawaii 214 200-204 215
Idaho 208 194-198 212
Illinois 215 201-205 215
Indiana 213 199-203 214
Iowa 208 196-200 212
Kansas 213 199-203 214
Kentucky 210 196-200 213
Louisiana 211 197-201 214
Maine 211 197-201 214
Maryland 222 208-212 218
Massachusetts 223 209-213 219
Michigan 210 196-200 213
Minnesota 214 200-204 215
Mississippi 209 195-199 213
Missouri 209 195-199 213
Montana 204 190-194 211
Nebraska 209 195-199 213
Nevada 211 197-201 214
New Hampshire 213 199-203 214
New Jersey 225 211-215 220
New Mexico 208 194-198 212
New York 219 205-209 217
North Carolina 215 201-205 215
North Dakota 202 188-192 210
Ohio 215 201-205 215
Oklahoma 208 194-198 212
Oregon 215 201-205 215
Pennsylvania 217 203-207 216
Rhode Island 212 198-202 214
South Carolina 211 197-201 214
South Dakota 202 188-192 210
Tennessee 212 198-202 214
Texas 220 206-210 217
Utah 206 192-196 212
Vermont 214 200-204 215
Virginia 222 208-212 218
Washington 219 205-209 217
West Virginia 202 188-192 210
Wisconsin 208 194-198 212
Wyoming 202 188-192 210
Commended 202 188-192 200-210
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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:

  1. The cutoff is still defined as the top ½% per state, meaning the cutoff will vary from state to state.
  2. 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.

UPDATE 2: 2016 National Merit Semifinalist Cutoff Score for Texas – NEW ESTIMATE

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  1. So based on what you provided here in this latest post, what am I to make of a student from Idaho whose NMSC Selection Index is a 210? Good chance to qualify for National Merit Scholarship, not qualify? Your thoughts? Thanks!

    1. Hi Don!

      Though no one will know for sure what the cutoff will officially be, it seems like your student is definitely in the ballpark for Idaho scores, given both our initial and current estimates. I would definitely be happy with that score, and best of luck in the upcoming months!

      1. Do you think that a 212 in Missouri has a chance for national merit? Also, when will we be notified of the actual cutoff scores?Thanks!

        1. Thomas,

          A 212 is just under what we are estimating the cutoff score to be in Missouri. However, you are on the bubble. Based on recent data, we expect these cutoffs to be more “in the ballpark” than precise predictions, so it could turn out that a 212 is high enough… or it could turn out that the actual cutoff is a couple points higher than the estimate listed here. It’s hard to say. You’ll just have to wait until the official notifications come out, which will be in August/September.

          Hope this helps!

      2. I got a 207 in Texas. I’m aware that it is below the projected cutoff, but will I be able to get anything (NMSF, Commended, etc.)? And is the projected cutoff more accurate than the sliding scale method?

        1. Hi Daniel, a 207 is definitely in the ballpark for Commended! And as far as our estimates go, we now believe that the Projected Cutoff is the one you should be looking at; we simply left the sliding scale method up to detail our thought processes.

  2. Thanks for the update. I think this is more helpful than the last post. I do want to contradict you somewhere though. The cutoff is not defined as the top 1/2% from each state. It is more complicated than that. I have a letter in front of me from one of the Executive Vice Presidents of the NMSC. Here is his statement about the process:
    “The number of Semifinalists named in each state is allocated based on the state’s percentage of the national total of graduating high school seniors. For example, the Semifinalist allocation for a state that enrolls approximately 2% of the nation’s high school graduates would be about 320 (2 percent of the 16,000 Semifinalists). . . . The score at which the state’s allocation is most closely filled becomes the Semifinalist qualifying score for that state.” Now in reality that might work out to about 1/2% of each state. (16,000 does equal about 1/2 % of the expected 3.3 million graduates every year), but it is important to realize that the NMSC bases its estimates on the number of expected graduates, not the number of people taking the PSAT in a given state. There are some states where so few people in the state take the exam that 4% of the test takers make qualify as Semifinalists.

  3. Based on this latest post, what am I to make of a student from Idaho whose NMSC Selection Index is a 210? Good chance to qualify for National Merit Scholarship, not qualify? Your thoughts? Thanks!

  4. Hi Thanks for the post. I am sorry but I am confused, the projected cutoff you listed above is it he new Selection Index number given on the score report or the calculated/concordance table score. Thanks.

    1. Hi Paula! The Projected Cutoff we mentioned is based on the Concordance table score. The Concordance table simply gives a rough estimate of how the Selection Index Score matches up to previous years’ PSAT section scores. Our Projected Cutoff takes the Concordance data and smooths it out a bit for what will hopefully be a good estimation of the actual cutoffs. Let us know if you need more clarification!

      1. Hi James thank for replying. Just one more question – the above projected cutoff is it the New PSAT score out of 228 or out of 240
        the numbers seem very high than the previous years like forexample Alabama old cutoff is 209/240 but projected cutoff shown is 213 so wondering if it 213/240 or 213/228?
        Thank you very much.

        1. Our projected cutoffs are out of 228. The reason they seem to be rising is simply because of how College Board constructed their percentiles

      2. Hi James thank for replying. Just one more question – the above projected cutoff is it the New PSAT score out of 228 or out of 240
        the numbers seem very high than the previous years like forexample Alabama old cutoff is 209/240 but projected cutoff shown is 213 so wondering if it 213/240 or 213/228, if so do you think the cutoffs are going to be higher this year?

        Thank you very much.

        1. Hi Paula, the PSAT Selection Index is what’s being used for National Merit consideration, and that is out of a 228. We completely agree that it’s odd that cutoff scores would be rising while the maximum is sinking, but that’s just one estimate of the cutoff based on College Board’s concordance table. It’s entirely likely that College Board agrees that scores should not be rising and will adjust the cutoff range to be lower, as you’d expect for a lower-scored exam, and it’s entirely possible that the concordance table vastly overestimated students’ ability on this new exam. My gut instinct is that the concordance scores are far, far too high and inflated and that the new cutoff will be more reasonable, but no one will know for sure until August/September!

  5. Way more kids took the test this year, so wouldn’t that mean that the top .5% would capture far more than the 16,000 it used to capture? In other words, percentile cutoffs for NMSF may need to be even higher than 99.5% so that there are only 16,000 semifinalists.

    1. The top .5% is just a rough estimate, and it may very well be that the 16,000 semifinalists will be at a higher percentile this year.

    2. In the past the number has actually been closer to 1% of all juniors who take the test are awarded semifinalist status. Last year (2014) there were 1,595,000 juniors taking the PSAT. 16,000 is slightly more than 1% of that. Surprisingly, there were more sophomores who took the PSAT last year than juniors, so the total number was about 3.4 million. This year (2015) the College Board said that over 4 million took the test. We don’t know if that was more juniors, sophomores, or both, but at most it would appear that only an additional 20-25% may have been added. Nationally it should still be that about .8% of test takers will earn semifinalist status.

  6. Thanks for this post. What state would you use as a cutoff comparison for Interlochen Arts Academy, a boarding school in Michigan?

    1. Anne,

      Students who attend boarding schools with 40% or more of their students enrolled from out of state may qualify for national merit by achieving a Selection Index Score equivalent to the highest score among the group of states that constitutes that state’s region. Michigan will likely fall into the East/West/North Central region. The state with the best score from that region will likely be Illinois or Ohio.

      Hope this helps!

  7. Is a 210 in Kentucky not likely to be semi finalist-worthy then? Do you have data showing the percentage of projected high school graduates from each state for the class of 2017? If so, was that factored in?

    1. Hi Bob, a 210 in Kentucky is in the ballpark for NMSF, so there is a chance! Our data was based on past scores, not the population of high school graduates, though we are planning another post in the next day or so showing that our projection lines up with a population-derived estimate.

    1. Devin,

      A score of 216 is very competitive. If you do not qualify for Semifinalist status, you should at least earn Commended Student status. Congratulations!

      1. Hey Bill,

        Why is Iowa’s cutoff low compared to others? Based on your predictions, I’m fairly confident in my score, but I just want to know why the prediction is relatively low for Iowa. Thanks

    1. Hi Susan! We’re projecting a 219 for California, so a 216 may or may not qualify, depending on how the NMSC decides to go.

  8. Do you have any estimate on the National Commendation number – last year it was 202 (I think)? Do you think it will be higher or lower based on the new test.
    Thank you
    Just trying to understand

    1. Hi Laura, we’re not as confident about the Commendation number, but based on College Board’s publications, we expect it to still be around a 202, due to the percentile ranks.

  9. So according to your new post a 210 from Pennsylvania will not make it to the semifinalist level since you list 216 as the projected cutoff. Do you think a 210 will at least get a commendation letter?

  10. Hi I am a little confused. So is the sliding scale cutoff the actual projection for the cutoff this year? Or is it the one you have in the far right column? I saw an article on prepscholar.com with similar cutoffs as the sliding scales you have, so are you saying the actual cutoff may potentially 10 points higher than these? Thanks for the help.

    1. Hi Griffin, both the sliding scale and the projected cutoffs are estimates for this year. The reason we have two estimates is because there are two methodologies and we wanted to reflect both of them in our post. Ten points is quite a bit of a swing, but that’s unfortunately just how things go since this is the first year for the new PSAT!

  11. I see that for California the projected cutoff score is 219. Is a 219 good enough to become a semifinalist? Thoughts?

    1. Nicholas,

      A score of 219 is at the higher end of the scores currently being reported. Although there, of course, no guarantees until the official cutoff scores are announced in September, I would expect a 219 to be high enough to earn National Merit Semifinalist status. Congratulations!

  12. Bill, so if my kid goes to a boarding school in the mid-Atlantic area, and he scored a 215 SI on the test administered in Oct. of 2015, he should be well in the running based on your calculations?

    1. Eric,

      Based on the scores our students are reporting and the national discussion currently taking place on various forums online, a score of 215 may be considered extremely competitive. If he does not earn Semifinalist status, a score of 215 should be enough for commended student status. The only wrinkle you may want to take into consideration in this case, in terms of managing your son’s expectations, is that as a boarding school student (if 40% or more of the students attending his school come from out of state – if not you can disregard this) the qualifying cutoff score for him will the highest cutoff score among the various states that constitute the mid-Atlantic region.

      Hope this helps!

  13. Just got scores for my son, who’s attending a independent school in NC. His indexed score was 221. I know this new PSAT changes lots of thing, but based on the table/projections above, it would appear that he’s in good shape to be a semifinalist. Do you agree? Don’t want to get over excited just yet, so looking for some reality checks.

    1. Barkley,

      It is important to manage your son’s expectations realistically, but a score of 221 is very good. I would expect a 221 to be enough to earn Semifinalist status.

      Hope this helps!

  14. The concordance you show here goes to 240. I thought the selection index maximum number this year was 228, the sum of the three test scores multiplied by 2?

    1. Mary Ann,

      Among other things, the concordance table contains projected estimates of how scores on a previous PSAT (scored out of 240) may be converted to new PSAT Selection Index Scores (scored out of 228). This is useful because it allows students to make educated guesses about where their score ranks them as compared to historical cutoff scores by state. The score being used to determine national merit eligibility for the class of 2017 is, as you’ve suggested, the sum of your three Selection Index Scores multiplied by 2.

      I hope this helps!

    1. Sammy,

      The projected cutoffs are all above 210 because those projections incorporate the data set represented in College Board’s Concordance Table. If you peruse the comments or read the article a bit more carefully, you’ll notice that we have expressed reservations about using the Concordance Tables precisely for this reason – we feel they are much too conservative and do not accurately reflect the historical disparity in cutoff scores between states. That said, unfortunately, we won’t know what the official cutoff scores are until September.

      Hope this helps!

  15. Hello,

    Thank you for this post! Very thorough and helpful. I am curious though which of these new scales you believe will be the most accurate – do you think your new prediction will be accurate or do you still find it to be too conservative? The reason I ask is that I scored a 211 in Kansas and I am caught between the two predictions. I understand that nothing will be determined until September for sure, but I was wondering what you thought your most accurate cutoff estimate for Kansas will be (the new projected cutoff, the sliding scale, or something in between?)

    1. Will,

      While we believe that the projections represented in the Concordance Table will ultimately prove to be conservative, as they come from an official source they cannot be entirely discounted. This is most unfortunate for students such as yourself, who are caught between the two estimations. The truth of the matter is that these are educated projections, but we just won’t know for sure until September. My recommendation to you would be to not worry about it too much! A 211 is an excellent score, and you should be proud of that accomplishment.

      Hope this helps!

  16. How likely do you think these are? I scored a 215 in Texas, and assumed that I would make the cutoffs on your earlier estimates. : /

    1. Hi Hunter, we’re planning another update tonight, and based on that data, we’re expecting our projections to be in the right ballpark for national merit.

    1. Gerrard,

      A 219 meets or exceeds our projected cutoff for California on both estimates, so you can be reasonably confident that you achieved National Merit Semifinalist status. That said, of course, we won’t know for sure until September. You should not fret too much over this – it will give you wrinkles! Silliness aside, you should be very pleased with a score of 219.

      Hope this helps!

  17. Hi – My daughter just received her score on the new PSAT with a 221 on the selection index (38, 38, 34.5). Based on your projections, do you think she stands a good chance of making the semifinalist cutoff in California when this list is released in September, 2016? Thanks!

  18. Due to issues with my account, I’ve only received by PSAT score on the 320-1520 scale by section. Is there any at I can convert this into the NMSC selection index scale?

    1. Jenny,

      There are conversion charts available, but because your Selection Index Score is derived differently than your PSAT score you can only realistically convert your PSAT score into a ranged Selection Index Score. This may be helpful in terms of making general assessments about your performance, but is not particularly useful in the context of making a determination about your potential National Merit eligibility. I would recommend checking with your high school counselor first thing on Monday, or calling the National Merit Scholarship Corporation directly.

      Hope this helps!

      1. Actually, the conversion is straightforward. Let’s say the scores are 700 (Reading plus Language) and 700 (Math). The Reading+Lang score can for convenience be considered a 35+35 (since we at least know they add to 70). Math is another 35. Combined they make 105, and doubled that makes a Selection Index of 210.

  19. Hello, thanks for posting this information! Just for clarification, the projected cutoff score (the right most column) is just a transposition of what the score this year would look like when compared to a score from last year? So for example, a 203 this year in Kansas is roughly equivalent to a 214 from last year?

    1. Hi Benjamin, the projected cutoff (rightmost column) is what we estimate the new PSAT cutoff will be. The middle column (Sliding Scale Cutoff) is another one of our estimations, based on another calculation method, and the leftmost column shows previous years’ scores. In other words, we expect a 214 SI score from this year to be comparable to a 213 from previous PSATs. Does that clear things up?

  20. My daughter just received the results of her new PSAT and received a selection index of 221 (38 [reading], 38 [writing], 34.5 [math]). Based on your projections, do you believe she is likely to make the National Merit semifinalist list in California when it is released in September, 2016? Thanks!

    1. Joe,

      A score of 221 is excellent! Although there are no guarantees until the official release of cutoff scores in September, a 221 will likely be high enough for her to earn Semifinalist status.

      Hope this helps!

  21. Thank you for your work in putting together these estimates. For Florida, the Sliding Scale Cutoff was between 200 – 204. The Projected Cutoff was reported on the table as 215. Where would a score of 208 put a student based on this estimates? Is there a margin of error with the estimated Cutoff figures?

    1. Hi Joseph, based on new data we’ve received, it looks like the Projected cutoff is a more accurate estimation, so a 208 in Florida looks like it would be good for Commended.

  22. Does anyone know whether more students in the US took the 2015 PSAT exam as I heard the numbers were much higher which would impact both the number of NMSF recipients and to the extent that the overall curve is flatter would decrease score required to achieve same?

    Looking at a 219 in NJ so trying to figure out what it could mean.

  23. Hi, our child scored a 218 SI (35 in Reading, 36 in Writing and 38 in Math). I see the cutoff projection is 219. With that, what do you think of her chances for SF in California?
    Thank you.

    1. Hi Ravs, as a junior, he does qualify for the National Merit competition. There are three levels of awards: commended, semi-finalist, and finalist. Semi-finalist and finalist have the same score cutoff, as finalists are drawn from the semi-finalist pool, while commended has a lower cutoff than semifinalist.

  24. Hello,

    How come your projected cutoff for TN (214) is higher than last year’s? (212)

    I made a 210. Thank you.

    1. Hi Maanil, the projected cutoff is based off the College Board concordance table, which seems to grade students more harshly than previous years. This table is just an initial publication by CB, and it’s entirely possible that CB will tone down the stringency of the scale and that new cutoffs will be lower.

  25. Why are the new projected cutoff scores similar to past cutoff scores if the new psat is scored out of 228? Does the College Board view the new psat as an easier test than the old one?

    1. Hi Jake, the projected cutoff does seem a bit high, but that’s simply because the concordance table conversion seems a bit harsher than expected. It’s entirely possible that College Board will see that scores don’t quite line up and will lower the cutoff from what they seem to suggest in the concordance table, but no one will know for sure until September.

  26. This seems very confusing. What’s the difference between the sliding scale and the projected cutoff? For example, a score of 204 on the PSAT seems to be on the high end of the sliding scale in Florida, but isn’t even close to the prohected cut off. Are the prohected cut offs and sliding scale calculated differently?

    1. Hi Gus, The sliding scale is calculated from previous cutoffs, simply adjusting previous cutoffs by a constant of 12 to account for the new maximum score (228 vs. the previous 240). The projected cutoffs are calculated from the College Board concordance table, which draws correlations between previous PSAT scores and new PSAT scores. No one knows for sure which method College Board will use to determine cutoffs, so we put both up to give context for both viewpoints.

  27. Your sliding scale cutoff makes more sense than your “projected cutoff.” Take Illinois, for example. Your projected is the same as the cutoff on the old test, 215. That implies that while last year’s winners need to get 89.5% of questions correct, this year’s would have to get 94.2% correct. Ain’t happening.

  28. The score card says: To calculate your Selection Index, double the sum of of your Reading, Writing and Language, and Math Test scores. That gave my daughter a score of 220 which is great for Mississippi. But what are the next steps for her to become a finalist? Criteria are little confusing on their web-site.

    1. Hi Mike! A 220 is a VERY good score, so congrats on that! Once official cutoffs are released, anyone scoring at or above that cutoff automatically becomes a National Merit Semi-finalist. Semifinalists receive an application packet through their school counselor sometime in September, and your daughter will have to fill that out, detailing her extracurriculars and leadership positions while also writing an essay. This packet, along with recommendation letters your counselor should take care of, will be submitted to the NMSC. The NMSC will review applications and announce Finalists in February. However, it’s important to note that it’s actually the Semi-Finalist position that is important– since finalists aren’t announced until February, far after the college admission deadline, most universities will only consider Semi-Finalist positions for admissions and scholarships. Let us know if you have additional questions!

  29. Selection Index = ((EBRW score) / 10 ) x 2 + (math score)/10;
    e.g., EBRW score = 750, Math = 720,
    SI = (750/10) x 2 + 720/10
    = 75 x 2 + 72
    = 150 + 72
    = 222

    On the other hand, if reading and math scores are swapped, the SI will be lower.
    SI = (720/10) x 2 + 750 /10
    = 72 x 2 + 75
    = 144 + 75
    = 219
    This means the same PSAT score does not yield the same SI. Why would CB put an extra weight on the reading/writing score?

    1. Hi Kevin, you’re absolutely correct, and we believe that CB is weighting reading/writing more heavily simply because that’s what they’ve done historically. It’s entirely possible that the selection index will be dropped in future years, putting math and reading/writing at the same weight.

  30. I am curious if you are estimating what the cutoff could be for commended status. We are in Texas and wondering what it might take to get commended.

    1. Hi Carol, we’re estimating a 210 officially, but based on our model’s construction, we think Commended might be anywhere from a 200-210.

      1. So, your model went from 200-210 and you went with the highest number for your chart. My question is, did you do this with the rest of the cutoffs for the states- go with the highest number that your model produced?

  31. Hello and thanks for making this article. Could the percentages listed in the score report give a good idea of if I made it above the cutoff. I am in the 99% percentile for the overall score and I live in Colorado which seems to usually be in the middle of the pack in regard to National Merit qualifying scores. Does this mean my score of 212 has a reasonable chance of making it above this cutoff? Thank you!

    1. Hi Griffin, the percentiles do give a good idea of where you lie, but keep in mind that the 99th percentile contains roughly twice as many students as will actually get national merit, due to the fact that NMSF is roughly the top half of the top 1 percentile.

    1. Hi Rachelle, a 210 is our official projection for Commended, but that number may be a bit inflated based on how our model is constructed. Anywhere from a 200-210 has a good shot, in our opinion.

  32. I got a Selection Index of 200, but from the state I’m from, becoming a semifinalist is veryb unlikely. However, I’m interested if you think I have a good shot at becoming a Commended Scholar. Thanks!

    1. Hi Sammy, while we do have an estimate for Commended, we’re not as confident about that, so we think a 200 has a good shot at Commended!

  33. I realize that the new projected qualifying scores are just based off of the concordance tables which were released by the College Board. However, it does not make sense why the new projected cutoff scores would be similar to the past cutoff scores when the tests are scored on different ranges. Is the new test supposed to be easier than the old ones?

    1. Hi Lee, the new test is actually more difficult in some respects than old ones, but just based on how College Board creates their percentiles, scores seem to be rising.

  34. Thank you for providing this analysis. Here is my question: My student scored a 220 in Minnesota. The projected “cut-off” based on the preliminary concordance tables is 215. What is the probability, in your view, that the final tables will shoot that cut-off higher than 220? We were thinking she is safe for a National Merit Semifinalist status but I’m not exactly sure how confident we should be about that.

    1. Hi Liz, we’re publishing another update tonight that seems to suggest that our numbers are in the right ballpark. For Minnesota, we definitely don’t believe the cutoff would rise that high, so your 220 should be good.

    1. Hi Dylan, we have two estimates to reflect the two schools of thought for the PSAT cutoff. One is the sliding scale, which simply converts previous cutoffs to reflect the new maximum score, which is 12 points lower. The second is the concordance table, or projected cutoff, which reflects the early estimation provided by College Board. We wanted to address both, which is why we have two estimates. A 205 in Montana is definitely in the ballpark of both estimates, and we believe you should be fairly confident in achieving at the very least a commended status!

  35. The sliding scale cutoff is probably about right. The projected cutoff, based on the concordance table, is wrong. The concordance table appears to be two years out of date and is based on the old 240 point scale, rather than the new 228 point selection index.

  36. Very confused. My son received an index score of 212 in Florida. Your above estimate indicates that he will miss the cutoff of 215. Why would the cutoff be higher than last year if it is based on a scale of 228 rather than 240? And is the first table referenced in the article with a projected Flirida cutoff of 204 now invalid?

    1. Hi Terry, just based on how College Board created the percentile correlations, the cutoffs are estimated to be higher, even though the overall scale is lowering.

  37. Hi,
    Thank you so much for making this post; it is so helpful! My son has received a 215 in Ohio. It appears it could go either way, but what do you make of his chances of receiving Semifinalist status?

  38. Hi,
    Thank you so much for making this post; it is so helpful! My son has received a 215 in Ohio. What do you make of his chances of becoming a Semifinalist?

  39. My son got a 222 He got 35 reading 38 writing and 38 math No mistakes writing and math, but 7 mistakes reading I am surprised his score was still so high his friend missed 2 writing 2 reading, 0 math and had the same score I guess I was surprised They are both from Maine do you belief that score is high enough to make it. What would a 35 correspond to in last year scores

  40. Thanks for your post! My selection index is 206 (98th percentile) – do you think this will be enough to make commended in California?

  41. Do you have any information about Americans taking the PSAT internationally? I’m an Oregon resident, but I live overseas and didn’t put down an Oregon address or my passport number; I’m not sure whether I’ll be counted as an Oregon test-taker or an international one (and if I’m the latter, are there any numbers for me? My score index is 221 🙂 )

    1. Hi, you’ll be considered an international test taker, but a 221 definitely puts you in the running for NMSF internationally.

  42. Hi. I earned a 215 selection index on the PSAT and I am from Minnesota. Do you think I will be able to make National Semifinalist status? Thank you.

    1. Hi Zhen! Our cutoff estimate for Minnesota is exactly at 215, so you should have a solid shot at Semifinalist status. That said, remember these are just estimates, so the official cutoff may vary!

  43. Bill,
    In Texas, with son that received a 206. Your estimate is 206-210 for Texas. 206 really is percentage wise much lower than scores have been in the last 5 years for Texas. By my estimate, Texas should come out on the high end of the range.
    This is a tough one for us, so anxious to be on the bubble!
    Your thoughts?

    1. Hi Julie!

      The 206 estimation for Texas is based on the new upper limit for the Selection Index, which is a 228. Previously, the upper limit for a PSAT score was a 240, which is why the 206 estimate seems so much lower than previous years.

      Let us know if you have additional questions!

  44. My friend and I are students in Texas. His Index score is a 211, and mine is a 218. Does that give us relatively firm shot at NMS?

    1. Hi Cody, while a 211 is somewhat lower than our cutoff estimate of 217, your 218 does have a solid shot at being a NM semifinalist. That said, these are just estimates and by no means the final cutoffs, which will only be released in August/September, so keep that in mind when looking at our estimates!

  45. Upstate New York is significantly different than New York City. Within New York State, how are the allotted semifinalists awarded? Are there any allocations based upon demographics within the state? Our son received a 212 and we are residents of Upstate New York. What are his chances of a semifinalist award?

  46. I am curious if you are estimating what the cutoff could be for commended status. We are in Texas and wondering what it might take to get commended. Is it based by state or is the cutoff at a national level?

    1. Hi Joan, our rough estimate puts commended at a 210, but it’s entirely possible that this is a high estimate since there is not a lot of data on commended out there.

    1. Hi Polly! We’re estimating a 215 cutoff for Arizona, and while again this is just an estimate and not guaranteed to precisely reflect what the official cutoff will be, we think you have a very good shot at semifinalist with this score. I’d be very happy with this score, and while it might be tough waiting until August/September, I wouldn’t worry too much with a score like that 🙂

    1. Hi Liz! We’re estimating 215 to be the Illinois cutoff, and while this is just an estimate and by no means any sort of guarantee, we feel like your SI score has a very good chance at reaching National Merit Semifinalist status! Congrats on the good score, and best of luck in college admissions!

  47. While I agree that your earlier predictions may well prove to be a bit conservative, I’m still having trouble getting on board with your newest efforts. In particular I note that for the vast majority of states you are predicting that the cut off index score will rise in comparison to previous years.

    Given that this year’s PSAT test has a lower maximum score in each area (only 760) and a corresponding decrease in the maximum selection index, to a total of 228, it is not likely that cut off scores will mostly rise, unless you have some information that this test is relatively easier and thus students will score higher, even on the lower scale. And, if the test is uniformly easier shouldn’t we expect that students will score higher in every state with a corresponding pattern in rising cut off scores? So what am I missing here?

    And, with a daughter that is most likely just a point or two below the cut off, this may not have any implications for her but I would like to understand why you are expecting a higher cut off for most states.


    1. Hi C,
      We agree that the concordance table estimations seem a bit stringent, but we just wanted to provide an estimation based on this viewpoint as there was a flurry of requests to do so. It’s entirely possible that the National Merit Scholarship Corporation will agree with you that scores should not be rising and end up mellowing out cutoff scores, but that’s anybody’s guess. Only time will tell!

    2. Of course it’s just anecdotal, and might add to anxiety, but my daughter took the PSAT last year as a sophomore and this year as a junior, and thought that it was much easier this year. Her score went up about 25 points, too.

    1. Hi TK, your scores come out to a 218 Selection Index score, which is well above our estimated cutoff for Wisconsin. I would be very happy with this score, but keep in mind that these are just estimations and not guaranteed to completely reflect the official cutoff scores, which will be released sometime in August or September. Congratulations on that score, and best of luck in the future!

  48. Bill,

    Why is the estimated cutoff of 215 for Arizona the same as last year? What are the chances of NM scholar with a SI of 214 for Arizona?


    1. Hi Samantha,
      Just based on the way our estimation was constructed, certain points from our projection intersect with points from previous cutoffs. 215 just so happened to be one of those points. That said, a 214 is very close to our estimation, and while our estimation is juts that, a rough estimation, we think you have a very good shot at reaching National Merit semifinalist status with your score. Best of luck in the future!

    1. Hi Jo! A 214 is right at our estimated cutoff for Nevada, but keep in mind that this is just a rough estimate– no one will know for sure what the official cutoff is until August/September when the NMSC releases that information. However, with a 214, I would feel pretty confident and wouldn’t worry at all. Best of luck in the future!

  49. Bill,
    Thank you for your excellent explanations. What would you think of 214 for the State of Texas? My son got this SI score for a total raw score of 1450 (690+760). How much chance do you think he will make a cut into the national semifinalist? Appreciated.

    1. Hi Bill! A 214 is definitely in the ballpark of our Texas estimated cutoff of 217. Keep in mind that our estimation is just that- a rough estimation, so it’s entirely possible that a 214 will be good enough for the official cutoff. In any case, a 214 is a very good score and bodes well for his performance on the actual SAT, which is ultimately more important in college admissions than the PSAT score. Let us know if you have any other questions!

  50. Thx 4 the info! My son has overcome many obstacles in his personal life and received a selection index score of 221 in the state of Colorado. I know that this is a great score, but no guarantee of being a semi finalist. I signed him up for the PSAT as a sophomore without stress or prep. Not receiving 99% in every category, he took it upon himself to use the SAT question a day app to review the math that surprised him because he had moved into advanced courses. Math 37.5 says it all. I am pleased by the initiative that he has taken as he is now working on the newest app that allows you to plug in your PSAT raw scores to work on areas of weakness. Ivy league is his dream and I hope this score, along with his academics, leadership, an excellent writing does the rest.
    Proud in CO! Julie

    1. This is great to hear! Colleges and universities DEFINITELY give consideration to overcoming obstacles and self-motivation, so make sure he talks about that in his college admissions essays! If he can convey his passion and determination in the face of true adversity, he will have an excellent shot at the Ivies. Best of luck!

  51. Just wondering why reading and writing have more value than math. My daughter got a 99 percentile (750) in math, 99 percentile in Writing, and 98 percentile in reading for a SI of 211, but her friends with the same total score, but higher in reading and lower in math, have a substantially higher SI.

    1. Hi Justcurious. No one can say for sure why College Board and the National Merit Scholarship Corporation put more emphasis on reading/writing when compared to math. There seems to be a shift towards balancing the reading/writing with the math with how the New PSAT score is balanced (i.e. 760 W/R, 760 M), but the NMSC seems to be lagging behind a bit with their Selection Index scoring. It might just be that for the first year of the new PSAT, the NMSC needs to rely on the 1/3-1/3-1/3 split and that in future years, there will just be a 50-50 split between reading/writing and math.

  52. My son’s SI is 212. He’s on the bubble, so we’re just gonna be patient until the cutoff scores come out. (We live in TX). Are there scholarship offers for being a “commended” student?

    1. Hi Deborah! The NMSC has a pdf listing all the sponsors. Corporate sponsors begin on page 10, and university sponsors begin on page 20. I would check the corporations you might be linked to or the universities you’re interested in to see if they offer any specific commended scholarships.

  53. My son is a sophomore and will graduate in 2018. He took the test on last Oct and his score is 216. I saw his report indicated that he doesn’t meet the entry requirement for NMSC. Does it mean that this test doesn’t count regardless of what score is and only the score in his junior year (test in Oct 2016) count?

    1. Correct. The PSAT taken in freshman and sophomore years are just for practice and have no bearing on the National Merit Scholarship competition, no matter how well they do in these years. However, scoring so high in sophomore year is a very good sign, and if your son continues to practice, he should do very well this year for the “real” PSAT.

  54. Unless you and your son decide that he would like to graduate early, in which case you should call the College board as soon as possible to get his status changed.

  55. Would a 211 still get merit in Iowa, what are the chances that the actual cutoff will be below 212? Since these cutoffs are not official?

    1. Hi Jeff! We believe our projection is a better tool than our sliding scale at this point (check out a post later today for more info), so a 218 in CA is definitely within the ballpark!

  56. Can you help me understand why New Jersey is projected to go down by 5 points, but Oklahoma is projected to go up by 4? What does that mean? Does it seem that the test was easier this year than in years past? Let me give a plug for my alma mater, The University of Oklahoma, which gives $64,000 to National Merit Semi-Finalists. Also, it’s been fun reading all the different ways you guys are telling people to chill out and wait patiently. It’s going to be a long 8-9 months.

    1. OK mom,

      Your observation is exactly why we were initially hesitant to incorporate the data set obtained from the Concordance Table. There’s no other way to phrase it – the data acts very weird at both the top and low end of the score spectrum. This is a problem because all the potential National Merit Semifinalists occupy a place at the top of the scoring spectrum. To answer your question a little more specifically, it has to do with how previous PSAT cutoff scores translate to the new Selection Score Index.

      National Merit students are highly recruited. In fact, being a National Merit Semifinalist is very similar to being a highly recruited D1 athlete (you might even describe this as being a… mathlete). The reason for this is that the number of National Merit Semifinalists and Finalists attending a university is one of the many factors that impacts that university’s rankings. So, the more National Merit students attending a university, the higher that university is ranked nationally; the higher a university is ranked nationally, the more students will apply to that university; the more students applying to a university, the more likely that university will remain financially solvent. And so on. If you’re interested in learning more about the history of the PSAT/NMSQT test, and the role money has played in the evolution of this test over time, we’ve detailed that in this article. The University of Oklahoma definitely has a reputation for aggressively recruiting Nation Merit students via their generous scholarship programs.

      Thanks for reading and hope this helps!

    1. Our official Commended projection is a 210, but that might be a little high based on how our model was constructed. Anywhere from a 200-210 has a good shot!

  57. Can you explain why a state like New Jersey is projected to go down by 5 points, but Oklahoma is projected to go up by 4? It appears that the states that usually have the lower scores are being raised while states that are on the higher end are being lowered. Is there any significance to that?

    1. Hi, the rise and fall of scores is just how our model adjusted scores to the new scoring range, so it might just be a quirk of the new grading system.

  58. I just wanted to post my thoughts here on the projected cutoff and a big reason why the cutoff scores could rise. As a sophomore taking the old test from last year, I scored a 213/240. If I had been a junior, that would not have qualified me in my state. This year as a junior taking the new PSAT, however, my selection index was 226/228. Obviously I have gained experience during that year, but I found the new test to be significantly easier than the old test, as my score was nearly perfect. Additionally, at least 4 or 5 kids in my class got a 220 or above, which is nearly 2% of my class. While my high school is pretty strong academically, I just don’t see how the cutoff will not rise if there’s this many kids in my junior class getting these scores. Let me know your thoughts on this.

    1. Steven,

      Congratulations on your score! That is very impressive. You could be right; our students are reporting consistently high scores, and the scores being posted in this thread and similar forums online are regularly very high as well. However, it makes sense that the students who are willing to share their scores are the students with the best scores. They’re proud of their achievements and want to talk about it. Although the number of students who will qualify as semifinalists is extremely limited, the sample size we have here and elsewhere is even more limited. Beyond the projections we’ve posted here, I think it would be hazardous to make any additional estimations based on such a small number of reported scores.

      Hope this helps!

  59. What do you think about a SI score of 206 in Kansas? I was feeling good about it after the first set of estimates, but with the second set of estimates, it doesn’t look as promising.

    1. May,

      Keep in mind that National Merit is incredibly competitive. Not qualifying as a Semifinalist should in no way be considered a failure on your part. A score of 206 is good, particularly in a state like Kansas, which tends to be a little less competitive than some other states/regions, but we won’t know for sure whether it is high enough for Nation Merit until September. My advice would be to not worry about it too much. Focus on your GPA, the SAT/ACT/SAT Subject Tests, and your extracurricular passions. Ultimately, those other factors will be more important in determining the quality of your college applications.

      Hope this helps!

    1. John,

      A score of 213 is very good, and you should be proud of that accomplishment. Remember, your PSAT score is a very accurate predictor of the type of score you can expect on the SAT, and ultimately it is your SAT score and high school GPA that will be most important in determining your competitiveness as a college applicant. That said, we simply won’t know what the cutoff scores will be until September. Our estimated cutoffs are just that – estimations. Our sliding scale projection indicates that a score of 213 would be high enough to qualify for Semifinalist status; our estimation incorporating the Concordance Table indicates a score of 213 would be slightly below what is necessary to earn Semifinalist status in New York. It is just as likely, barring any drastic revelations, the actual cutoff will probably be somewhere in the middle. What I would recommend is don’t worry too much about it – focus on your schoolwork, GPA, and extracurriculars, and let the National Merit Scholarship Corporation fret about cutoff scores.

      Hope this helps!

    1. William,

      Connecticut, and more generally the northeast US, is very competitive in terms of standardized test scores compared to the rest of the country. According to our projections, a score of 216 (which is very good!) is likely to exceed the Semifinalist cutoff, but it is important that you manage your expectations realistically. Our estimations our preliminary, so the end result could end up quite different than what we expect. You should be proud of your score, but we just won’t know for sure until the official announcements are made in September.

      Hope this helps!

    1. Ron,

      Your score is really good, but it’s on the lower end of what we expect the cutoff score in Texas to be. National Merit is incredibly competitive, and not achieving semifinalist status is in no way indicative of a failure on your part. My advice would be to not worry about it too much. I would recommend focusing on your GPA, extrracurriculars, and the SAT. A score of 212, again, is pretty good; if you prepare for the SAT, it is likely you can score in an even higher percentile.

      Hope this helps!

    1. Mark,

      A 221 should be sufficient for your state, but there is no way to be sure until they make the announcements in September. The problem is that your state is usually pretty competitive when it comes to national merit scores, so it wouldn’t be terribly shocking if its official cutoff exceeds our projections.

      Hope this helps!

  60. My son got 218 (California). Based on your cutoff estimate, it seems that he is just below the line. What is the chance of him getting semi-finalist?

    1. Hi Dave, a 218 is indeed below our projection, but that’s just an estimate! A 218 definitely is in the ballpark, so he has a good chance at NMSF!

  61. My selection index is a 214, which is 11 points higher than the “sliding scale” index, but one point below the projected cutoff. What should I be thinking about my chances? Thanks!

    1. Jordan,

      Based on the feedback we are receiving, many people believe the official cutoff scores will actually be even higher than what we’ve predicted here. We don’t fully agree with that sentiment, as these estimates incorporate the Concordance Table, which for the reasons stated in this post we feel is much too conservative, but we do acknowledge that is is certainly a possibility. The fact of the matter is we just won’t know what the cutoff scores are until they are announced in September. This is particularly frustrating for bubble students like yourself. My advice would be to not worry about it much; there’s not really anything you can do about it at this point, but you can take steps to make yourself a more competitive candidate for college. Focus on your GPA, SAT, and extracurriculars.

      Hope this helps!

    1. Jennifer,

      A 218 meets the criteria set out in both our projections, but many students have recently been reporting very high scores across the nation. I am getting the impression that we may be surprised with the official cutoffs in September, but honestly we just won’t know until then; after all, it makes sense that the students with the highest scores are those students who are most likely to report their scores (they’re excited to share their scores), so the reported scores we are seeing could be artificially high for that reason. I would tell your student to be happy with her score (a 218 is a really good score!) and to focus on those other things that will be important in the college application process – GPA, SAT, extracurriculars, etc.

      Hope this helps!

  62. Hi, is a 211 enough in Iowa. You have 212 listed so how likely do you think it is that the actual cutoff in Iowa is lower than you are anticipating, I scored in the 99th percentile so do I have a better than 50% shot at semifinal its status?

  63. My son got a 222 and he is from Maine do you think there is a possibility more kids took the test this year therefore your numbers are way off and he doesn’t qualify

  64. Hi

    Thanks for doing this. I understand this is only estimates Based on the revised projections, do you think will a 218 in Virginia still squeak by for NMSC cutoff.

    1. Hi Vaidya, we’re posting another update tonight that seems to suggest that our projections are in the right ballpark, so a 218 has a good chance!

  65. I thought my son was a lock for National Merit with a 224 Index Score in AZ. However, Many of his friends are between 223-228. I think this year’s test was Much easier and the cutoff will be disappointingly high across the board. It’s all speculation, of course, but after doing hours of reading on College Confidential, blogs and articles like this, I project AZ cutoff between 217-220, but it may be higher. Hopefully not 225!

    1. John,

      Good luck to your son! Either way, a score of 224 is excellent and he should be extremely happy with his performance.


    1. Nathan,

      It honestly depends on how well students in your state performed. It also depends on how accurate the Concordance Tables are, as the Concordance Table data is incorporated into these updated projections. As you can read in this post, we are uncertain how exact these figures will be. If the Concordance Table is accurate, then we expect our projections to be similarly accurate; if not, then you can expect discrepancies between these projections and the official cutoff scores.

      Hope this helps!

  66. I’m from Maryland and I have a score of 214, according to your previous estimates I would have had a chance but now it seems I don’t. What do you think? Any response would be helpful.

    1. Eric,

      This sort of uncertainty is one of the more frustrating aspects of the redesign of the PSAT. There is no empirical data to refer to in terms of what the cutoff score has traditionally been because this is the very first year this version of the test has been used. A lot of this is educated guesswork. A 214 is a very good score, but Maryland tends to be one of the more competitive states in terms of National Merit cutoff scores each year. Unfortunately, there’s really just no way to tell until the announcements in September.

      Hope this helps!

  67. Do either of your estimate scales change, now that the College Board has released the SI percentiles and 205 is the lowest SI score in th 99th percentile?

    1. Patrick,

      That’s a great question. We recently obtained a very large pool of data, and we expect to actually release an updated projection for a specific state in the next couple of days. Although we were initially skeptical, extrapolation using our new data set does seem to confirm that a 205 would be consistent with scoring in the 99th percentile. That said, we will not be updating this table again, only providing a specific estimate for a specific state.

      Hope this helps!

  68. Michael,

    My son recently took the test and he is above the new cut-off value for Texas :). However, I am interested in your choice of using pattern of using the college boards Concordance Table. I spoke briefly with NMSQT and they said that no one knows the cut off values and “they could be above or below the cutoff values of the past”. It appears that these new cutoff values you have mentioned match that statement mentioned to me whether they were just saying it generically or new some new cut offs will be above or below. You mention the cutoff is still defined as the top 1/2% per state. Where did you get that definition? I am reading where it says that it’s usually the top 1% that make the national merit cutoff list. I was wondering what the lowest total score was where individuals were told they were in the 99% area to give me an idea how far between the 99% and 100% my son might be to give me an idea if he’s about at 99.5% to match your definition. E.g. My son scored a total score of 1450 and he is in the 99% range for the nation according to the score report. Can we have some others post these two numbers to compare and find the lowest total score that was at 99%?

    1. Frankmeister,

      For national merit, what is important is your Selection Index score, not your PSAT score. To answer your question, according to College Board the lowest SI score that could still be in the top 99% is 205, so the score range in question from bottom of the 99% percentile to the top of the 99% percentile is 205-228.

      Hope this helps!

    1. Hi John, we officially projected a 210 for Commended, but based on our model’s construction, the actual value may range from 200-210

  69. The newly published repot at
    seems to agree with your original Sliding Scale estimates. Is that document reliable? Are they using this year’s real data? It does not agree with the Concordance table at all. I am so confused. Some say SI this year is comparable to the same number last year; others say this year’s SI corresponds to a high number of last year. Could you comment on this? Thanks.

    1. Hi Nathan, we’re making an updated post tonight that seems to suggest that our projected cutoff is indeed more accurate than the sliding scale cutoff.

        1. Angie,

          We will be posting an update in the next day or two, but it will be specific to a specific state, so it may not be as useful to you, depending on where you live. I would recommend checking back Saturday morning for more information.

          Hope this helps!

          1. We are specifically concerned with Pennsylvania. My daughter’s SI score is 215 and last year the cut off was 217. Your estimated cut off is 216, which would mean that my daughter’s score isn’t high enough. So I’m hoping this changes! Thanks again. I will also check back.

  70. My score is 218 in California.
    Is new PSAT easier than previous years? It seems I do not have chance based on the projected cutoff.


    1. Hi Irving, the new PSAT is not easier than previous years– the increased cutoffs are just a function of the new scoring system

  71. So if this year’s PSAT has a lower max score in each area, as well as a decrease in the maximum selection index, could you help me understand how Arkansas’ cutoff would increase from 204 to 211. That’s a pretty big jump, and in the wrong direction it would seem. My daughter isn’t a rock star like so many people who have posted here. She was in the running when you posted the sliding scale projection, but if the Arkansas score is jumping up to 211, then she is totally out of the picture.

    1. Hi Jane, just based on the percentiles of the new scoring scale, along with some other finagling done by College Board, the cutoffs just seem to have jump. We were surprised by this increase while the overall scale decreased, but I suppose that’s just how the chips fell.

  72. Since I got a SI of 215 in NY and the table says NY’s expected cutoff would be 217, what is the range of scores that you would predict for Semifinalist in NY? (ex: 215-219)

    1. Hi Hannah, these are just estimates, and a general rule of thumb is +/- 2 points is a good ballpark for how the official cutoff might fall

  73. I appreciate your projections and comments. Did the new “Understanding Scores 2015” document provide enough new data for you to issue an additional revised projection? This data seems to be conflicting with a general consensus that the test was easier and the scores are higher, but wouldn’t the percentile data year over year be comparable regardless of the concordance tables? If there are around “1.5 million NMSC entrants” and there will be 15,000 to 16,000 NMSFs, then on average, the top 1% should qualify. Looking at the 2015 index score percentiles, that would put a theoretical national cutoff at around 205 compared to 2014 data with the 99% cutoff 8 points higher at 213.

    For a state like Tennessee, the cutoff for 2014 fell at the top of the 98% at 212. Based on Tennessee remaining slightly below average on scores, wouldn’t it be reasonable to estimate the cutoff being around 204 (+2/-2 based on your sliding scale of how it compares to other states this year). Of course, I realize that this score falls into your prediction that the cutoff could fall between your two projections.

    Maybe they should add questions on the next PSAT that tests their ability to estimate the cutoff.

    1. Hi John, we’re posting an update tonight that suggests that our projected cutoffs are in the right ballpark, for better or for worse. We actually did what you pointed out — take the raw data and find the cutoff based on the actual percentiles, working backwards– and this suggests that the scores are indeed going to be this high.

  74. I understand that the updated scores are based off of the concordance table, but can you explain why and what would cause a state’s cutoff score to increase this year?

    1. Hi Stephen, based on how College Board is setting the percentiles for the new selection index, it just so happened that the cutoff scores increased– this increase is not necessarily a representation of the difficulty of the test or the quality of the test takers. it’s just how the chips fell in this case.

  75. Requirements and Instructions for Semifinalists
    in the 2016 National Merit® Scholarship Program:
    Take the SAT® and earn scores that confirm your 2014 PSAT/NMSQT performance. You must take (or have taken) a national administration of the SAT between October 2013 and December 2015.

    What about the 2017 NMSP? Will the rSAT (new) be required to confirm the 2015 PSAT/NMSQT performance? When the semifinalists are finally announced in September, there is very little time to prep for the rSAT.

    1. Hi Paula, we have not heard any suggestion from College Board that the new SAT will be required, so if your student did well on the old SAT and has taken it fairly recently, it should be okay to use.

    1. Neal,

      That is great! Congratulations! A 220 should be sufficient for national merit in Texas. To your other question, we are still calculating commended student, international student, and US Territories potential cutoff scores. We expect to have an update on this at some point tomorrow, so I would encourage you to check back.

      Hope this helps!

  76. 218 is in California. Based on the projected cutoff, it seems there is no chance.

    Is new PSAT easier than previous years?


    1. Hi Irving, the new PSAT isn’t necessarily easier than previous years, but based on the new Selection Index scale and content of the PSAT, it might seem that students are numerically doing better.

  77. Hello, I am a student from New Hampshire with a score of 212, and frankly I’m having trouble understanding what the sliding cutoff and the projected cutoff is.

  78. Hello! Thank you for your post! I live in Florida and have a Selection Index of 211. Will that suffice for Semifinalist status?

  79. I just did some research into ‘Understanding scores 2015’ and would say that your estimate based on preliminary concordance table is too high. Here is the number from the article from CB:
    97% SI 200
    99% SI 205
    99+% SI 214

    Based on this report from real scores, it seems that high score states like California should be around 214 based on data from past years.

    1. Also my son’s percentile does not match the preliminary concordance table. The preliminary table under-estimate percentage based on what I see from real reports.

      1. Hi Dave, we’re posting another update tonight, and it seems to suggest that the concordance table is slightly lower than what we expect, though it is in the same ballpark.

    2. Hi Dave, we’re posting another update tonight, and it seems to suggest that our projections are in the right ballpark, if not a bit too conservative.

  80. I don’t understand your new right column projections based on college board concordance tables. I have spent a fair amount of time with those tables. My child scored a 212 in CO on the new PSAT test. I thought the sliding scales were low when I looked at them. But If plug his section scores into the concordance table for the selection index his 212 this year would be equivalent to a 216 on the old PSAT test. If the cutoff for his state under under the old PSAT test was between 213-215, then it seems a 212 on the new test (equivalent to a 216 on the old test) should meet the cutoff. But u have the cutoff number listed in the right column based on the concordance table at 215. Does this mean a 215 when u convert the new PSAT score of 212 to the equivalent of the old PSAT score of 216. Or are I saying he would have to have a 216 on the new PSAT test (which is higher than the old cutoff a absolutely even though the selection index is out of 228 not 240). The only way this makes sense is if u are somehow assuming the new test was easier…but that doesn’t seem to be what the tables say. If u plug in actual election scores for new test vs old test I don’t see how you are getting that right hand column number using the college board concordance tables?

    1. Hi Lynn, our projected cutoff is based off the concordance table that smooths out large jumps– it is not a 1-to-1 replication of the table.

    1. Hi Matthew, a 211 is in the ballpark of our estimations, so you have a good shot at semi-finalist, though it’s not a certainty.

  81. Thanks so much for the post! At this point, do you expect scores to be closer to the sliding scale, the projected, or in between? My son has received a 215 in Ohio, and seeing as that’s right on the line, we’re very anxious.

    1. Hi Lindsay, we’re publishing another post later today that seems to suggest that the projected cutoff is closer to the official than the sliding scale estimation. Check it out later tonight!

  82. Is the percentile an indicator at all? I’m aware the cutoff scores will not be released until Sept, but if my daughter has 99%ile overall (212) in Ohio, might she make the cutoff for Semifinalist? I’m very surprised to see the 2015 score and the current projected 2017 score be exactly the same at 215. Do you think this score may be elevated.?

    1. Hi DarDar, the percentile is a good estimate of the cutoffs, but remember that national merit is roughly the top half of the top 1 percent, so a 99th percentile would encompass roughly twice as many students as will be ultimately selected. We’re making an updated post later tonight that suggests that our esimates are in the right ballpark.

    1. Hi! We just updated our estimation for commended and added it to the bottom of this table! We’re projecting a 210 for commended.

    1. Hi Julie, commended is figured not by state but by the nation as a whole, and based on our estimations, 200 may be a little low.

  83. My daughter has an SI of 222. She is an American citizen (born in Illinois), studying in India. Should we look at Illinois cutoffs, or is there a separate international cutoff that we should consider? What are her chances in either pool? Thanks

    1. Hi, since she is studying in India, she would be within the international student pool, and while we did not perform an estimation for international students, based on previous years, it seems that a 222 would give her a solid chance at semifinalist.

  84. What is your logic behind a 210 commended cutoff? The commended cutoff is the top 97 percent scorers nationally and a 210 is well into the 99th percentile. There is no way it will be that high.

    1. Hi Kevin, that 210 may be inaccurate based on how our model treats data at the extremes of our target values, which were NMSF cutoff scores. It’s entirely possible that a 200-210 has a good shot!

  85. Hi,

    Your commended score projection – is it based on the student scores being reported so far online/otherwise or based on the concordance table calculations?


    1. Hi, the commended projection was based on the concordance tables, but we’re publishing a post tonight given more data, and that suggests that our projection is in the right ballpark

  86. How are you projecting a commended score of 210 SI, when pg 11 of the CB’s “Understanding Scores 2015” shows an SI of 200 at 97%ile? Wouldn’t top 3% of 1.5M PSAT takers represent 50K students at commended level? Are you suggesting CB’s %tile for selection index on pg 11 is preliminary as well?

    1. Hi Sanjay, that 210 may be inaccurate based on how our model treats data at the extremes of our target values, which were NMSF cutoff scores. It’s entirely possible that a 200-210 has a good shot!

  87. Hi Michael,

    Curious how you reconcile a 210 commended cutoff with the publication by CB of the SI percentiles say for a 209 SI that show this index to be user and SI solidly within the 99% band. See esp. page 11 of https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/pdf/2015-psat-nmsqt-understanding-scores.pdf

    If CB is saying a 209 SI is really a 97/96% score for this test and not 99%, do you think they will change this publication to match their preliminary concordance tables? Just does not make sense to inform a tester they scored at or better 99% of population (top 16k testers) but they really scored at or better than 50k testers.

    1. Hi Danny, that 210 may be inaccurate based on how our model treats data at the extremes of our target values, which were NMSF cutoff scores. It’s entirely possible that a 200-210 has a good shot!

    1. Sam,

      We are estimating the commended cutoff score to be around 210, so it is unlikely that the Semifinalist cutoff will be below that.

  88. Can you please explain your projected Commended cut-off of 210 in light of the recently-released SI percentile tables which shows that an SI of 210 is right in the middle of the 99th percentile? Commended and National Merit status are awarded to the highest 50,000 testers (using SI). In the past this has been about 3%, not 1%, of 11th grade PSAT testers. Did the number of 11th graders taking this exam suddenly explode to 5 million? Or is there something wrong with the SI percentile tables and/or the concordance tables?

    Thank you!

    1. Liz,

      As explained in this post, the Concordance tables may not be as reliable as they are presented to be. Frankly, the data acts very weird on the top end of the scoring spectrum. Additionally, the percentile score you received may not be accurate either. There are reports that College Board has inflated those percentile scores in an attempt to persuade students and parents that they would be better off taking the new SAT and not the ACT. You can read more about that here. In light of all this, we do believe the commended cutoff will be around 210.

      Hope this helps!

    1. Deb,

      Historically, the Hispanic commended student cutoff is much lower than the state and commended student cutoff scores. For this reason, coupled with the fact that the data itself acts so weird, we were not comfortable announcing a potential cutoff score for National Hispanic Scholar recognition. Sorry!

  89. I am in Florida and I got a SI of 223 with a total score of 1490. However I know two other juniors in my class of 2017 scored a max of 1520. I don’t know if this means the averages are tilted high. I hope I can make the cut, one can only hope. Let’s say if I do make it to NMSF, I know it requires a bunch of other things such as GPA, extracurricular activities, leadership, SAT scores etc… I am wondering about SAT scores. I took the old SAT in 2015 and got 2320 and am not going to sit for the new SAT in 2016, but will NMSF need to qualify the new SAT I wonder…

    1. Hi Sam, it looks like you are well within the range for National Merit Semifinalist, so I wouldn’t worry! As far as the Finalist positioning goes, there has been no indication from College Board thus far that NMSF would have to take the new SAT– at least for those in the class of 2017

  90. Looking at the table for Florida:

    Florida 214 200-204 215

    Seems to suggest my SI of 223 has a pretty good shot of making the NMSF? I also read here that scores are higher which could tilt everything making the cutoff SI effectively lower. What I don’t understand is whether the scores you received, I got a 1490 isn’t that a weighted normalized score? In other words, that score already have taken into account how all the test takers perform relative to each other because the report includes a “percentile” with all my sub-scores. If they have a large number of students scoring higher than expected, do they normalize the scores to reflect that? or do they raise the SI cut off? Anyway I hope for the best.

    1. Jan,

      With an SI of 223, you are extremely competitive for Semifinalist status. The PSAT score you received is different than the Selection Index score, particularly in terms of how it is weighted, which incidentally is the reason the NMSC is using a Selection Index score for National Merit and not the PSAT score. The biggest difference is Math makes up half of your PSAT score, but only one third of your SI. Also, you can disregard the percentile score you received with your score reports as College Board has allegedly inflated those percentile scores, so they may not be as reliable an indicator as they seem. To your final question, if more students perform better on the exam, then yes it logically follows that the scores will be higher. Either way, you are in very good shape with a 223.

      Hope this helps!

  91. After having a couple of weeks to digest this data and your own students results, do you think the cut offs will tend to be closer to your initial sliding scale projections or the concordance projected cutoffs? I know no one will no for sure until September but wanted your thoughts. Thanks for putting this together and posting it.

    1. Joe,

      We recently obtained a substantial new pool of data points. We are crunching the numbers now, and we expect to release one final estimation in the next few days. I would recommend checking back soon for more information.

      Thanks for reading!

    1. Jacob,

      It’s unlikely that a 192 will be high enough for recognition as a commended scholar. We expect the commended cutoff to be around a 210.

  92. Hello,

    I am wondering as a students from Nebraska with a score of 218 do you think I will be able to earn National Merit Semifinalist?

    1. Yusuf,

      Your score puts you ahead of our projected cutoff estimations. However, keep in mind these are educated guesses, so you won’t know for sure until the official cutoffs are announced in the fall. Good job!

      Hope this helps!

  93. Hello,

    I scored a 210, and based on your predictions, this is the Commended cutoff. Does this mean that I fell out of the Commended range, or that I am just in it? Also, what is the difference between the sliding score range and the projected? My 210 falls into the sliding category for Texas, but nowhere near the projected.

    Thank you so much for answering my questions! Please don’t hesitate to be honest with me (like if there’s no way I’ll be a Semifinalist, let alone Commended), because I don’t want false hope! Thanks!

    1. Hi Nina, a 210 means based on our estimations that you would be commended, and based on a post that is going up later today, we believe that the projected cutoff is a more accurate picture than the sliding scale cutoff.

  94. Hi. My daughter scored 224 for California. My question is, money and scholarships aside, does being a national merit semi-finalist help with college applications at all? Thanks.

    1. Jamie,

      Absolutely! Being a National Merit Semifinalist is similar to being a highly recruited athlete. Universities will go out of their way to court your daughter. You wrote money and scholarships aside, but the fact is that most universities (about 80%) will automatically give you either a full scholarship or at least a significant financial incentive to attend their school. In the context of an application to more competitive universities, like the Ivy Leagues, while being a Semifinalist in no way guarantees you a spot, it does significantly improve your resume. Basically, being a Semifinalist can only help your college applications.

      Hope this helps!

    1. Vijay,

      A score of 219 puts you on the bubble, so to speak. You are at the very edge of what we expect the cutoff score to be in California. While these are only estimations, so you won’t know for sure until the cutoffs are announced in the fall, you should be proud of your accomplishment!

  95. Daughter, public high school in Washington state, with a score from the Oct. 2015 PSAT of 216? Would love to know how this looks for national merit status? Thank you!

    1. Carolyn,

      Unfortunately, a score of 216 is just under our initial estimations for Washington state. We will be posting a revised projection soon, so you might check back next week for more information.

      Hope this helps!

    1. Beena,

      According to our initial projections a 218 should be sufficient for your state. However, these are just projections; we won’t know for sure until the cutoffs are announced in the fall. We have recently obtained a new data set, so we will be posting new cutoff projections soon, so you might check back next week.

      Hope this helps!

  96. Hi:
    We live in Kansas near the Missouri state line and my son goes to a Catholic high school in Missouri. Do we look to the Kansas or the Missouri numbers? He received a 220 – that seems to look pretty good for Semi Finalist based on your predictions? Would you agree? Thank you!

    1. KEL,

      Great question! Your situation is slightly different than that of Boarding School students, whose cutoff score will be whichever the highest state cutoff score is in the region in which they attend school. I actually called the National Merit Scholarship Company directly to confirm their policy for a student in your son’s position, in which the student resides in one state but attends school in another. Their answer was that so long as your son attends that high school regularly – that is, he is not a recent transfer; this is his high school, and he has attended this school for the duration of high school – then the cutoff score for him will be the cutoff score of the state where he attends school. So, you should look to the Missouri estimated cutoffs. Based on our updated projections, a score of 220 should be high enough for Missouri; however, we recently obtained a new data set, so we should be releasing a new set of projections in the next week, so you might check back for more information.

      Hope this helps!

    1. Hi Kim, by just quickly reading through that article, it seems to me that the authors are being needlessly contrarian. While they raise some good points, many of their issues with the new PSAT (i.e. the sample population that takes the PSAT vs. the overall SAT testing population) are issues that would have affected the PSAT in the past as well. We’re planning to post a second update with more data, and that further improves our belief that the concordance table estimates will be fairly accurate.

    1. Mary,

      MA is a very competitive state for National Merit. According to our projections a 223 should be sufficient, but frankly there are no guarantees until the official cutoffs are announced in the fall. You’ll notice that the last official cutoff score was 223, but that was out of 240, not 228.

      Hope this helps!

  97. Hello! My daughter got a 211 on the psat with 36 R, 33 W and 36.5 M and lives in Pennsylvania. Do you think this is good enough to be a semi-finalist? She was very worried and I myself am unsure as to whether it meets the national cutoff.

    1. Hi, based on our table, it looks like a 211 is below our estimated cutoff, so it’s unclear if your daughter would make the official cutoff in august/september

    1. Alex,

      Unfortunately, our projections put you just outside of the required cutoff for Georgia. We have recently obtained a new data set which we will use to generate an updated cutoff estimation, so you might check back next week for more info.

      Hope this helps!

    1. Dan,

      While there are no guarantees until the official cutoffs are announced in September/August, a 220 should be high enough for Florida. Good luck to your son!


  98. Hey, I’m from Michigan and I received a 207. I was wondering if you think the sliding score, the estimates from the concordance table, or somewhere in between will be the most accurate. I’m really hoping for National Merit and I think I’m just riding the line.

    1. Hi Alex, we’re publishing another update later today, and based on that data, it looks like the concordance table estimate is much closer to what we should expect in August/September

  99. I don’t understand the new index. if the maximum index is 228 instead of 240, then shouldn’t the cut-off index be lower instead of higher? it sounds like it’s much harder to make the cut-off with the new scoring/index system!
    please explain, thanks a lot!

    1. M and M,

      You are not alone in your confusion! If you read through the comments on this post, you’ll see that a lot of people have expressed this sentiment. College Board’s concordance table is a little wonky in terms of how the scores correlate on the low and top ends, and of course all the national merit cutoffs are on the top end of the score spectrum. We are currently working on generating a new expected cutoff score. So I would recommend checking back in a week or so for more information.


  100. It seems that the more I read on this, the more confused I am because I’m seeing different opinions. I understand it is all opinion right now. Anyway, my daughter has an SI of 215 in the state of Pennsylvania. Last year the cut off was 217 and the projected cut off now is 216. I guess I’m confused that it could possibly only go down 1 point from last year and if that is the case, 215 isn’t good enough for PA? What are your thoughts on this? And thank you in advance.

    1. Hi Angie, based on our table, a 215 is just under our estimated cutoff. Like you said, this is just an estimation and may not be completely reflective of the final results, so it’s entirely possible a 215 can still make it in!

  101. Thanks so much for answering so many questions about the new PSAT scores and the cutoff projections for the NM competition. In a recent response, you mentioned that an SI of 219 in California would be on the bubble. Do you think an SI of 221 is pretty safe in California!?

    1. Hi Pico! A 221 should be good for California, but given that this is an estimation, it’s no guarantee. However, with a 221, we feel like you have an excellent shot at semifinalist

    1. Hi, we’re planning on releasing an update in the next day or so, but the gist of that is our projected cutoffs seem to be in the ballpark.

  102. Do you plan to change the estimate for NY – cut off of 217?

    Also, can you share any info about your new data? Did you get data from a source that is public or schools you work with or elsewhere — everyone is wondering. Thanks.

    1. Sally,

      At this time we have no plans to change the estimate for NY. Actually, our expected update, which should be released in the next couple of days, will be specific to another state. Our data source is confidential, so no comment. But, I can assure you that we have obtained a large new data set that should allow for a more accurate projection for that state. As a reader, you and others could then make determinations about what that state’s cutoff score indicates about the possible cutoff score of your state, based on past rankings and competitiveness. However, without similar data for other states, we are a little leery of generating any more projections than what already exists.

      Hope this helps!

    1. Tori,

      Several Test Masters students have reported scores of 225 and 226, and one student reported a perfect score of 228. Also, we do not require our students to report their scores to us, so we assume that we have many more students with similarly high scores; the students who did report their scores were just calling to say “Thanks!”

  103. When you release your new estimated cutoffs, are you going to comment on why the published college board SI percentiles are way off?

    1. Marc,

      Without taking too aggressive a position, it is possible that College Board’s percentiles are intentionally non-representative. It seems that many people are not yet aware of this, but actually two percentile rankings are generated for your PSAT score, a National percentile and a User percentile. The National percentile, which is the percentile score on your actual, physical score report, includes estimations for students who did not actually take the test; the User percentile, which is only accessible online, only includes students who actually took the test. In short, the National percentile, or the one that every student saw along with their score report, is artificially inflated; the User percentile, which students must go through a lot hoops (clicks) online to access, is more representative to how a particular student did when compared to his or her peers. There is a lot of speculation surrounding College Board’s motivation for generating two percentile scores, but the general consensus is that an artificially inflated National percentile score might persuade students and parents that the SAT is the better test for that student compared to the ACT. You can read more about this here.

      Hope this helps clear up any confusion!

  104. I have some questions:

    This is what you said yesterday 0n 2/3/16 “Hi Lindsay, we’re publishing another post later today that seems to suggest that the projected cutoff is closer to the official than the sliding scale estimation. Check it out later tonight!”

    1) So, does that mean CB and NMSC have the official NMSF cutoff’s but they are not willing to release any info including state summary reports? Also, that means Testmasters has access to the cutoffs too? If not, how can you tell your projected cutoff is close to the official?
    2) Realistically, when will the new projection be out since it’s not posted as of 2/4/16.
    3) You said “We recently obtained a substantial new pool of data points.” What are these data points? Real test takers’ SI scores from your students or CB’s results?


    1. nlh,

      1) No. Also, no. Statistical analysis and extrapolation.
      2) The new projection will be specific to a single state; this should be available in the next day or two.
      3) We can assure you that this new data has been helpful in determining a new cutoff for the specific state we are updating, but the source itself is confidential.

      Hope this helps!

    1. SM,

      A 208 is just under what we expect the cutoff score for Iowa to be. We actually expect the commended student cutoff score to be around a 210, so a 208 would unfortunately put you just on the outside looking in, so to speak.

  105. Hello,

    If you are saying that the user percentile is a more representative percentile of how a student did compared to his peers, it doesn’t make sense that you are anticipating that the cutoff for commended will be 210. In another post it says that 99th percentile is 205. So are you saying that this year commended will be in the upper 99th percentile, which is unlike any prior year?? The user percentile for an SI of 207 states 99th percentile.

    1. Renky,

      Good point! Michael and I discussed this exact point earlier today. A score of 210 may in fact be too conservative an estimate for commended student; however, we came to the decision that we will not be updating this comprehensive list again. We will be posting another update specific to a specific state in the next day or two, but we won’t really be touching on commended student status. That said, in past years commended student status has been equal to the lowest state cutoff score, which is what effectively makes the commended student score the national cutoff score. A score of 210 for commended student would be consistent with that trend if our other estimates are accurate.

      Hope this helps!

      1. Commended in the past was defined as top 50,000 scorers. Based on the number of test takers this is around top 3%. It has nothing to do with the lowest cut off score just a coincidence.

        1. Jim,

          I understand. I was simply pointing out a trend. (Effectively, in this case being defined as “actually, but not officially or explicitly.”)

          Thanks for reading!

  106. I am wondering why Maine’s cut off seems so low. my son achieved a 222. His guidance counselor said he was the top 4 scorer and the usual number is 1-4 per year. This would seem like it it must be 222 or maybe higher since they have never had more than 4 kids and other times they have had much less. My son goes to a public high school(Scarborough High School)

    1. Hi Leah, It’s entirely possible that your school will have more than 4 National Merit Semifinalists this year! Historically, Maine has been around the middle of the pack as far as cutoff scores go, so for the new exam, we can’t imagine that a 222 would be Maine’s cutoff, which would probably be closer to California or Washington DC’s cutoff this year.

  107. Are there any guidelines for students in the DoDEA (Department of Defense Education Activity) school system that serves the dependents of military members and DoD civilian employees stationed around the world? Since they do not fall within any of the state guidelines, do they have their own separate guidelines?

    1. Hi Sherri, DoD students fall in an interesting area that isn’t widely discussed. They should fall under the umbrella of “international students,” which typically has a cutoff equal to that of Washington DC, but I would check with your school counselor just to be safe!

  108. Based on your data do you believe the published selection index percentiles on page 11 of the understanding guide to be accurate? Also do you have any idea how many eligible students are in the competition this year?
    Thanks for all your information and work that you have put into this.

    1. Hi Joe! Based on our information, the Understanding Guide looks generally pretty solid, but keep in mind that those percentile ranks are for all students across the nation, so certain states’ individual percentiles may fluctuate within that Understanding Guide. We also don’t have any information on the total number of students who took the exam this year, but it should be pretty similar to previous years’!

      Thanks so much for your questions and kind words!

  109. With you predicting another 2 pt rise for TX, any idea how that reflects on the typical low scoring states? Do you think a 217 is still a safe bet for AL?


    1. Hi Durelle! Since we don’t have any updated information for other states like Alabama, we aren’t able to make additional estimates. However, based on our previous prediction for Alabama, a 217 likely has a good shot at NMSF!

  110. Question…Is testmasters located in Texas? Do you have any idea when the updated cutoff will be posted? And how comfortable do you feel about the new cutoff? If my son looks good with the cutoff then he will need prep classes to confirm his score for the finals…correct? Just trying to be proactive rather than reactive about all this.

    1. TLT,

      Test Masters‘ Main Office is in Houston, TX, although we do run courses nationally. We’ve said a couple of times that this update will be posted soon… and it should be available soon; we just want to make sure our numbers are correct before posting. We expect our updated post to be extremely accurate.

      To your other question, yes, if your son qualifies as a Semifinalist he will have to take the SAT to advance to Finalist status. Qualifying to compete is automatic, based on your PSAT (really your Selection Index) score, but there are actually a lot of different things that go into your application to advance in the National Merit Scholarship Competition. Factors like your GPA, class schedule, and extracurriculars are all considered. Procedurally, your high school principal or counselor will be notified of your son’s status as a Semifinalist in the fall, and they will be sent an application kit. They should then work with you to fill everything out.

      Hope this helps!

      1. Yes, that helps a lot. Now just to wait and see if the 221 will make the new cutoff. The sooner the better for all those trying to verify the PSAT score. I would like for him to know and be able to take the SAT several times. Thank you for all the information. Hope to see the new cutoff updates soon.

      2. Regarding your answer to TLT about taking the SAT to advance to Finalist status. What is the time frame for the SAT to qualify? If a student took the SAT (let’s say Mar 2015) before they took the PSAT in Oct 2015, does that work providing the score is high enough?

        1. nlh,

          If you or your student are a junior, then you should actually plan to take the SAT this semester. National Merit considerations should not really impact your overall college admissions timeline. Taking the SAT in the spring of junior year not only puts you in a good position to focus on other aspects of the application process (SAT Subject Test, essays, recommendations, etc) but incidentally would also be early enough for National Merit purposes. Outside of this recommendation, if you want to set aside a lot of time to prepare, students who advance to Finalist status are typically notified of their advancement in February of senior year, so at the latest you should expect to take the SAT early in the fall of that school year.

          Hope this helps!

  111. my son is a resident of florida but is educated through an online school in california.Which states cutoff will affect him,florida or california?

    1. Hi snickers! This is an interesting question that we haven’t come across yet. You might want to talk to your son’s guidance counselor or perhaps even call up the National Merit Scholarship Corporation to ask. We’d love to hear the answer if you find out!

      1. yes,they said he would be subject to florida cutoffs as he reides in florida and virtual high schools come under homeschool rules as it isnt brick and morter.

  112. My daughter got a 212 in Utah, and yes , we are very proud. It seems as though this is one of your biggest jumps in declaring the cutoff. 206 rising to 212. Do you think Utah will rise above this number. Thanks for all the information.

    1. Hi Richard, 212 is our current estimate, and it’s likely that the official cutoff will be in this general ballpark. No one will know until August which side of this estimate the official will lie, so unfortunately we can’t say for sure if Utah’s will be above a 212– just that it will be around a 212.

    1. Anthony,

      Because the Hispanic cutoff score is usually much lower than the commended cutoff score, and because the data functions so weirdly at the top and low ends, we were not comfortable making a prediction for that specific cutoff. Sorry!

    1. Jared,

      A 220 should be sufficient for CA, but we just won’t know for sure until the fall. My advice would to move on to other things – ultimately, your PSAT score will not be what gets you into your first college of choice. Your SAT, GPA, extracurriculars, recommendations, leadership credentials, etc. all play a role in the college admissions process. National merit is outside of your control, so don’t spend too much time fretting about it. Concentrate on those things you can control.

      Hope this helps!

  113. Just wondering when you expect to post any revisions to your PSAT cut off projections for 1 or more states. It was expected to be by today I thought. And of course if you can share your analysis that will be helpful to many to understand. thank you!

  114. First, I had a selection index of 224 in TN, will this definately be high enough to become a semi-finalist? When I took the PSAT last year (as a sophomore), my scores were much lower at around 94th percentile or so. I do realize that this was a redesigned test this year though. Is this year’s test easier overall for most students, or is it perhaps just more suited to me? Thanks and I would appreciate any response.

    1. Justin,

      Almost definitely. Congratulations! Keep in mind that to advance to Finalist status you will have to, among other things, take the SAT, so you might consider preparing for that exam. The data sets we’ve obtained do not indicate that this year’s test was any easier statistically – that is, an equal number of students tend to be scoring in percentiles consistent with previous PSAT administrations. However, note that there are two percentile scores: your National percentile and User percentile. It has been reported that the National percentile, which is the percentile listed on your physical PSAT score report, included estimates by College Board for students who would have taken the PSAT but did not, and so was artificially inflated. The more accurate indicator of how a student performed compared to other students is the User percentile, which is accessible only through your online PSAT score report.

      Hope this helps!

    1. Jahred,

      Unfortunately, no. We have obtained no new information from students in California. Based on available data, we still expect the CA cutoff to be 219.

      Hope this helps!

  115. I’m confused about what the sliding scale means. I have a 206 SI(1400 composite) in PA. That is well below your estimated cutoff, but what is the sliding scale mean? Also why is the estimated cutoffs equal to or even higher than last years cutoffs for most states? The SI is only out of 228, so its 12 points lower. Does that people did better on the PSAT than before and its considered easier to score higher now?

    1. Bob,

      You can disregard the sliding scale. That was an estimate based on changing score ranges, and was released prior to College Board’s Concordance Table. As we have said repeatedly, we update as we obtain new information.

      Your second question is a little bit more interesting. We initially assumed, and have said throughout our posts on the topic, that the data acts very weird at the top and low ends. Although there is no evidence to support this theory, I am beginning to suspect that the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, which ultimately decided the selection score index formula, may have come out of the SAT redesign relatively unchanged, at least in terms of what the cutoff scores will be. It would be very interesting if in the fall, when all the cutoff scores are announced, every state’s cutoff score is within a point or two of last year’s cutoff scores. This would mean that the very weird, apparently arbitrary formula they decided upon actually had an underlying purpose after all. That’s purely speculation on my part, so take it with a grain of salt. We’ll just have to wait and see on that!

      Hope this helps!

    1. Tim Tim,

      That’s quite the existential query. If you are familiar with Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy, you might argue that as one has thought, which undoubtedly exists, and as thought is inseparable from oneself, then one must necessarily exist. However, as Descartes points out, the establishment of oneself does not preclude the existence of a genius malignus, or evil demon, capable of perpetuating falsities to our senses. Given that I know that I exist, because I am capable of thought and therefore must exist in some capacity or another, I think it’s more appropriate that I ask: are you real?

      Hope this helps!

      PS Next time, please try and stay on topic.

    1. Diab,

      Unfortunately, a 212 puts her just outside of what we are expecting the cutoff score to be in Ohio. However, a 212 should be sufficient for commended student status.

    1. Karen,

      She has a very good chance of achieving Semifinalist status. Of the students who achieve Semifinalist status, most will advance to Finalist status, but that is in no way guaranteed. A lot of factors go into what it takes to advance in the National Merit Scholarship Competition. We’ve actually written a detailed post, and in fact an entire series on the topic. For your specific question you can read here to find out more.

      Hope this helps!

  116. Still a bit confused with your posted graphs of past, projected, and Concordance Table cutoffs, especially as you are receiving updated data. A score just under your projected cutoff for a particular state, say 214 for Colorado’s projected cutoff of 215, is quite a bit higher than the 201-2015 range listed in the table, and this varies from state to state. I know you won’t know certainty until September, but how likely would a score that is just UNDER your Projected Cutoff Score in the right column be in the running for NMSF consideration? And when new state data arrives, where will you post this? Many thanks.

    1. Hi, since these are just estimations, like you mentioned, it’s entirely possible that a score just under our prediction will still make it in! The 215 is just a ballpark of where the cutoffs will likely lie. As far as new data goes, we’re not expecting to receive any new data, so this will likely be the last post on the topic of PSAT cutoff scores–until the official release, at least!

  117. Hi,

    I am a Junior from South Carolina and I scored a 210 (99th percentile). I was wondering whether or not I would qualify even if I did not reach the projected 214. I know this seems kind of pointless to post, but I am confused as to what the “Sliding Scale Cutoff” indicates.

    Thank you

    1. AJ,

      The Sliding Scale was a projection based more on score ranges, and less on actual score data. You can disregard the sliding scale cutoff as it does not incorporate the Concordance Table data. To be honest, a score of 210 is probably not high enough for nmsf status in South Carolina, but it has a very good chance of being high enough for commended student status.

  118. My son scored a 218 Selection Index in Texas Oct 2015 and I am finding estimates of cutoff between 217 and 219 here for NMS 2017 class. We’ll be biting a lot of fingernails between now and when the cutoffs are released. You still think 217 will be the TX cutoff?

    1. Hi Jeff, we actually put out an update on our update for Texas in this post. Based on our data, we updated the estimate to a 219 for Texas, but keep in mind that this is still just an estimate. With a 218, there’s still a chance!

  119. I guess a good question would be does anyone know the lowest score for being in 99th percentile . My son had a 1390 and was considered 99th percentile anyone lower than this score will help project bottom of 99 percentile 207 was his index score

  120. Hi,

    I got a 194 Selection Index (much poorer than I thought I would get). What are my chances in NY? Do I have a shot at being commended?

    1. Hi Lori, these are the most up to date predictions we have, and it looks like a 214 in NC is definitely within the ballpark of our 215 estimate!

  121. How good do you think my chances to qualify if my index score is 219 and I am from New Jersey? Do you guys usually do a projected cutoff every year? And if so, how accurate are the predictions usually? Thank you!! 🙂

    1. Hi Richard, our prediction for NJ is a 220, so it looks like your 219 is definitely in the ballpark! We don’t normally make cutoff predictions because for the past 10 years, there hasn’t been a need to, since previous years’ cutoffs were known and generally hovered around the same scores. We did our best to extrapolate the data made publicly by College Board to make our predictions, but again, these are predictions. While we hope these will prove to be accurate, no one will know for sure until the fall.

    1. Hi Miu, we’re estimating a 220 for New Jersey, and though it’s above a 218, keep in mind that these are just estimates, so this cutoff is by no means definitive.

    1. Hi Jane! Our estimate for Pennsylvania is 216, so your 209 is lower than that, but we’re definitely projecting that you’re in good shape for Commended!

        1. While our numbers on Commended aren’t as tight as those for semi-finalist, but with a 209, commended is very likely!

    1. Hi Sarah, since you’re an Indiana resident attending an Indiana school, you would be considered under the Indiana cutoff, which we’re estimating to be about 214. It definitely seems like you have a good chance!

  122. I see all sorts of comments from students who got high scores on their PSAT but have to ask if they have a good score. Can’t these high-scoring students figure out the chart?
    Or is it their parents who are clueless?
    BTW, my son got a 217 in Illinois. Does he have a chance? In other words, is 217 greater than your projected cutoff of 215? Please help. 😉

    1. MCarr,

      It is likely (but not guaranteed) that he’ll make the cutoff. You should now pivot your attention to preparing for the SAT, as he will need a competitive SAT score to advance in the competition after Semifinalist announcements are made in the fall.

      Hope this helps and congratulations!

  123. Hello! I received a 213 in South Carolina, which is just 1 point below the projected cutoff of 214. I know that would mean that I still have a “shot” at being named a semifinalist, but if you could expand on what percent chance I actually have of being named a semifinalist, I would appreciate it. In short, my question is this: what is the likelihood of someone scoring 1 point below the projected cutoff making the cutoff? I know that these number are by no means final/perfect, but the scores you posted seem logical, so I’m asking for your input. I know that I’m just another one of the thousands of kids pointlessly fretting about their own score, but I recognize how important this scholarship program is and would like to know as much as possible. Thank you for your time

    1. Hi Joseph! We don’t have a value for that probability, and indeed no one could even construct that confidence interval given that it would require knowing what College Board’s internal processes are. As a general rule of thumb, the cutoffs shown can be referenced with +/- 1 point from that value, so all we can say is that a 213 in SC definitely has a good chance!

  124. Hi! We live in TX, My daughter got 221 on the new PSAT; 730 ELA & 750 Math.
    Just in case, IF she happened to quality as Semifinalist, what kind of SAT score she should have to match her PSAT? She has 680 Reading, 690 Writing & 800 Math; does she need to take SAT again try to get higher score?

    1. Hi Frances! Historically, the NMSF cutoff for “equivalent SAT score” floats between a 2000-2100, so you’re likely in the clear with a 2170 composite. However, you might look into raising that score further for college admissions so that her “real” SAT reflects her high academic performance on the PSAT

  125. Hello!

    My cousin’s daughter is very excited. She lives in Ohio and made a 1370 on the PSAT. She is also black. Will this be enough to get Commended or National Achievement Scholar is their state? Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated!

    1. Hi SE, the sliding score estimate was our initial projection; the projected estimate is our more up to date one.

  126. Now that the National Hispanic cut-off number is 204, where do you expect the commended score to come in? My Daughter is got 206 and we live in Florida.

    1. Hi Deann, do you have a hard source on the NHRP cutoff number? We’ve seen rumblings of cutoffs being posted around, but we haven’t seen any official sources thus far.

      1. Yes! I got the information directly from the National Hispanic Recognition program. Southern region cutoff is 204. My daughter got 206 and received an email from them a few days ago.

        1. Interesting, thanks for letting us know! As far as NMSF goes, based on this information, it would seem that Commended will be on the upper-end of our 200-210 point prediction, which bodes well for our NMSF estimations, as states like Wyoming and South Dakota are typically around the national Commended cutoff.

  127. My daughter has a 218 in GA for class of 2017. I saw that 218 should be a good score for GA. Was that for finalist or semi-finalist?

    1. Cheryl,

      Students qualify as Semifinalists based solely on their PSAT scores. After being notified of their status as Semifinalist in the fall of senior year, students are then – via their high school guidance counselor or principal – invited to apply for advancement to Finalist status. A lot of different factors are considered by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation when they make decisions about who will or won’t advance as a Finalist, including GPA/class rank, difficulty of classes, recommendations, extracurriculars, etc. Advancing to Finalist status does not even guarantee you a scholarship, as only about half of the total Finalists will receive a National Merit Scholarship.

      To answer your question more specifically: the numbers posted here are estimates as to what the initial cutoff for Semifinalist status will be.

      Hope this helps!

  128. Are the Projected Cutoff Scores based on the old 60-240 scale? You talk about a likely 12 point shift, and if they are based on the old scale, will the likely Cutoff Scores be 12 points lowers than you projected ones based on the 48-228 scale for 2017? I ask as our daughter got a 141o out of 1520 and 210 out of 228 for Illinois.

    1. Hi Will, our Projected Cutoffs are not based on the old 60-240 scale and will hopefully be representative of the new 48-228 scale.

  129. I heard today that the NMSC has stated that the Commended score for the class of 2017 is 209. Assuming that this information is correct, does this have any impact on your earlier predictions? How about for your prediction for California? Thanks!

    1. Hi PicoSM, we haven’t heard an official release of commended yet, but if it is 209, that bodes well for our estimations! It shows that we’re definitely on the right track, especially since some states like Wyoming typically have their NMSF cutoffs at the commended cutoff.

  130. Are there any cut offs for African American students in the state of Missouri. My daughter has a 195 and I was told my her guidance counselor that she might be eligible? Thoughts? Feedback?

  131. National Merit Scholarship confirmed by phone today 209 is the Commended Scholar cut-off score. The chart above has Commended at 202. Will you be getting confirmation and re-doing the chart above? Interested in CA’s Semi-Finalists cut-off prediction.
    Thanks so much for all your hard work!!

    1. Hi Susan! We made a quick update here, and since our estimations thus far seem to be pretty on the money, we don’t anticipate updating our predictions. That may change, however, if we receive additional information or publications are made available , so keep checking back!

  132. I haven’t looked at all of these, but I saw someone comment elsewhere on the Connecticut score. It does seem a bit odd when Colorado and Delaware stay put at 215 and 216, but Connecticut drops from 220 to 215.

    Texas dropped from 220 to 217. Why is Connecticut’s drop so much larger?

  133. My daughter got a 222 in Oklahoma. She needs to take the SAT. When should she do this in case she is selected? If she does it now, will it count or be usable for competition?

    1. Hi Anne! Congratulations on that great score! Historically, the NMSC, which oversees the National Merit competition, has made a December 31 deadline for submitting SAT scores, so any SATs taken between now and then (i.e. the June, October, November, or December tests) would be sufficient. Definitely double check with your counselor, however, to make sure that there aren’t any changes for this year, and we definitely encourage you to take the SAT earlier rather than waiting until the last-minute December test date. Best of luck in the coming months!

  134. I am a student living in VA but attending private school in Bethesda, MD. I have a NMSC selection index of 216. What would you make of that score? Would I need using the MD, DC, or VA cutoff estimates? Thank you for all of this helpful information!

    1. LNguyen,

      A selection index of 216 is very good! However, a boarding school student, you are in the unfortunate position of being judged based on the most competitive cutoff in your region of the country. On top of that, your region of the country tends to be very competitive each year. Unfortunately, in this case, you will really just have to wait to find out.

      Hope this helps!

  135. Hi, my daughter has an SI of 216 in Florida. Do you think that will be sufficient? Kind of nervous with the new commended score at 209!

  136. A 215 SI for Florida concords to about a 212 on last years scale. Do you think scores have gone down when last years cutoff was a 214? Thanks!!

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