National Merit Semifinalist Cutoffs Class of 2018

By April 6, 2017National Merit, PSAT


The time between the release of PSAT/NMSQT scores in December of junior year and the official announcement of National Merit Semifinalist status in September of senior year can seem far longer than 10 months. Compass tries to fill that gap by providing up-to-date information throughout the process. The full set of class of 2017 cutoffs and estimates for the class of 2018 are included below.

April 12 Update

When Semifinalist cutoffs for the Class of 2017 were released in August, students finally got confirmation of how much things had changed with the new PSAT. The Class of 2018, unfortunately, is also facing uncertainty about qualifying scores. As we noted in Why National Merit Scores are Rising, it was clear that PSAT scores from the October 2016 tests were coming in higher than those from the previous year. Recently we received confirmation that the Commended Student cutoff moved from 209 to 211.

Expected Changes to NMSF Cutoffs

A simple response to a 2-point increase in the Commended Student cutoff would be to assume a 2-point increase in state Semifinalist cutoffs. It turns out that things are far from simple. Based on our research, we are predicting that the most common state cutoff changes will be +0, +1, and +2. We expect that a small number of cutoffs may drop a point or go up by 3 points. It is essential for students and parents to understand that predicting the distribution of changes is not the same as knowing which states will see those changes. College Board no longer publicly releases state data for the PSAT.

Consider the Range

When using the table below, we encourage students and parents to focus on the range of predicted scores. We have provided a “most likely” figure, but our research consistently shows that a single point prediction will be wrong more often than it is right. Cutoffs are not announced until late August, when National Merit Scholarship Corporation begins notifying schools. We will, of course, continue to update this page as we receive additional information. Students interested in a deeper exploration of what underpins these estimates can see Researching National Merit Cutoffs. Compass’ National Merit FAQ also addresses many of the questions parents and students have during this period. You may also want to look at the more recent comments on this page or on the other National Merit posts.  We try to answer every question.

Class of 2017 Semifinalist Cutoffs and Estimated Range for Class of 2018
StateClass of 2017
Actual
Class of 2018
Est. Range
Class of 2018
Most Likely
Alabama215214-218216
Alaska213212-216215
Arizona219218-221220
Arkansas213212-215214
California221220-223222
Colorado218217-221219
Connecticut220220-222221
Delaware218217-221219
District of Columbia222222-224223
Florida217216-220218
Georgia219218-221220
Hawaii217216-220219
Idaho214213-217216
Illinois219218-221220
Indiana217216-220219
Iowa215214-217216
Kansas217216-220219
Kentucky215214-218216
Louisiana214213-217216
Maine214214-218216
Maryland221220-223222
Massachusetts222221-224223
Michigan216215-219217
Minnesota219218-221220
Mississippi212211-215214
Missouri216215-219217
Montana210211-214212
Nebraska215214-218216
Nevada214213-217216
New Hampshire216215-219218
New Jersey222222-224223
New Mexico213212-216215
New York219219-222220
North Carolina218217-221219
North Dakota209211-213211
Ohio217216-220219
Oklahoma213212-216215
Oregon219218-221220
Pennsylvania218217-221219
Rhode Island217216-220219
South Carolina215214-218216
South Dakota209211-213211
Tennessee218216-220219
Texas220219-222221
Utah215214-217216
Vermont215215-219217
Virginia221220-223222
Washington220220-222221
West Virginia209211-213211
Wisconsin215214-218216
Wyoming209211-213211
​U.S. Citizens Studying Abroad222222-224223
​U.S. Territories209N/A211

The reason we emphasize the prior year’s scores is that our analysis has shown that they are the best predictors of future cutoffs. The chart below is based on restated historical cutoffs and new PSAT cutoffs for the class of 2017. It shows that, when viewed across all years in the 2009-2017 period, cutoff changes have a roughly normal distribution. The story gets more complicated when drilling into years with specific changes in Commended Student cutoff. See Researching National Merit Cutoffs or the previous year’s Methodology Update for more information.

cutoff-histogram-2009-2017

Parents familiar with old PSAT cutoffs may need help getting their heads around the more compressed range of cutoffs on the new test. The New PSAT Score Compression post gives a thumbnail sketch of how the changes have impacted cutoffs.

The state-by-state allocation of Semifinalists can also confuse parents and students. In addition to the National Merit FAQ, you may want to see information about how many students qualify in each state. For a truly deep dive, you can get see how California Semifinalists have been distributed by school and geography over the last three years.

Compass cautions juniors about overemphasizing National Merit at this point in their testing process. The PSAT is not an admission test and, for juniors, results are now in the rearview mirror. Performance on the SAT and ACT matters far more than making any cutoff. Having a sense of National Merit status is not without value, however. To proceed to the Finalist or Scholarship portion of the National Merit program, students must obtain a minimum qualifying score on the SAT. The shift among high scoring students to the ACT has complicated the process. Fortunately, Semifinalists have until December of senior year to take the SAT as a qualifying score for Finalist status. Taking the SAT is not a requirement for Semifinalist recognition.

 

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Art Sawyer

About Art Sawyer

Art graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University, where he was the top-ranked liberal arts student in his class. Art pioneered the one-on-one approach to test prep in California in 1989 and co-founded Compass Education Group in 2004 in order to bring the best ideas and tutors into students' homes and computers. Although he has attained perfect scores on all flavors of the SAT and ACT, he is routinely beaten in backgammon.

1,395 Comments

  • maria says:

    Hi Art,

    Thanks for the post – this year has certainly been more thought provoking relative to cut-offs than prior years! I am interested in understanding more about the methodology. Unfortunately, it appears the link that should be entwined with the word “here” isn’t working. I look forward to an update with the link. Thank you!

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Maria, thank you for bringing this to our attention. The link should now be active.

      • Anthony says:

        Hello Art,
        I took the PSAT this year and got a SI of 217 in the state of Florida. I know that this would have qualified for semifinalist last year, but I was just wondering what my chances are to make it this year? The chart says that Florida will have a low volatility in change, but I just wanted to get a professional opinion. Thank you so much for your time.

        Sincerely,
        Anthony

        • Art Sawyer says:

          Anthony,
          The low volatility simply means that FL hasn’t changed much year-to-year over the last 9 years. It’s not a given, of course, that it will not change this year. I think 217 is in the toss-up zone. Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait until Sept to know how things turn out.

          • Anthony Bartolomeo says:

            Thank you Art

          • SK says:

            Hi Art,
            A college confidential discussion group is quoting you, from 1/16/17, as offering potential evidence to think qualifying scores might go up for the class of 2018. I can’t find your original blog post on this topic. Can you please direct me where to look? Here is a portion of what was said:

            “Here is what Art Sawyer said last night:

            “I’ve been crunching some numbers and will hope to get a post up (struggling against work and travel deadlines). Because you asked, though, I’ll give you the super short summary. We have known for a month that the mean scores were up by 10 points this year, but it was unclear if that would filter up to the NM levels (it often doesn’t). I’ve recently (today) had the opportunity to see data on a very large segment of high scoring students, and it appears that the increase may be applicable across the scale. …”

          • Art Sawyer says:

            SK,
            The post was in reply to “Emily,” so you can search on that or “crunching” and you should find my comment (not a separate blog post) from 1/16. I’m way overdue in following up on this. I’ve been hesitant to do anything less than a full post, because I like to explore all of the angles. Let me go a little further for now. Pretend that every statement I make below is bracketed with “to the best of my knowledge.”

            For the 2015 PSAT, College Board reported that 3% of students scored in the 1400-1520 range.
            For the 2016 PSAT, College Board reported that 4% of students scored in the 1400-1520 range.
            [These two statements are facts.]

            When reporting percentages or percentiles, College Board rounds to the nearest integer. 3% can mean anywhere from 2.501% to 3.499%, for example. So we can’t say with certainty that there was a large jump in the number of 1400-1520 scorers — it could have moved from 3.499% to 3.501%. It’s for that reason that I looked at sub-group performance, which also showed an uptick beyond minuscule rounding differences. Perhaps the 2016 PSAT/NMSQT was taken by fewer students? That’s not what the numbers indicate. In fact, the figures are 1.781M in 2015 and 1.782M in 2016. [A slightly suspicious quirk is that CB recently upped the latter count from 1.769M. It’s convenient that the PSAT can now show growth.]

            A shorthand that NMSC uses is that 50,000 students are Commended or above, but that figure is not an accurate hard cap. Instead, it has varied between 53-54,000 in recent years. This means that the number of recognized students is very close to 3% of test takers. There is another problem we run into, which is that not all PSAT-takers are NMSQT eligible participants. We don’t know the the most recent figures with a high degree of precision. In the past, about 7% of testers were not NMSQT participants. The rounded (and possibly unreliable) figure that NMSC used for the class of 2017 was 1.6M. The easiest assumption we can make is the composition of the two pools is not so different that it makes analysis impossible. Let’s compare the theoretical against the actual. To my knowledge, College Board has not released the ACTUAL percentiles for all Selection Indexes for the class of 2017. What I do have are the percentiles for Total Score, which we’ll use as a proxy (yes, I’m holding my nose since Total Score and Selection Index are different). 1390-1410 are all listed as the 97th percentile [note: the percentiles listed in Understanding PSAT/NMSQT Scores 2016 are the 2015 actuals NOT the 2016 actuals]. Those percentiles are exactly what we would expect. It means that our 3% figure would have fallen in that range, and those total scores would correspond — approximately — with a Selection Index close to the actual Commended cutoff of 209.

            What does it mean, then, that 4% (rounded!) of students in the class of 2018 scored 1400 or above whereas 3% (rounded!) scored that well in the class of 2017? We don’t know with any certainty, but my working hypothesis is that it could move the cutoff for Commended to 210 or 211. I am not stating that as a fact, merely as a hypothesis. There seems to be scant evidence (none, really) of downward movement, so 209 seems like the logical floor. I can poke holes in this hypothesis. I can label the assumptions. I can keep in mind that College Board is not always the most reliable of narrators. But my leaning is that we will see a small bump in the baseline cutoff this year.

            You’ll notice that I have avoided saying anything about state cutoffs. Once we move away from the national Commended cutoff, things get blurry quickly. It is a mistake to assume that scores move in unison. There are too many different reasons scores would see upward pressure this year. College Board has not released any detail more finely grained than the 1400-1520 set, and that is not particularly useful when you are discussing high-cutoff states such as CA or NJ. I do not have state-by-state data even for the 1400-1520 range, so I cannot say, for example, that the increase isn’t entirely due to one state (ok, that’s the extreme).

            That’s a fair summary of what I know. There is still analysis pending, but without state figures, it is going to be difficult to give much new insight.

          • MDCommenter says:

            Regarding “not all PSAT takers are NMSQT eligible” and the possible uptick in those taking PSATs. Our Maryland public high school has always required sophomores to take the PSATs – and they just switched to making freshmen take it too. Don’t know how widespread that was.

            Also, guessing a 219 SI may not make the Maryland cut this year? So close – the English counting double for SI was tough for my student, who did better in Math. Moving on to focus on SATs.

          • Art Sawyer says:

            MDCommenter,
            Only junior testers impact National Merit, so Maryland’s new policy — I had not heard that before — will not move the needle. Unfortunately, I agree that 219 will be a challenge this year in Maryland. Nonetheless, your student got an excellent score and should be in good shape for the SATs.

          • Anna says:

            Hello Art,

            I just took the PSAT in October, and I received a 216 index score. I live in Pennsylvania, and I was wondering if it was highly likely I will only be commended? The reason I am curious is because I was so close to the range predicted.

          • Art Sawyer says:

            Anna,
            You are close to the range predicted and did very well. Unfortunately, PA is a competitive state, and I don’t think your score will make the Semifinalist cutoff. You will, however, be a Commended Student.

          • Janet says:

            Thank you for this information. Based on your analysis, it appears probable that our son will be a National Merit Semi-Finalist for 2018. We live in Florida, and he has a PSAT score of 1480 (730 EBRW and 750 Math) and NMSQT index score of 221. He took the SAT in June 2016 as a sophomore and scored 1470 (770 EBRW and 700 Math). Am I correct in assuming that this should qualify as a confirming SAT score? He acheived a 36 composite on the ACT but my understanding is that is not relevant. I was a National Merit Scholar in 1984 so he is excited to possibly join the ranks!

          • Art Sawyer says:

            Janet,
            Your son looks set on all accounts. Technically, NMSC doesn’t set the Finalist standards for a class until the Semifinalists are announced, but it would be a highly unlikely change not to allow his sophomore score. The score itself will be well above any qualifying level.

            If your son is anything like my nieces, his reaction would be, “Yeah, but it’s more competitive now, Mom.” Congratulations.

        • DK says:

          Art Sawyer,
          My child took the PSAT (as a junior in 2016) and got a 217 in NJ. He tells me that this is not a commended score. I say it is, but nothing more. Who is right?
          Does he need to take the SAT to qualify for anything further? He took the ACT and scored well.
          Thanks.

          • Art Sawyer says:

            DK,
            I’m hesitant to wade into a family dispute. 😉 You are correct. A student with a 217 SI in New Jersey will be Commended. The need for a confirming SAT score is only for Semifinalists hoping to continue to the Finalist stage. It sounds like he can stay on the ACT track (or stick with his current score).

          • DK says:

            Art Sawyer,
            Thank you for your response. What do you predict the semifinalist level will be for a class of 2018 student in NJ?

          • Art Sawyer says:

            DK,
            The NJ cutoff will likely fall in the 222-224 range. I think 223 is the most likely cutoff, but none of the scores in that range would shock me.

      • Bridgette says:

        Hi,
        Would a selection index of 217 in the state of NJ qualify me for NMS for the Class of 2018?

        • Art Sawyer says:

          Bridgette,
          NJ is the most competitive state in the country when it comes to NMSF. Even with your excellent score, I’m afraid that you will miss the cutoff — likely to be in the 222-224 range. You will, however, be a Commended Student.

    • Frank says:

      I live in Florida and took the PSAT, and received a score of 217. Is this likely to make the cutoff for class of 2018?

      • Art Sawyer says:

        Frank,
        It really depends on how you want to define likely. Florida’s cutoff has been very consistent over time and has bounced between 216 and 217 (restating old scores to new), so that would be a reason to be optimistic. Across all states, I’ve found that about 1/3 of the time cutoffs do increase from the prior year. At worst, 217 has an excellent shot at making NMSF this year.

        • Frank Godbold says:

          Thank you!

        • Janet says:

          Thank you for your reply yesterday. My son liked your response especially the comment referencing your nieces. He received his scores from the March SAT this morning – 1570 with 790 EBRW and 780 Math so the sophomore one will not be needed for the confirming score.

        • Emma says:

          Hello!

          I’m in Florida at 219. I’m aware this is in the danger zone but possible, but I’m also wondering about if I’ll make the jump from Semifinalist to finalist. I have a 1490 SAT and a 3.6/4.3 GPA. Is weighted or unweighted considered in the Finalist application? what are the most important aspects?

          Thanks!

          • Art Sawyer says:

            Emma,
            Your 1490 SAT would be sufficient as a confirming score. NMSC has never given specifics on what is expected in terms of academic performance. One thing to consider is that NMSC is not looking to disqualify students at the Finalist stage. The requirements for confirming score, academic success, and school support seem designed, more than anything, to prevent embarrassment. There have been anecdotal reports over the years that C’s are a black mark against Semifinalists, but it’s never been clear that this was true. Most colleges and scholarships will look at unweighted GPA’s, since high schools are not consistent in how they weight classes. This is not to say that academic rigor doesn’t matter; it’s just that colleges prefer to set their own standards on the topic.

          • richard says:

            Art–you are brilliant–love reading the methodology. Any chance that my son gets commended with an SI score of 210 in NY?

          • Art Sawyer says:

            Thank you. Richard. The Commended cutoff this year is 211 nationally (up from 209), so I’m afraid your son just missed the mark. The good news is that he has an excellent starting point for SAT performance (and he may have already tested this spring). Ultimately, SAT and ACT scores represent the core of his testing portfolio and — after grades — will play the biggest role in admission.

        • Dan says:

          Do have any insights on SAT cutoff scores for National Merit Semifinalists? Wondering if I should retake the SAT test…on PSAT, I received a 221 in MN. So, I am optimistic that I’ll make Semifinalist. On the SAT, I received a 1430. Do you think I should retake the SAT to try to boost that?

          • Art Sawyer says:

            Dan,
            I’ve received conflicting information so far, and NMSC may not have finalized this year’s number. The highest figure I have heard so far is 209. What I do know is that NMSC will use a Selection Index for your SAT score (just as with your PSAT score) rather than using your total score. For example, you are in better shape if you got 730 EBRW / 700 M (SI of 216) than if you got a 650 EBRW / 780 M (SI of 208).

            One thing to consider is whether or not you are satisfied with your 1430. It’s an excellent score, but given your achievement on the PSAT, I suspect that you can do better. This may not be applicable, of course. You could already have a fabulous ACT score, for example, or be looking at colleges where your SAT score is more than sufficient.

  • kikidee says:

    Vee…I think it is fair. The ones with more population have a varied amount of scores….they go to however many they are allowed and that is there cutoff. It is more than fair. for example: If California has 500 spots and the 500th person is a 221…then that is the cutoff. In Montana…where you may have only 50 by population…the numbers might have to go down to a 210. That way the highly populated states don’t dictate the less populated. When you have that many kids in your state…and they are all high achieving at the top…THEY drive it up.

    • Vee says:

      You are supporting my argument– the scoring is not fair to kids in the states with the highest score thresholds. It doesn’t matter how many kids are in the state, this is supposed to be a national test. Why do they insist on having an equal percentage of kids from each state deemed semi-finalists? As it stands it’s not a merit-based point system. There will be kids in CA, for instance, that score higher than kids in other states, yet the kids in other states are deemed semi-finalists, despite scoring lower than some CA kids who are NOT finalists. Again– why does each state need to have a set number of finalists for a NATIONAL test. The scores should be tallied across the nation– not by state. The tests that kids take are equivalent no matter what state you’re in– the scores should be the top 1% of the NATION, period. If one state has a disproportionate number of semi-finalists, then so be it. The PSAT penalizes high-scoring kids from certain states.

      • B. Reasonable says:

        Vee, its hard to see this your complaints as anything more than whining. You live in a state with a higher score and you are jealous of other kids’ honors who live in other states. This kind of strident complaining is unattractive and I suggest you drop it. Its not going to change anything and will only give you heartburn.

      • Donny says:

        I totally agree. This year, I have received a 1480 on my psat with a selection index of 221. I live in California which means I could potentially get rejected as a semi-finalist, while some student in Wyoming with a selection index of 209 has a higher chance of getting accepted.

        • Wyoming Proud says:

          Donny –
          I’m so sorry you feel this way about Wyoming. Your tone suggests that you feel students here have not “earned” the National Merit Semi-finalist title. I received a SI of 217 – which will more than likely qualify me in Wyoming. However, I’d like to point out that Wyoming has much fewer opportunities than many states – not for lack of brainpower, but for lack of high, concentrated populations. For example, I drive 30+ miles many nights to other towns for extracurricular activities. I will have taken every AP course available at my high school when I graduate, a couple of which are new programs for which my classmates and I were the “guinea pigs.” I will have taken many dual credit classes and a few that are online with colleges, as I exhausted my school’s math program, mere credits away from earning an Associate’s in Business’s from a local college. I have a 4.0 GPA, with straight A+’s this semester. What I’m trying to say is that it is hard to get ahead in some states – and the kids being awarded National Merit here and in other low SI cutoff states are hardly unqualified – nor was it easier for us to qualify. And please believe me when I say that I realize this “state allocation” isn’t perfect. Reading these posts, one can start to feel guilty and unworthy for qualifying.

      • Michelle says:

        I couldnt agree more!

    • Taha says:

      I got a score of 219 on the PSAT in TX. Do you think its likely for this year’s score to drop?

      • Art Sawyer says:

        Taha,
        There is not yet enough information available to say whether TX’s cutoff will drop this year. Historically, drops have occurred about 1/3 of the time.

        • Colin says:

          I’m from Ohio and I got a 219. Last year’s cutoff point was 217 and my school on average has 22 National Merit semi finalists and 17 people in my school got a 219 or up. Do you think I have a good chance?

          • Art Sawyer says:

            Colin,
            Thanks for passing along your school info. Sounds like it’s about what we would expect (of course individual schools can jump around a lot). Ohio hasn’t reached 219, so it does seem like 220 would be unlikely. Your chances seem quite strong.

        • Alex says:

          Do you have a predicted cutoff range for Outside US? I got a score of 220 on the PSAT in the Philippines.

          • Art Sawyer says:

            Alex,
            U.S. citizens studying abroad have to meet the cutoff of the highest scoring state (DC students face a similar hurdle). This was 222 last year, and I expect it to be 221-223 this year. It’s very unlikely that it would drop to 220, I’m afraid, because every high-scoring state would need to see a substantial decrease in scores. You have an excellent score and a great start for the SAT. You will likely be a Commended Student.

        • Mikki says:

          It’s odd. When I look at SAT/ACT scores, the average TX scores ( even adjusted for participation rate ) seems pretty low overall but yet, it shows up pretty high on the list for this? Why is that?

          • Art Sawyer says:

            Mikki,
            There is only a loose correlation between average scores and NM cutoffs. One is measuring 100% of test-takers, and the other is measuring approximately the top 1%. Students at various score levels are not necessarily evenly distributed across states. TX, for example, has a large number of ELL students who would tend to lower the average score. Texas has also been excellent at getting a high proportion of students participating in junior year PSAT. For the class of 2015 — the last year for which NMSC has published data — TX had more NM entrants than larger CA. For that class, there were about 4,600 students scoring between 70 and 80 on the Critical Reading. There were 21,000 students scoring between 20 and 30. NM students simply don’t change average scores all that much.

  • Vee says:

    Why are kids in CA, DC, CT, and other states where the top score is highest penalized? With the same score in a different state, some would be semi-finalists. Why aren’t the top 1 – 2% taken nationally, across the board? Aren’t these NATIONAL merit scores?? Would it be so wrong for one state to have more finalists than another? This is not a merit system– it’s politically correct and granting a status to someone whose score is actually lower than another’s who just happens to live in a different state. Why not go further and make sure an equal number of boys and girls get qualified? What about by race? By economic level? Merit is merit.

    • Vee says:

      I would love to have a response to this question from Compass. All others have been answered. Am I misunderstanding the scoring process? I don’t understand how a student in one state with a certain score can not qualify for semi-finalist status, yet a student in another state with a lower score does qualify, based on different scales for that state. Aren’t all students taking equivalent tests? Why would it not be OK to have a greater percentage of finalists from one (or several) states?

      • Art Sawyer says:

        Vee, sorry for not responding. I read your post more as interesting commentary. You are correct on the interpretation of how the scoring and cutoffs work. As a California resident, I certainly take some umbrage with the higher cutoffs. Having dealt with this for over 30 years, though, (since my own days as an NM Scholar [Connecticut]) I have learned that NMSC has no intention of changing. The most important thing I can do is improve understanding of the rules and cutoffs. Take below as a rationale for NMSC thinking and not as my personal opinion.

        Students are recognized across the country as Commended Students on equal terms. The fact that semifinalists are allocated by state does not negate the test as “national.” The National Spelling Bee has 281 sponsors that determine who advances to the finals. The Academic Decathlon brings together state/regional winners. Even Rhodes Scholarships are allocated by region, and some regions are notoriously “easier.” On a very practical level, the competition requires sponsors to fund the approximately $50M it gives away each year. It’s easier to build a case to sponsors with semifinalists coming from across the country rather than dominated by 10-15 states — especially if those sponsors operate in the other 35-40 states.

        Most colleges understand your criticism. Rather than placing emphasis on some other organization’s varying PSAT cutoffs, most admission officers would rather use SAT scores in exactly the way that works best for their institution. This is among the several reasons that schools like USC, the UC System, and NYU have backed away from the National Merit program in the last decade. Many critics point out that the use of the PSAT to determine “merit” is inherently unfair. I appreciate the many points of view on the topic.

        • Sirish says:

          Also companies that are sponsoring scholarships via NMSQT will want to support local students, preferably students whose parents work for the company. So a company based in say the San Francisco bay area would prefer to give scholarships to local students, it may seem unfair, but these companies want to strengthen their local communities first, and this would be one way to do it.

        • Guillermo Munoz says:

          Part of me also wants to have a problem with this system that makes it easier for kids in some states, especially because we live in a state where the cutoff score is on the higher end (Texas), and my son is going through this process now. He got a 1570 with 220 NMS selection index, so I am guessing he will make the semifinalist cutoff. But part of me realizes that my son’s merit is not his alone. His success is also due to an excellent school system. Kids from states with much worse education system have it a lot harder. Is it really wrong to help them out a bit by recognizing that, given their circumstances, they excelled as much as my son, given his circumstances? Mind you, these are not kids that coast. If they are in the top 1% or 2% of their state, they worked hard. There is no question of coddling them, they don’t need it and probably don’t want it. But isn’t it a good thing that here and there they might catch a break to help them rise above the handicap of having grown up in a poorer education system, something that was not their choice? Mind you, by the fact that they have already worked this hard, they are in all likelihood the kind of kid that will make faithful, good use of such a break. Knowing that my younger daughter have already had the benefit of a better school system, if they (or my son) don’t make it, because some kid in the Dakotas or West Virginia needs the break more than they do, I am ok with that.

          • Art Sawyer says:

            Guillermo,
            Thank you for your thoughts. If I’ve implied that I don’t think students in states with lower cutoffs are somehow less deserving of honors, then I’ve been sloppy with my posts. I empathize with the 222 scorer who misses out by a point and feels “what more do I have to do?,” but I also appreciate the reasons for why NMSC establishes state-by-state awards and don’t mean to diminish the achievements of any student. One of the reasons the National Merit program has survived largely unchanged for 62 years is its national reach. There is no perfect system. Even within states — particularly those as large as Texas or California — there is a tremendous diversity of backgrounds and funding. One of the things I like about the NM program is that it encourages students to think early about admission testing and to appreciate what they are able to achieve — whether they make or miss a somewhat arbitrary cutoff.

          • Bernd says:

            NEW PSAT ceiling score is 1520, NMS INDEX 228
            ? 1570 > the ceiling score

          • Art Sawyer says:

            Good catch. I think that was meant to be a 1470. Presumably a 730EBRW / 740M for a 220 SI.

          • mom says:

            What a great attitude – education should be available for all – not dependent on the money in your region. My child benefited from the Merit Scholar program, is now in a doctorate program – the scholarship helped him but in the long run – it was his own ambition and hard work that paid off. After a 4 year degree he worked for a while, but returned to academia because of his love of learning. Comp;etition with himself, being better and sharing the knowledge, mentoring undergrads, that is the stuff that merit rewards.

        • Kim B. says:

          Hi Art,
          My daughter is Class of 2018, and we live in Michigan. She scored 1470 on PSAT (720 EBW, and 750 math). Do you think she will likely qualify for semi-finalist status? Also, if she is a semi-finalist, when would you recommend she take the SAT to submit? Thank you for your helpful blog posts and site. It is much appreciated.

          • Art Sawyer says:

            Kim,
            Your daughter’s Selection Index of 219 (72×2 + 75) is almost certainly high enough to qualify for MI. A 4 point change in cutoff is incredibly rare and even less likely in a large state. My recommendation would be to let college admissions — rather than National Merit — drive the SAT decision. One scenario is that she has already taken or plans to take the ACT and has not interest in the SAT. In that case, the sole reason for the SAT is NM, and you don’t want the SAT to get in the way of everything else. I’d be tempted to take a calculated risk and delay taking the SAT until November. Your daughter is likely to score high enough to have a confirming score. If the SAT is going to be part of her admission plans, then NM is a non-factor. She should take the SAT when she is best prepared. For most juniors this means a March or May administration with a possible retest in Oct.

          • Naaz says:

            Hello Art-

            In response to this parent…I have a class of 2018 student also in MI…with a 1450 (EBW 700, 750 Math) and an index of 215…with the class of 2017 cut-off at 216 do you think my student just missed semi-finalist? Wondering how frequently MI cut-offs are lowered by a point? Thank you.

          • Art Sawyer says:

            Naaz,
            The data is too thin to draw conclusions from a single state. In the spirit of full disclosure, only in 2013 did MI see a decline in the last 9 years. Looking across all states, we see declines almost 1/3 of the time.

        • Daniel says:

          I agree with Vee. If the title is NATIONAL merit semifinalist, then why does your location matter. I live in the state of California and I received a score of 1480 and a Selection Index score of 220. Given California’s history with scores, I will not be a semifinalist, even though I would qualify for the title in a majority of the other states.
          The logic behind having semifinalist from all over the country makes sense but a person from a more competitive should not be discriminated against. I do not receive a better education just from living in California. I attend a below average school with budget problems and one semifinalist in the last ten years. The fact that I live in California does not make me privileged.
          I am also frustrated with the fact that the English category (writing and reading combine) is worth twice the math. Why is this? I received a perfect score on the math but I will not be a semifinalist. Also, does being commended have any value to it or is it meaningless to achieve?

          • Art Sawyer says:

            Daniel,
            The decision on the EBRW versus Math weighting goes back so far (40-50 years), that I’m not even sure of the original rationale. The important thing to keep in mind is that — from a testing standpoint — it’s your SAT or ACT score that will help get you into college, not your PSAT score. It sounds like you’ll do great on the SAT. There are a pool of colleges that do like to recruit Semifinalists, but most colleges are focused on your grades and SAT/ACT scores.

        • R says:

          I get that sponsors in different states want to sponsor students from their area and have no problem with that aspect of it. The issue however is that the state cutoff system is grossly unfair to students in certain areas and it results in the loss of HUGE sums of money. A NM student who gets into USC for example, gets a FULL FREE RIDE to that very expensive private university. We are talking about on the order of $260,000!!! A California student with the same NM score as a kid from North Dakota who makes NM doesn’t get that automatic USC merit scholarship (on top of the NM scholarship) despite having the same (or even much higher) score. I grew up in Tennessee btw and worked hard and found the resources i needed. Nowadays, a dedicated, hard-working kid can find whatever resources they need from the internet with free online university courses and scanned library books so geographic differences in educational quality are diminishing rapidly. CB needs to evolve. A twenty point difference in qualifying scores between states is ridiculous.

          • Art Sawyer says:

            R,
            I don’t want to be in a position of defending NMSC policies (on this topic, College Board is innocent). Colleges also need to accept some of the responsibility. USC could just as easily decide on their own cutoffs or definitions. In fact, there was a period of time in which USC opted out of the National Merit program. I’m glad that National Merit exists (and so were my parents!), but I have mixed feelings about how the opportunities are distributed. The new PSAT has narrowed the score differentials somewhat. I expect the highest state cutoffs to be about 11-12 points higher than the lowest cutoffs.

    • suxan says:

      The flip side of this…kids in states which have lower cut-off scores get artificially “recognized” at the state level and then immediately don’t qualify at the “national” level. That is what I noticed when my kid made NM a few years back and I actually looked at the data for the first time in my life.

      Kids in “less well educated” states like MS got some accolades with scores that were well below the cut-off in states like CA (where we live) and so it was kind of like a fake acknowledgement for those MS kids. It was like “you have done well, considering all your friends are illiterate but please don’t show up to the national competition with that score…you’re embarassing us!” It was actually kind of sad. They’re going to think they’re competitive, but they really are not, on the national or global scale.

      • Camille says:

        This comment is extremely degrading to the high-achieving students in the states with poorly funded education systems. Stating that they will not be competitive on the national or global scale based on this one measure/accolade is ludicrous. An NMSF from MS who scores few points lower than an NMSF from CA is not tremendously stupid in comparison. Not every successful human in the United States hails from CA, although many wonderful ones do. Small differences originating from students’ disparate high school experiences will be mitigated during the first year of university. That’s why universities use measures beyond test scores for admissions.

      • SSC says:

        I will just start by saying that you are ignorant about Mississippi because you have never lived in Mississippi. Let me tell you this. You live in a state where you are fortunate enough to have a very developed educational system unlike us. That’s partially due to population and partially due to politics (state allocation for funding). If your child was in this situation, I doubt he/she would have a score as high as he/she did. Mississippi is a place that is not as competitive, so it is difficult to push yourself and improve. To be able to score 213+ in Mississippi under those conditions is already very good. It takes a lot of perseverance to be able to score that well. Also, you got to understand test scores do not mean everything in life nor in college decisions. It seems like you think that test scores are the only things that determine success and failure. If that is the case, you are terribly mistaken. Just in case you think I am one of those undeserving people. I will just tell I have accomplished some things despite being from Mississippi. I am not trying to be cocky; I am only trying to prove a point. I have a 224 SI index (can qualify anywhere fyi), 35 on the ACT, and 800s in multiple subject area tests. Also, I have won awards at international and national science fairs. I have been a Chemistry Olympiad semifinalist, an AIME qualifier, and a National Science Bowl qualifier. I have also been invited as one of the 80 students internationally to attend the Research Science Institute (only 5 invited from all of California btw). I have also been president of four clubs. I have plenty more to list if you really want more. Sure, there are people in California who are better than me, but most if not all of them grew up in a much better area than me and had more opportunities. Should I be penalized for that? In case, you still continue to think I am unworthy and not competitive on the global scale. What accomplishments does your kid have and makes him more worthy than me?

      • EarlVanDorn says:

        I live in Mississippi. My son has a 35 on the ACT and will graduate with almost 60 AP and dual enrollment college hours. About 20 percent of graduating seniors at his school have a 30 or higher ACT each year, and that’s at a school where 40 percent of students are on free or reduced lunch. As Willie Morris said, we may not be able to read, but we sure can write.

        I do understand your point, but a visit to Mississippi might surprise you.

      • proud rebel says:

        My kid got a 1470/219 in Mississippi. He made the cutoff everywhere except D.C., Wash, CT, MD, MA, NJ, CA, TX, and VA.

        Take your condescending attitude elsewhere.

  • Ethan says:

    Minor item, but your state rank in number of Semifinalists is wrong for DC. I know we get more Semifinalists than at least a handful of states, including Alaska, Wyoming, North and South Dakota, and Vermont. Like “outside the US” group, we are treated as a special selection unit and our numbers are tied to the highest state score, not our population of high school graduates. I think this is the last official list released, for the class of 2014. The chart can be found on page 29. http://www.nationalmerit.org/annual_report.pdf

  • SK says:

    Hi Art,
    Thanks for publishing the NMSF cutoff state by state. I understand your data is based primarily from CA. My daughter has 218 index score from Illinois. Is she safe to be NMSF for the class of 2017? One thing I got hold off from her School which usually has from 12 to 23 NMSF every year since 2011 (I didn’t bother to get the prior years), so this year in her school only 10 scored 219 or higher but 12 scored exactly 218 as my daughter and 33 students scored 215 or higher. Since her School never had anything less than 12 NMSF since 211 and only higher after that 17 to 23 NMSF, I am hoping 218 is a safe bet in Illinois this yeat to be NMSF. What are your thoughts on my prediction? If IL cutoff is 219, then her School will have the lowest NMSF this year which would be 10!
    Thanks!

    • Art Sawyer says:

      SK, thank you for your question and the data you’ve provided. I would hesitate to use “safe” in this situation. What you are seeing in Illinois is what is being seen nationwide — a compression of scores. There will be less difference between the top state cut-off and the lowest. Some students have incorrectly assumed that this was a conscious decision to make things more “fair” across states. In fact, College Board is looking more toward the growth of PSAT/NMSQT overall than the range of scores in the top group. The decision to move from a 20-80 scale to a 160-760 scale may be better for its district and state buyers, but it does result in the tighter scores we are seeing for the top Selection Indexes.

      Sorry for the long prelude. Based on the numbers you have presented, it does seem like 218 is more likely than 219. If it is set at 219, your daughter’s school has fewer NMSFs than since at least 2010. If they set it at 218, the number of NMSF’s is very close to being at the highest end of that range. Your daughter’s school has a lot of variability over just a several year period, so I have to say that it could go either way. Based on what I’ve seen, I do suspect it will be at 218. Even there it falls higher than I and others had expected. I’ll refine my estimates and will continue to do so as more information comes in. Congratulations to your daughter and best of luck to her on the SAT (or ACT)!

      • SK says:

        Art,
        Thanks for your prompt response and detailed as well. From your other response, I am finding out a person with 1420 can also score 218 (EBRW – 760 + Math – 660). My daughter had 760 in Math and 710 in EBRW. Now I understand why index scores varies a quite a lot. Though looking at 1470 which my daughter scored that I thought is pretty good score now based on index scoring a child who did well in EBRW has an advantage over my daughter!

        Just for curiosity in your state by state prediction Table, you have given Illinois a 216 with a range of 214 to 217? Will you be increasing it?
        Thanks,
        SK

        • Art Sawyer says:

          Yes, if you refresh the page, you should see that I have adjusted IL to a 216-219 with most likely of 218. Thank you again for the information.

          • Adam says:

            From the numbers SK gave, it looks like this school’s semi-finalists numbers can vary greatly from one year to the next. This year if 218 was the cutoff, they would have 22 semi-finalists, but if it goes down to 215 they will have 33. SK said there were 11 students in the 215-217 range, but not the breakdown for each number. What if there was one at 217, and one at 216, and the rest at 215? If so, could a good argument be made for 216 or 217 being the cutoff? (and within the original range you charted) That would bring their semi-finalist total to 23 or 24. It just seems unlikely that Illinois would have the same 218 cutoff as Texas. Last year, Texas was at 220, and Illinois was at 215. You said that based on what you’ve seen, you suspect it will be at 218. Do you have specific reports from other schools in Illinois? Just trying to figure this all out! THANKS!!!

        • Andrew says:

          My thought is different. A 218 seems to be safe based on what you said. 10 kids from 219 to 228 (10 SIs), 11 kids from 215 to 217 (3 SIs) but 12 kids only at one single SI 218? It doesn’t look normal. Only 3-4 kids at 218 would be normal. In other words, extra 8-9 kids at 218 are much likely to be outliers. So, if you remove those outliers, based on the school’s history, 216 or 217 (or even 215) would be a more reasonable cutoff. Your daughter’s school is expected to have more than 23 NMSFs this year because of those outliers.

      • John says:

        Hi Art,
        I was intrigued by the discussion on Illinois, being the parent of a student within your expected range (217). I was wondering how you came up with the range for Illinois, given your comment about compression of scores. Sorting on 2016 results in descending order, the most likely estimates for all states above Illinois either go down or stay the same from 2016. Illinois is the first state in the list whose 2017 estimate goes up, and you have to go quite far down the list to find the next state whose estimate rises by three points.
        How are state-by-state estimates determined, and is there a reason why the estimated change is so different for Illinois compared to states with similar 2016 cutoffs?
        Thanks!

        • John says:

          I misspoke in my previous post; there are a couple of states just above Illinois in the 2016 ranking whose 2017 most likely estimate goes up by a point. Still, nothing close to three points anywhere near Illinois.

          • Art Sawyer says:

            @John I adjusted Illinois based on data received from SK. It’s an opportunity to reemphasize how strongly I feel that ranges are the most honest way to discuss NMSF estimates. You can also see comments by Adam and Andrew who point out why the actual cut-off may fall below my current estimate of 218. I do not think it will fall as low as 215 and do not think it will exceed 219. In developing the original estimates from concordance information, it’s impossible to account — at least in the single point “most likely” — for the year-to-year fluctuations that states often see.

            @Andrew That’s an interesting way of looking at things, but we don’t know enough to say that the 218 scorers are the outliers that would normally fall lower. For example, perhaps they are outliers that should fall higher and provide a more natural distribution. You are correct, though, that too much shouldn’t be read into one set of scores at one school. For one thing, those students are more likely to be clumped because they all took the same form (and all have the same educational background). If SK’s counselor gave her accurate information and SK gave me accurate information, a 215 seems like far too large of a shift. I’ll stick with my range. I’m starting to like 217 as the single point estimate.

            @Adam The likelihood of a single student at 217 and a single student at 216 with the rest at 215 is very low, but I agree that cutoffs of 216 or 217 are possible (and in range). Adjusting one state does sometimes cause alignment issues with other states. Given the relatively limited student data, though, I don’t think it’s appropriate to adjust all states unless there is something that demonstrates a shift in overall values (more compression, less compression, etc.).

            Thanks for the thoughtful comments.

  • Kat says:

    How do I calculate the score for the above chart from the new PSAT results?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Kat,
      If you have your (or your student’s) score report, the Selection Index will be listed on it. On the online report, click “More Information” and then NMSC Selection Index. If you don’t have access to the reports and only know the scores, you can calculate the SI in one of 2 ways:
      1) If you know the 1-38 scores for Reading, Writing&Language, and Math, you simply add them up and multiply the sum by 2. 35R, 36WL, 33M, for example is (35+36+33)*2 or 208.
      2) If you only know the 160-760 section scores for Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW) and Math, then you can drop the right zero, double EBRW and add Math. A 710EBRW and 660M would be (71)*2+66 or 208.
      I hope this helps.

      • JG says:

        I talked with NMSC today about the confirming SAT scores for 2017. My son is a semi finalist and has submitted the “new” SAT. His scores were 720 reading and 760 math. But the scores NMSC will use are the sub scores. His were 37 reading, 35 writing and language and 38 math. Take all three scores, add them together and multiply by 2. In this case the total is 220. Coincidentally, if you drop the zero and use the other method discussed here, the number is also 220. They said the cut off will be 209. Your web site had the absolute best information for understanding some of the ins and outs of the National Merit competition and awards, so I thought it might be nice to post the information we learned here to this discussion.

        • Art Sawyer says:

          So NMSC said that the SAT Selection Index for a confirming score will be 209. It’s great that they have finally made it official. [If anyone else calls NMSC about the topic, please post a confirmation of the confirmation.] Thanks for the information, JG.

          Yes, the official calculation is 2(r+w+m) where the subscores are used. Because EBRW = 10(r+w) and Math = 20(m), the NMSC calculation and my preferred calculation are always identical. The thing I like about (2xEBRW+Math)/10 is that students are more likely to remember their 200-800 EBRW and Math scores. The advantage of the NMSC formula is that it reminds students that the SI is made up of 3 components – reading, writing, and math.

  • James says:

    Art, you state that most of your research focus has been for CA students. Can you briefly tell us what kind of research you conducted other than polling your own CA students to arrive at your CA cutoff score? Personally, my own guess for CA cutoff is 221, and I would not be surprised if the CA cutoff is even 222. Thanks.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      We did not poll our own students, as that would have given no useful information. We would have no way of comparing that to how many students would normally receive NMSF recognition because of changes to our test prep population and such polls are unreliable. I’d recommend this post if you haven’t already read it. We have seen data from more stable CA populations with sufficient NMSF winners to make us think that the possible range is 218-221. Stranger things have happened, but I don’t see it being as high as 222. If you have data that supports the higher value, I’d certainly be interested in assessing it.

      We have also seen student data for at least two other states and data that supports our estimated range for Commended. This allows us a certain level of confidence that our methodology makes sense. We use ranges because even in a normal year scores fluctuate. As opposed to other years, College Board has not released their state-by-state reports giving score ranges and the actual number of students.

  • Will says:

    In your SI estimated table above, the scores seem to be based on the previous years, which I understand. However with the change in the scale from an old maximum score of 240 to the new (class of 2017) maximum score of 228, I don’t see any references or noting of the change and it’s effect on the SI score.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Will, the projected cutoffs are based on the new 228 maximum Selection Index. The short version is that we use the concordance tables between the old PSAT and the new PSAT to project the cutoffs. Although it seems like the change from 240 to 228 would lower the cutoffs significantly, the reality is that the impact is muted and varies across states. The shape of the scoring curve for the new test means that some cutoffs will actually increase from prior years.

  • PicoLA says:

    Hi Art,

    I saw a report earlier today that the NMSC has reported that the Commended Score will be 209 for the class of 2017. Although 2 points above your projected level of 207, it still falls within your estimated range of 204-210. Assuming that this information is correct, does this necessarily indicate that scores for individual states will generally run on the higher sides of your projections? Specifically, do you think that a Commended score of 209 changes your projected range for California, i.e., 218-221?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      PicoLA,
      Thanks for the heads-up. NMSC usually doesn’t officially announce the Commended cutoff this early, although they’ve sometimes given this information out to students over the phone. So far I have only seen one student confirmation, but it certainly sounds reasonable. This would impact states that typically have NMSF cutoffs at or close to the NMSF cutoffs (e.g. West Virginia, North Dakota, Alaska, etc.). The impact of Commended coming in 2 points above estimate is likely to be more muted by the time you reach CA’s range of 218-221. I still like my “most likely” estimate of 220. My range of 218-221 can probably be narrowed to 219-221. I see nothing that makes me believe that it can go to 222. Once we see additional confirmation of the Commended cutoff, I’ll revisit and refine our estimates for all states.

  • delilahxc says:

    Do you believe the higher commended score will raise cutoffs in midrange states or only the lower cutoff states? I’ll admit the commended score has me a little nervous about my son’s 216 in Florida.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Florida is right in the middle of where the Commended bump would make a difference and the high end where I don’t believe it will. The other thing that I always caution about is that even in a “normal” year, individual state cutoffs can be +-3 points. Your son is on the bubble just about anyway you look at it, I’m afraid (high side of the bubble, I hope!). College Board may provide some additional state data in May, but I don’t expect anything that will let us narrow things down all that much.

  • Teresa Thompson says:

    Hi Art,

    We are in Texas with 221 SI score for Class of 2017. Just heard the NMSC score to be a 209. Do you think Texas will go above a 221?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Teresa,
      I think 221 comes in safely above the Texas cutoff — even being cautious. Testmasters provided some useful data from the Houston area that helps establish a cap for Texas scores. Unlikely that Texas cutoff would even get to 220.

      • Teresa Thompson says:

        Art,

        Thank you……thank you …thank you! We appreciate all the hard work when it comes to dealing with all this National Merit change.

  • SAM says:

    Hi Art-
    How would a Commended Score of 209 impact your initial estimate of 212 for Wisconsin?
    Thanks!

    • Art Sawyer says:

      It moves the estimate to the high end of the original range. Based on the concordance data and the overall compression of Selection Indices, I was projecting a 5 point differential between Wisconsin and the Commended mark. I think it’s unlikely to fall below a 4 point differential. That puts my best guess at 213 or 214. Keep in mind that it’s a weird year.

  • Chi says:

    What would the cut off be for VA in your estimate based on 209 commended score

    • Art Sawyer says:

      The 209 Commended mark gives more clarity to the states with the lowest cutoffs than it does to the top-ranked states. Projecting from last year’s scores, it seems that Virginia will be at high end of our estimated range (so 219-221). But VA is also a good example of how cut-scores can bounce. The class of 2015 had an NMSF cutoff 3 points lower than the class of 2014 and the class of 2016, for example. There are going to be a lot of great students in a tight range of scores.

  • dan williamson says:

    art,my son scored a 1480 220si in florida.With comfirmation of a 209 commended can you see the florida cutoff going as high as 221?Thank you.

  • Earl says:

    I was wondering if you had given any more thought to Illinois. I read the thread above, and it looks like you discarded concordance table-based data in favor of anecdotal information from one school. When compared to other states, it seems out of whack. Of the six states whose cutoff was 215 last year, five of them are projected at 216 with Illinois alone rising to 218.
    Of the three schools that you have projected at 218, two are coming down from 220 last year while Illinois is coming up from 215.
    Even the schools that you have projected at 217 had cutoffs no lower than 217 last year.
    Why is Illinois such an anomaly? It looks like you based your number on the assumption that one school could not have fewer or more NMSFs than they had over a short sample of years. I question that assumption.
    Thanks.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Earl,
      I might use “refined” over “discarded,” but you are right that it is done so on anecdotal information. To understand why I gave it some priority, it’s important to remember the limitations of the concordance approach (or any purely algorithmic approach). It’s well established how horribly College Board mangled percentiles based on its study group. Concordance data also came from a study group. Right from the release, it became clear that the concordance data was the more accurate of the two — it better fit what we were seeing from practice test scaling and results and what we knew about the psychometrics of the new test. But the fact that the concordance data was more accurate does not make it perfect. Even if it had been well-constructed from a large sample, a concordance is not an equality and concordances can vary over differing populations. In fact, we held off on publishing our data until we could receive some confirmation from school data.

      Information from the National Hispanic Recognition Program and the Commended Scholar cutoff have helped establish figures in the 200-210 range. Outside of school/district data, though, I know of no alternative source for confirmation of figures on the high end. So far I haven’t seen anything outside of our estimated ranges, but I don’t expect our or anyone’s “most likely’s” to hit all the marks.

      I will probably revisit all 50 states next week, but it seems likely that states in the 210-218 range will go up 1 to 2 points for my estimates or, at least, see a skewing of the range to the high side [I say this because our Commended estimate of 207 was apparently 2 points low.]. The difference with Illinois is that I have already made that bump. Did I go too high with Illinois? Quite possibly for “most likely,” but I still like the 216-219 range. If pressed, I’d narrow it to 216-218. Illinois has also been more consistent than most of the other states at 215 for the class of 2016 — i.e. no down years.

      The tl;dr is that our estimates can only be estimates. I’m a big believer in questioning assumptions, so I appreciate your feedback and welcome any data.

      • sheri says:

        What do you think kentucky cut off will be? and commrnded cut off, My grandaugter has 205

        • Art Sawyer says:

          Sheri,
          The change in the PSAT for October 2015 also meant a change in scoring and score distribution. In previous years the Commended Student cutoff fell in the 201-203 range, but this year (the class of 2017) it is 209. We expect Kentucky’s Semifinalist cutoff to be about 5 points higher. Your granddaughter did quite well on the PSAT, but she is a little below the National Merit honors range.

  • Charles says:

    Hi Art — just wonder if you might have any further reflection on the likely cutoff in NY? Do you still think 217 is most likely or feel based on the commended score at 209, that it will actually end up higher? Thanks!

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Charles,
      I want to spend some more time revisiting things, but it’s likely that the NY estimate will move up from 217. See my response to Earl above for a windier explanation of why it will go up and why it’s still best to think about an estimated range rather than a single value.

  • Mary says:

    Hi Art,
    Thanks so much for all of your hard work. What do you think of a 222 in California in light of the new cutoff score for commended? We thought it was a safe bet but now, we have our doubts. Some are just saying that it will again be 223, same as last year.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Mary,
      This one is easy: it does not hit 223. Speculation that because Commended hit 209 that every other mark will be higher neglects to account for the downward pressure caused by the scaling change. One way to think about it is to consider how it has become harder to be “lopsided” and still make a 223 cutoff. Having an 80 in the mix — especially in Math — was a common occurrence for students at that level in the class of 2016 and earlier. Those students now max out at 760 (76). For that matter, so do students who would have scored 79, 78, and 77. Yes, that could arguably be offset by more students achieving scores in the 740-760 range, but we’ve seen enough results from California students/schools to be confident that the cutoff will decrease from last year. Whether it goes down 2, 3, or 4 points is a tighter call. I’ve reevaluated California in light of the 209 cutoff, and I won’t be changing my estimates (although 218 is unlikely). Sounds like your S/D nailed the test!

  • Diane says:

    Hi Art,
    Wondering what your thoughts are regarding Michigan’s cut offs in light of the fact that the state switched over from the ACT to the SAT this year and therefore considerably more students took the PSAT than ever before. Thanks!

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Diane,
      I’ve prepared this response quickly, so I apologize if it jumps around. This is a fascinating question because, as far as I know, the shift we are seeing in states such as Michigan and Illinois is unprecedented. Prior wins for College Board involved states where it already had a dominant presence. Some of the analysis into the impact is stymied by the lack of data from the College Board. Typically, we would have state-by-state breakdowns that would at least give the number of students by subject in each 50 point score range. However, College Board is in crisis mode preparing for New SAT results, and all non-essential reporting has been delayed. [Conspiracy theorists might see other reasons for the delay.]

      Historically, only about 1 in 4 Michigan students took the PSAT. What is the potential impact of statewide testing? An important thing to bear in mind is that the cutoffs only depend on the number of top scoring students taking the exam. Statewide testing may increase the number of overall testers without increasing the number of top scoring students — we know, for example, that full testing is more likely to include students not on traditional college-bound tracks. In looking at a number of indicators, though, it does appear that Michigan could be looking at a substantial increase in NMSF cutoff. Two things I’ve examined quickly are the historical % of PSAT testers in Michigan qualifying as Semifinalists and the number of high scoring ACT testers.

      A given is that the number of Semifinalists in Michigan will not increase, since the slots are apportioned by student population. Historically, a bit over 2% of Michigan PSAT testers achieved Semifinalist honors. [I am using NMSC’s 2014 Annual Report.] This is double the national rate. The difference makes sense given less competition for those honors. I plotted the ratio of Semifinalists to PSAT testers for all 50 states and found a distinct inverse relationship between that ratio and Selection Index cutoff. [I may be able to post the chart at a later point.] States with the lowest ratio of SFs to testers such as New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut tend to have the highest (or higher) cutoffs. States with the highest ratio of SF to testers such as Wisconsin, Michigan, and Iowa tend to have lower cutoffs. The 11 states with 2% or more of testers achieving NMSF honors had cutoffs ranging from 203-213 (old PSAT). The 14 states with 1% or fewer testers achieving NMSF honors had cutoffs ranging from 214-224. Why is all of this math important? If Michigan tripled or quadrupled its PSAT testers in Oct 2015, it would move from the first group to the second.

      A quick reality check is the number of high scoring ACT testers Michigan has. Was there a large untapped reservoir of top testers who weren’t taking the PSAT in previous years and now are? A cursory look says “yes.” Michigan’s SF cutoff has remained consistent (until now) at 210, and the state has approximately 600 Semifinalists. VERY roughly, I estimate that students scoring a 33 or higher on the ACT would compare to students scoring 210 or higher on the junior year PSAT. Michigan has about 1,000 students each year scoring 34 or better on the ACT and 2,000 students each year scoring 33 or better.

      The bottom line is that Michigan is getting more competitive. As I said at the outset, the scope of the change is unprecedented and somewhat unpredictable. And I’d really like some hard data from Michigan. Based on comparable states, though, I can see Michigan’s cutoff increasing by as many as 5-10 points! Will it increase that much this year? Did all those high achievers show up for the PSAT? Will any of this speculation pan out? It will be interesting to see. At minimum, I need to factor in at least a dampened version of this into my estimates. I suspect this is also why we may be seeing upward pressure in Illinois.

      • Diane says:

        Hi Art,

        Thanks for the detailed response. I was thinking along the same lines and will be very curious to see where you put Michigan estimates going forward. I am hoping that the state doesn’t go quite as high as DC/NJ. Selfishly, my son has a 221 SI and we are hoping that he makes NMSF. Do you think any state will go up to 222 or higher?

  • Nancy Ellis says:

    is the commended score of 209 FINAL? is this across the US, for all states? my daughter scored a 208(FL).
    🙁

  • nancy says:

    Is the Commended score of 209 FINAL? is that across the US for all states? My daughter has SI of 208(FL). 🙁

    • Art Sawyer says:

      NMSC does not officially announce the level until they announce winners in the late summer, but they have been telling callers that the Commended level is 209. I don’t think they would go out on a limb unless they were confident. So 209 can’t be called “FINAL,” but it’s highly likely to stick. It’s tough when students come so close; she has a great start toward top-notch SAT scores.

  • Tim says:

    Hi Art,

    Since states like MI and IL (perhaps others) have gone to state-wide testing, I’m presuming that the total number of those taking the PSAT increased as well. Due to this increase, do you think the number of NMSFs will be increased to say, 17,000 or 18,000, to reflect the increased number of overall test-takers?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Tim,
      It looks like total testers went up from 1,595,486 juniors to 1,724,416 (not all testers are NM eligible, but that makes little difference year-to-year). NMSC has not hinted at any increase. They are independent from College Board and have to think about their own funding abilities. Furthermore, an increase would be cold comfort to Michigan students. Adding 1,000 extra Semifinalists would mean 6% more of them in Michigan — even if the number of testers triples or quadruples. While NMSC and College Board share some of the promotional goals of the PSAT, they have different strategies. College Board want the PSAT family (NMSQT, 10, 8/9) to become accepted at the state level. NMSC could care less about those sorts of things.

      • John says:

        Comments like Tim’s regarding Illinois makes me curious. I first heard about the switch to the state-wide SAT on Dec. 9, 2015 while attending a college application seminar at my son’s HS. They were discussing the uncertainty it created for spring testing plans. Our district decided to give the ACT to Juniors later this month, even if the district had to cover the costs. Googling, news articles for the switch do not appear until December 21, 2015 when the ACT filed a complaint about the decision. These articles indicate that the decision was made in November.
        Nobody that I know had any knowledge of the change in October, and I can’t see how this change affects the numbers for the Class of 2017 given the timing of the change.
        Did I miss something? Does anyone have any information that would indicate that enough people in Illinois knew about this to affect the numbers for last year’s test?

  • Robert says:

    Hi Art,
    This site is extremely interesting. Thanks for your hard work in putting together these estimates. I’m curious how stable your estimates are for the states with smaller populations. That is does a small sample size introduce more variance relative to your likely predictions. I got a bit spooked when my daughter got the notice that 209 was the commended cutoff this year, but your argument for compression of the higher range of scores relative to previous years as well as their relative stability is convincing. She has a 221 si in NH so it appears that’ll be a very safe score again this year.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Robert,
      The big state/small state issue happens to be something that I’ve been looking at, because year-to-year variability is an important caveat and the reason why I like to think in terms of ranges. New Hampshire’s cutoff has been relatively stable over the last 7 years. It has been 11-14 points above the Commended cutoff. Before you get more spooked, that is 11-14 points on the old scale; it should be nothing close to that this year. As with many states, New Hampshire is now more likely to fall near the top end of my original estimate (211-216) or, at the outside, a point above (still working on adjusting overall estimates). Your daughter is very safe at 221.

  • John says:

    Hello, my son scored a 213 in Alabama, do you believe that this score will qualify for semifinalist status in light of the commended cutoff of 209? Thanks!

    • Art Sawyer says:

      John,
      I expect that my estimated range for Alabama will rise from the original 209-214 estimate, but your son’s score would still fall near the middle of a revised range. Even within the last 3 years Alabama has bounced around (+2, -4, +2), so I do not think that we’ll be able to be any more accurate than that. Best of luck come September!

  • Stacy says:

    Has any state ever had a National Merit Semifinalist below the commended score?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      No, only students scoring at the Commended level or above are eligible for NMSF status, so no state can have a Semifinalist cutoff below the national Commended cutoff.

  • JJ says:

    My daughter just received mail from NMSQT stating that the cutoff was 209 and that of the 50,000 high scorers, 16,000 would be named Smeifinalists. We are homeschoolers from the state of Maine. In previous years I have had students score 215, 234 and 233 and all qualify. This daughter has scored a 218. Do you fell confident that will be sufficient this year in Maine?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      I feel confident that 218 will be sufficient. Maine did have a big up year in 2014, but even then it was tied for 25th in terms of cutoffs. Based on the concordance and compression information and where Maine stacks up against other states, I don’t see any evidence that the cutoff would move above 218. [As an aside, that’s quite the homeschool you must have.]

  • JJ says:

    I credit The Potter’s School and their outstanding live online academic instruction. They provide excellent college prep academics. Our first child is excelling in nursing school and the next two at US Air Force Academy. Congrats to all and many thanks for the help. This is a crazy year.

  • CeeCee says:

    Art-

    What are your thoughts for Nevada with the commended level estimated at 209? Do you think that the score will necessarily move upwards? Wondering if a score of 212 is likely to make it or not this year?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      CeeCee,
      Take all estimates — no matter the source — with a grain of salt, but I do see my range and most likely moving up by at least a point for Nevada. Your 212 would still be in the possible range of cutoffs. Nevada has had up and down years, so I wouldn’t get discouraged.

  • PicoSM says:

    Hi Art,

    You mentioned that you might be updating your projections in light of information that a score of 209 qualifies for commended status. Was wondering whether you have seen any recent evidence that California will exceed your projected range of 218-221?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      PicoSM,
      I’ve had a chance to update the page with new estimates. We now expect California to fall in the 219 to 222 range. I no longer think that it can go as low as 218. I consider 222 very unlikely on the high side, but I did not feel that I could completely exclude it from the range. I’ll have more details on the methodology later this week.

  • avinash dalmia says:

    What happens when there is a tie for NMSF in a state

    • Art Sawyer says:

      NMSF cutoffs are calculated by NMSC to come as close as possible to producing the correct number of Semifinalists for a given state. If the cutoff is 215, for example, all students in that state with scores of 215 or above will qualify (as long as they meet the other conditions for participation). So there is no need for a tie-breaker.

  • Gayle says:

    Art-
    With Commended being at 209, is a 210 for the state of Iowa not likely to be in the range of Semifinalist? I believe you were predicting 212 earlier.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Given the Commended cutoff at 209, my model now has Iowa falling 211 – 215 range. Unfortunately, Iowa is unlikely to come in only a point above the Commended cutoff.

  • Ryan says:

    Art,
    Considering the Commended score of 209, how does that change the outlook of a 216 in Oklahoma?

  • Dan Williamson says:

    Art,first thank you for your efforts and the kind way you deal with us in our zeal to see good things happen for our children. I can sense your desire to help is sincere.Secondly, I signed up for your newsletter.How often does that come out?

  • Ethan says:

    Thanks for all of this, Art. I’m wondering if you want to comment on these questions. I have my own theories, but I’d love to hear from someone who is more intimately connected with the admissions testing world: 1) Was this compression at the high end of the PSAT curve intentional on the part of the College Board? 2) Will this compression hold up in the actual SAT scores, or is it a symptom of the decreased 1520 cap for total score? 3) If this was intentional, why would the College Board prefer a compressed upper end to the longer “tail” of the previous exams?

    Unrelated to the questions above, do you have any evidence as to whether or not the College Board will release state reports or a new concordance scale around mid-May as they said they would?

    And yes, as the parent of twins who each scored a 223 in DC and are considering a couple of schools where NMSF status matters, I’m finding this year very frustrating.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Ethan,
      It has taken a few days to respond because your questions don’t lend themselves to short answers — at least not from someone who thinks equating and scaling is as interesting as NBA basketball. In fact, I’ve had to create a new post on the “compression” topic so as to avoid cluttering the comments section.

      I’ll answer your last questions here. A concordance scale for the New SAT will absolutely be released in mid-May or College Board is in for a long, hot summer. We have been told that a “final” PSAT concordance will also be published, but I suspect that this one will appear only time permitting. There is not the same urgency to concord PSAT scores. In that same category I would put the PSAT state reports. We’ve been told to expect them, but I’m not rearranging my calendar. If you are hoping to find out more information on National Merit cutoffs, you are likely to be disappointed. There may be clues here and there, but except in a special case such as Michigan’s, I don’t expect them to narrow down cutoff estimates. As you can imagine, College Board is going to have its hands full in May.

      I should also congratulate your twins and point out that their 446 combined scores are likely among the highest in the country. I imagine that the identical scores also contribute to family harmony. Although 224 does have an outside chance of being the DC cutoff, I feel pretty confident that it will top off at 222 or 223.

      Feel free to try to stump me on any other questions.

  • Rich says:

    Art, thanks for your continued efforts. I did read your comment about looking at the range and not just the most likely. I see Alaska is now set one point lower than Utah, however Alaska has had an previous average psat score that is higher than Utahs’. My daughter has a 212 in Utah, I’m wondering if you have additional information that caused that difference. Thanks again.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Rich,
      Alaska is a state that deserves a big asterisk and has not yet received it (that’s why it still needs to be increased). The 206 from class of 2016 was well outside of the norm. One of the data points that I looked at behind the scenes was a weighted average of the last 7 years. Alaska’s class of 2016 cutoff is a full 4 points below that figure. I will be updating Alaska with that caveat and trying to figure out the best way to note it — probably with an expanded range.

      Utah has been more (not completely) consistent at 4-5 points above the Commended mark (on the old PSAT). That range will narrow with score compression on the New PSAT but will probably fall in the 3-4 point range. My look at weighted average gave the coin toss for “most likely” to 213. Your daughter’s score, though, is right in the mix.

  • Jim says:

    Hi Art,
    Great information

    Has final guidance been issued of whether old SAT scores will count as confirmation of qualifying PSAT

    SAT taken Sept 2015 with score of 2340. Then took PSAT shortly thereafter with score of 223. School guidance counselor are saying that new SAT has to be taken to qualify for NMSC.

    Thanks

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Jim,
      Final final guidance won’t be issued until NMSC publishes its Requirements and Instructions for Semifinalists in late summer. The information we received from College Board was that old SAT scores would be accepted. It would seem silly for NMSC to do otherwise. In previous years, Semifinalists have been allowed to use SAT scores from October of sophomore year through December of senior year. Lopping off all old SAT scores would be an unfair penalty to the class of 2017. If colleges can use a concordance for admission decisions, NMSC can certainly use one for confirming scores. I can understand why, given your son’s SAT score of 2340, he wouldn’t want to bother taking the New SAT. My recommendation is not to accept my answer or your guidance counselor’s. I would contact NMSC and see if it has finalized its decision.

  • Matthew says:

    Hi Art,

    Your information is extremely helpful, but I do have one question: is there any wiggle room in the Alabama range? I have a 217 which, according to the range, should qualify. I know there is a degree of uncertainty with this; however, do you feel confident that the Alabama Semifinalist cutoff will be below my score.

    Thank you.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Matthew,
      Your timing is good, because I just published a new post on a) why estimates can be wrong and b) how I think they are right (or, at least, how I developed them). I am assuming that you mean “at or below my score,” since you will qualify as an NMSF as long as Alabama’s cutoff does not hit 218. You are two points clear of my estimated range. I looked at Alabama’s history over the last 8 years, and the cutoff has never come in above 211 (old PSAT). Even with that sort of “up year,” Alabama should be no higher than 217 (New PSAT). Your state cutoff has sometimes been as much as 9 points over the national Commended mark, so should you be concerned? I don’t think so, because the compression of this year’s Selection Index scores means that a 9 point differential on the old PSAT is more like a 6 point differential on the New PSAT. I like the odds a lot in your case.

  • Krishna says:

    Hi Art

    My son has a SI of 220 in the PSAT from Texas. Wanted to get your view on his chances of getting included in NMSF. – Thanks

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Krishna,
      Texas at 221 would be very surprising — especially because what it would mean for California and other states traditionally having higher cutoffs. Your son’s chances should be quite good at 220.

  • Rachel Weill says:

    Thank you for your current update. Unfortunately the excitement our family had at my daughter being in the “99%” and a score of 219 is unfounded as the cut-off for New Jersey seems to be as high as 222? Understanding the dynamics of education in New Jersey, I am not surprised but wondering if there is any hope for the score to reach 219?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Rachel,
      I hope your daughter still takes excitement at her excellent PSAT score. It would be high enough in most states in the country and certainly positions her well for the SAT. Unfortunately, I think it is very unlikely that New Jersey’s cutoff falls to 219. The state consistently sets the benchmark at the high end, and we’ve seen enough students scoring at 220 and above in other states to make me think that New Jersey will fill its Semifinalist allotment before even reaching 220.

  • CR says:

    Hi Art,

    I understand you have VA at 219. My D has a 218. Is there any chance that VA can be 218?

  • John Slaughter says:

    Hello Art,

    Thanks so much for sharing your expertise. How does it look for my son with a 215 in Indiana?

    Thanks!

    • Art Sawyer says:

      John,
      Your son’s score is right in the heart of Indiana’s estimated range. I don’t see anything that jumps out when looking at the data — Indiana’s historical average is right in line with its class of 2016 cutoff, its expected cutoff is far enough above the Commended cutoff to have unpredictability both up and down, and the state has a mid-sized testing population with no known shifts. Fingers crossed for September.

  • Candace says:

    Your patient responses here have been very helpful. Even though I feel like I see the writing on the wall I can’t stop myself from asking you about the chances of a 212 making the cut in Tennessee.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Candace,
      For every parent or student willing to ask a question, there are many more who can learn from those questions. So, thank you for asking. Under the scoring of the old PSAT, Tennessee’s cutoffs were 9 to 12 points above the Commended mark over the last 8 years. That gap will decline this year. Under the various models I have made, however, the most likely difference is 5 to 7 points. That would establish a range of 214 to 216. For the reasons I’ve detailed elsewhere, state cutoffs can have unexpected moves, which is why I am more comfortable stating Tennessee’s cutoff as falling in the 213 to 217 range. Tennessee has not experienced wide fluctuations in scores, and the class of 2016 cutoff was right in line with the historical average. Unfortunately, that means a 212 is likely to miss the class of 2017 cutoff. There will always be some states that surprise.

      • Candace says:

        Thank you for your kind and patient yet disappointing response. Please don’t be offended that this family is certainly hoping your estimates, at least in our state, are skewed. None the less, I appreciate all of your thoughtful work on the matter.

  • Jenny says:

    Hi Art,
    Do you know anything about us students studying abroad? I heard the cutoff is higher than in the states.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Jenny,
      Yes, U.S. students studying abroad have a cutoff matching that of the highest state. In addition to the 50 state cutoffs, National Merit has several additional selection units — DC, U.S. territories, U.S. students in other countries, and boarding schools (divided into regions). The foreign countries selection unit cutoff and DC cutoff match that of the highest state, so you are likely to have a cutoff between 221 and 224 (I think 222 is most likely). Students in US territories — Puerto Rico, Guam, Northern Marianas, United States Virgin Islands and American Samoa — traditionally have a cutoff at the Commended level (209 this year). You can see the historical values and my estimates listed under “zz – Outside U.S.” for sorting purposes.

  • Parimala says:

    Mr. Sawyer:
    Do you know based on all previous year statistics, what will be the cut off for Oklahoma.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Parimala,
      Oklahoma is another state that hasn’t shown tremendous variability. The class of 2016 was at 208 cutoff on the old PSAT Selection Index, and none of the last 8 years have been more than + or -2 points. The 208 is also right in line with the weighted average I calculated of 207.8. I think the 208 is most likely to translate to a 213 for the class of 2017. I think it could easily be anywhere from 211-215 given previous fluctuations. You can compare Oklahoma to New Mexico. They both had a 208 cutoff for the class of 2016, but my most likely for New Mexico is 214. That’s because New Mexico had a particularly “down” year last year, and I factored that into my estimate. Good luck.

  • Susan says:

    How does 214 in Mississippi look to you? Last year their cutoff score was up 2 points from the previous two years. I see it’s within your predicted range, but sitting on this fence waiting is no fun for any of us. Especially when my daughter accidentally answered two of the math questions on the same line and both were marked incorrect when she actually had both right (which would have increased her score).

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Mississippi is a really interesting case. The state is one of the few examples of steady upward progress in cutoffs. In fact, it has had the highest net change in cutoffs over the last 8 years. I looked a little more closely at what was driving this. Was it a higher number of PSAT students? No, 5,745 juniors took the October 2014 PSAT and 5,995 juniors took the October 2008 PSAT. What is very different is the number of top scorers. Looking at students who received 70-80 scores in 2008: 2.7% CR, 1.4% M, and 3.1% W. By the 2014 test, those figures were 3.4% CR, 3% M, and 5.6% W! One could attribute this to an improved curriculum (or at least a test friendlier one). But a more likely reason is an influx of jobs for the highly educated. Over a less compressed period, we’ve observed the same thing in California and Silicon Valley. The data I’ve cited above is what College Board would have usually released in January. We may still see a release this month or next, but there is no guarantee. That wouldn’t answer all of our questions, but it might indicate whether or not MS will see another up year.

      What does this digression say about the scores for the class of 2017? If Mississippi students are largely unchanged, then a 214 looks very strong (although a 215 cutoff is possible). If MS students continue a trend upward, then 214 is still right in the mix (maybe even the most likely), but the chance of a 215 cutoff grows. Under either scenario, I’m afraid, you’re going to still be sitting on that fence. Best of luck to your daughter. September is getting closer.

      • Cooper says:

        With a possible increase in cutoff as you mentioned, is a 215 in Mississippi safe? Is there any realistic way in which a 215 wouldn’t pass the cutoff for Mississippi?

        • Art Sawyer says:

          Cooper,
          I’ve tried to keep my ranges conservative (i.e. have them broad enough to cover the most likely scenarios). Is there the possibility that the cutoff could rise as high as 216? It’s unlikely, but a case could be made. If you look at other states with cutoffs of 209 last year, I estimated an upper bound of 216. Mississippi’s was estimated lower because the state’s multi-year average is lower. However, as I point out in the comment here, Mississippi seems to be on the rise. I think you have a very strong NMSF chance at 215, but I usually withhold “safe” for scores that fall above my estimated range. As I said, I’m being conservative. Good luck!

  • John says:

    Art,

    Any thoughts on how the new SAT will be used to determine a qualifying score for National Merit Finalist? In the past, there was a calculation uaing the math subscore pluse the critical reading and the writing skills subscore. The new SAT score is based upon the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Score (which is Reading plus writing x10) plus Math Score (Math subsection x 20). Will they use this number or likely go with the same breakdown used to calculate the selection index on the PSAT which is the 3 subscores x2? It would only seam logical to use the same method that they used to calculated the SI on the PSAT. Any thoughts?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      John,
      NMSC had to do some knot twisting in the past because they wanted to use a Writing score unpolluted by the essay. Now that the essay is not a part of the 1600 score, things should be simpler. The two most likely candidates seem:
      1) They use the SAT Total score (400-1600) based on a concordance of the old standard. Depending on how they do this, I’d expect somewhere in the ballpark of 1360-1380 as the confirming score.
      2) They feel the need to keep the weighting of CR and W as with the SI. Since EBRW is an equal weighting of reading and writing, the standard could be M + 2xEBRW and about 2020-2060.

      I have not yet heard how they are leaning. For students who took the old SAT, I expect the standard to remain at about 1960 (although you do need to multiply the writing skills subscore by 10). Most NMSFs are able to meet the confirmation bar. I think you know this, but I’ll mention it for any others — the confirmation score is a national standard and is not driven up or down by the student’s own PSAT score or the cutoff for the student’s state.

      • John says:

        Art,

        Any new thoughts on confirming score based upon the revised concordance tables floating around? My son has a 35 on his ACT, a 218 in Louisiana on his PSAT but only managed a 1410 on his SAT. He will use his ACT for admission. I do not want him to have to retake the SAT if his 1410 would be good enough to confirm.

        Thanks

        • Art Sawyer says:

          John,
          You probably have already read my unfavorable opinion of the new concordance. However, NMSC might use the new tables in determining a confirming score cutoff to qualify as a Finalist (to my knowledge, they have never come out and said what their methodology is — past or present). The new concordance has about a 30-40 point swing in scores over the critical range. Even with the change, though, I don’t see the new cutoff falling north of 1400. If they use percentile rank rather than concordance, it works even more in your son’s favor because of this year’s inflated percentiles. The previous confirming level of 1960 would have been 92nd percentile (using the current definition). Your son’s reported User percentile should be well above that. Should NMSC announce a higher level for confirming score, your son would still have several opportunities to take the SAT. Given his ACT/SAT performance, I think you are right in making the decision to stick with the ACT.

  • Steven says:

    My son has 218 in California. He got max in Math but a little weak in English that is why NMSI is lower. Based on your current data, what is the chance of him passing the cutoff?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Steven,
      Unfortunately, I don’t think that California will go below 219. Then again, I don’t expect all my estimates to be correct. Nothing College Board released with SAT scores and concordances on May 9-10 has been helpful in further refining cutoff projections, so my methodology post is still accurate on how the current estimates have been made. Nationally, of course, your son got a great PSAT score!

  • Nancy says:

    Great news is my daughter has a 218 in Florida. What has me worried is the D she made in the 1st semester of 9th grade in English where a teacher would not allow her to make up work when she missed nearly 3 weeks of school due to illness. My daughter repeated the class in the summer and our district practices grade replacement ( hallelujah) and she made an A.( The first year English teacher’s contract was not renewed.) At the end of her junior year, she has 7 APs and and an excellent GPA. Will that D, which still shows on her transcript but does not affect her GPA, keep her from qualifying as a Semi-finalist ? I read on the National Merit website that they want a record of high academic performance for all grades, 9 through 12.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Nancy,
      Your daughter’s grades will not keep her from being named a Semifinalist. As long as her junior PSAT core meets the cutoff — it appears that it will — and she fulfills citizenship requirements, she will be name a Semifinalist. Congratulations! Her transcript will only come into play at the Finalist stage. The selection process at that stage is more holistic and more opaque. I’ve heard anecdotal reports of C’s disqualifying students, but since NMSC does not specify why a student did not progress, it could have been because of overall GPA or other reasons. I do not know if the D alone will disqualify her. With a strong GPA and the support of her school (essential), I think she still has a good chance of progressing. She will also need to have a confirming SAT score. That score level has not been announced, but I estimate that it will be around a 1360-1380 SAT score. You can get full requirements here. Again, these additional requirements are not necessary to be named a NMSF.

  • Josiah L says:

    Hello, thanks for the informative article. I do have a question, however, about the qualifying score. So I’m a student (Junior), and I took the new PSAT last fall. I did a large amount of prep work for the PSAT in the summer before the test, and I had gotten my score to roughly the 218-222 range (old scale). On the new test, I received a 1430. I was wondering what your estimate scale is based off of. Is it simply proportional to the old scale (score divided by 1520 X 240), or is it based off of the “national merit scholar index” provided in our score reports. If the latter is the case, I’m pretty shocked that your estimates are so high. The maximum score on the NMS Index was a 228, yet Texas’ score (where I’m from)(218-220 out of 228) is relatively unchanged from the old scale (222 out of possible 240) even though the maximum score has decreased greatly. I got a 211 on the Index, which, proportionately speaking, is equivalent to a 222 on the old test (211/228 * 240 = 222), but according to your score I would be falling well short of the NMS qualifying bar. I’m confused because I had consistently been scoring at the NMS range on the old test, yet your estimate has me falling considerably below it on the new test. Please help lol

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Josiah,
      I go more in-depth in a few of my other posts (here, here, and here), but I am happy to summarize. The estimates are based on the NM Selection Index. The simplest way to think about how College Board created the new scale is not to view it as a proportional change but to think about it as a “lopping off.” They cut away the possibility of scoring 229-240 (in part because the PSAT was never great at accurately handling the highest scores). This didn’t shift everyone down 12 points, but it did make it harder to get scores such as 222-228, because only a few mistakes brought students below that range. That change, though, had less of an impact on NMSF cutoffs than another: the elimination of the guessing penalty. Scores throughout most of the range were “inflated” by this change. So think about all of the lower scores being shoved upward. It’s not until the highest scores where the inflation runs out of steam and scores actually decline a bit. These two effects ended up “compressing” the NMSF cutoffs into a much narrower range than in prior years. Let me explain with actual scores: The average SI went up about 11 points (from 141 to 152). The Commended Scholar cutoff went up 7 points. [These two points are known.] By the time you get to 218-219, the inflation has disappeared and you run into the downward pressure of the lower top end scores. For scores above that range, the new cutoffs are a little lower than the old cutoffs. That’s why I expect Texas to fall 1 or 2 points. We’ve seen enough student data in Texas and California to validate the model.

      I’m not sure if you were practicing on official old PSATs or on practice material from other publishers — the latter is rarely reliable. If you were using old PSATs, perhaps the changes didn’t play to your strengths — not that most students wouldn’t love to have a 1430. Best of luck on the SAT or ACT!

  • John says:

    i’m in California with a 222. Do you think that California’s cut off will be higher than that?

  • Pico SM says:

    HI Art,

    Was wondering what impact, if any, the recent release of College Board’s conversation charts for the old vs. new SAT has had on your National Merit projections since there appears to have been some inflation in the scores by about 40-50 points between the old and new? Would this suggest that the PSAT cut-offs might be on the higher side of your ranges (or even above them?!) Also, was wondering if you have reviewed any additional data on California scores? Still feeling reasonably comfortable with a 220 cutoff?

    Thanks.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      The inflation we saw with the College Board’s SAT score release was almost a given, and it follows from the inflation seen on the PSAT. Also, if there had been any last-minute adjustments by CB for the SAT, they would not have retroactively impacted the PSAT. Nor are the concordance tables — even though they are more current — good for converting PSAT scores at the high end of the range because of the difference in scale end-points. We may yet see some additional PSAT data from College Board, but the SAT dump is not suited to NMSF projections.

      I have not seen any data that contradicts the estimated range for California.

  • John says:

    Hi! How do you think a 215 in Minnesota will fare?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      I don’t have any special information on Minnesota, so my estimated range is based on the model of previous cutoffs and what we know about new PSAT cutoffs. Although I’ve projected 216 as “most likely,” a 215 cutoff is right in the mix of my estimated range. Unfortunately, there is no way of making finer distinctions at this point.

  • John Cena says:

    hi
    do you think 215 is safe for alabama?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      I generally describe “safe” as scores at least a point above my projected ranges, since students with those scores are extremely likely to qualify as Semifinalists. The 215 is above my “most likely” cutoff of 214 for Alabama, but I consider 216 a possibility. Best of luck.

  • Elizabeth Stockmal says:

    Hi,
    Thanks for all the information. My son and several of his friends got a 224 in Pennsylvania. Does that mean they will most likely be Commended? If students scored above what you think the cut off is for any given state does that guarantee being Commended or does each state only take a set number of students?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      They will be named Semifinalists at 224 and will have the opportunity to progress further in the National Merit competition and qualify as Finalists or scholarship winners. Approximately 50,000 students scored 209 or above. Of those, 16,000 will be named Semifinalists and will continue on in the competition. The other 34,000 will be receive Commended honors. Semifinalist spots are allocated by state, so the cutoffs vary from state to state. A 224 Selection Index will almost certainly qualify in all states (and definitely will in Pennsylvania).

  • Mary says:

    Hello Again Art,
    Have you seen the revised concordance table that is floating around the internet today? The new tables make it look like a perfect PSAT score is needed for NMSF in California. We thought my daughter was safe with a 1480 and a 222 SI but according to the new tables, she will not make NMSF. Here is the link to the chart. http://imgur.com/YQTDzXZ
    Would you please weigh in on what you think this means for kids like mine who were counting on applying to schools that gave good merit aid for National Merit? Should we now cross those schools off of her list? Does this mean so many kids had near perfect scores that they are all bunched up at the highest levels? Thank you again!

    • Art Sawyer says:

      I’d be far more comfortable commenting if I had seen the full PDF. I’ll see if I can get my hands on it. Even with it, though, I’m inclined to believe my own eyes rather than College Board at this point. I know the scores we’ve seen in CA and other states, and there are simply not enough 225-228 scorers to make cutoffs go that high. Concordances go through what is known as “smoothing” to account for fluctuations in scores not attributable to ability levels and to bring things into line at end points. The top of a PSAT scale has to be about the worst possible case for an accurate concordance. I suspect that CB has prioritized making the PSAT concordance agree with the SAT concordance and not in making sure that the concordance makes sense from a National Merit perspective (it’s not applicable for NM, since it is not how NMSC will determine qualifying scores). The example page you provided is a point to point concordance and glosses over the fact that a point on one test can be thought of as a range.

      I need more convincing before I’ll believe that CA has gone above 222. It just doesn’t fit what we’ve seen in the real world.

  • thshadow says:

    (I was the one that posted it on college confidential:
    http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/discussion/comment/19703156/#Comment_19703156
    )

  • Aloha says:

    How does it look for my son with a 212 in Hawaii?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Hawaii’s cutoff is typically 11-12 points above the Commended score (209). The compression in scores will reduce that gap, but I think it unlikely that Hawaii’s NMSF cutoff will go below 214 this year.

  • Kathryn says:

    My daughter got a PSAT total score of 1430 (Eng- 710/Math- 720). Her SI was 214 in PA. According to your table, she won’t qualify for a National Merit Scholarship in PA, but do you think that she will at least make commendation?

    She took the new SAT and got a 1410 (Eng-660/Math-750). Her composite score on the ACT was 32. She is retaking the ACT in June, because she feels that she can bring up that score better than she can bring up the SAT. She is not planning to retake the SAT.

    Should she use her ACT score when applying to colleges?

    Thanks for your thoughts.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      The Commended cutoff is 209 this year. That’s a national mark, so your daughter will definitely receive National Merit honors.

      Your daughter’s ACT is a bit stronger than her SAT, so that would be the best score for her to use — even if she is not able to improve it. A few colleges expect students to submit all scores from all tests, but that should be a minor concern. I think her plan is a good one.

  • Tennessean says:

    Why are the required scores higher this year? Since the highest possible score is lower (down to a 228 this year from a 240 last year), I expected the cutoff scores to go down rather than up.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      That would seem to make sense, but it’s not quite the way it worked out. The oversimplified version is that the 228 is not so much a lowering of everyone’s scores but rather a truncating of the scale. It’s not quite that simple, because it is not easy to get a perfect score. So not everyone who would have score 229-240 on the old test automatically ended up with a 228. But those students do tend to be compressed into a much tighter range of scores than in the past. Perhaps the bigger impact is the change in question scoring. Dropping the guessing penalty had the impact of “inflating scores.” That’s why the Commended mark has gone up to 209 this year. So the “low end” of NMSF cutoffs have gone up, the highest NMSF cutoffs such as Massachusetts are likely to go down, and the middle will change accordingly. This is why we expect Tennessee to be several points higher than in previous years. You can read more about this in two follow-up posts on methodology and compression.

  • Suzy says:

    Hi Art,
    Did you get a chance to review the updated PSAT concordance that was linked in the comment above? Thoughts? It makes no sense to me that the concordance changed so drastically from the preliminary and makes cutoffs (based on concordance) look insanely high. The CB has not published these on their own site, so must be trying to hide the fact that the initial concordance and percentiles were so wrong and that is what was sent to high schools in January.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      I have had a chance to review it. Unfortunately I’ve not had a chance to complete my write-up (busy week with the Western Association for College Admission Counseling in Los Angeles this week). The other reason for the delay is that it adds no usable information for NMSF (I had hoped otherwise). My write-up will be more focused on some of the reasons such a concordance is inherently inaccurate.

      Supposedly CB is planning on publishing the update on June 3, although we’ve reached out to them with some feedback. There are flaws in both concordances (my “inherently inaccurate” again). In some ways, I trust the earlier version, because it was not placed into a forced alignment with the SAT concordance. They are not that dissimilar over much of the range. Obviously they diverge at the most important place for NMSF cutoffs. They want to publish the new concordance to try to lessen confusion as to why the PSAT and SAT would have different concordant values. They are republishing the same flawed percentiles, since nothing released for the SAT overtly contradicts them (we know that the SAT percentiles are also based on study samples). I will try to get something up, since I did make a promise. I can guarantee, though, that it will not change my estimates — there are simply too many questions about how they prepared it, whether it was truly a PSAT concordance or just a crib from the SAT concordance, and why it disagrees with the ACTUAL scores we are observing. Thanks for checking in and keeping me honest.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Suzy,
      I’ve now posted my take on the updated PSAT concordance. I still haven’t noticed that CB has published the new report to its website. As promised/warned, much of the post is geek discussion of concordances. The “new” concordance does not add anything useful to NMSF estimates.

  • MCarr says:

    Hi Art!
    Another anxious parent here! We’re in North Carolina and our son scored 1450 (750V/700math), 220 SI. Based on the early tables we were fairly he confident he was safe, but given the 209 commended cutoff, we’re not so sure now. Any chance NC goes to 221?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Anxiety is a primary parental role, so I’m happy to help. Your son seems quite safe with a 220 SI. The current estimates factor in the Commended cutoff of 209. It might seem that “the Commended cutoff has gone up 7 points, so couldn’t NC go up 6-7 points?” Again it circles back to the notion of cutoff compression. The top scoring states will not go up and will likely go down. There is simply no room for them to move up, and all of the score evidence at this point confirms the math. You can see more math in the methodology post, but if the cutoff is +7 from last year, the upper end score is -1, and the range between those scores is 13-14 points, then NC only moves up 3-5 points. I’ve intentionally put those figures at the high end of things. The data I’ve seen from CA, for instance, pegs the highest possible cutoff at 222 (and that’s unlikely). It seems impossible for there to be only a single point difference between CA and NC. I’d make sure that your son has a qualifying SAT score and a good relationship with his school, because I don’t see how he cannot be looking at moving on past Semifinalist status. Congratulations!

      • MCarr says:

        Yes, and I’ve taken that role very seriously!! 😉 That’s great news! And yes, he has a fantastic relationship with his school! Thanks so much!

      • MPK says:

        My daughter has 1470 in ca and her SI is 219. SI calculation as well is state wise? It doe snot make senses though.

        • Art Sawyer says:

          MPK,
          Are there particular things that you feel do not make sense? Yes, the SI cutoffs are done state-by-state. Your daughter should find out her status in the next two weeks.

          • Elizabeth says:

            I am confused too. Are the SI’s actually calculated differently in each state? I just thought the cutoffs were different. My son (GA) has an SI of 216 with a 1450 (710v/740m). The SC parent said that his child had an SI of 220 with the same overall score, but higher verbal/lower math. Are the verbal scores weighted more? I didn’t think so. His reading/writing/math were 35/36/37 respectively. Don’t you just add them up and double the score? My son is still holding out hope that your GA number is off. The school hasn’t announced anything yet and they usually have a few qualifiers.

          • Art Sawyer says:

            Elizabeth,
            The key is that the verbal (EBRW) score does receive twice as much weight. Or, viewed another weight, the verbal skills of reading and writing each get counted separately. In the formula that you mention at the bottom, note that there are two verbal scores (35 reading and 36 writing) but only one math score (37). The confusing part is that the reading and writing are blended to form a single 710 EBRW score. The math is converted to a 740 M. The formula that I prefer to use is based on the section scores: 2 x EBRW + Math (drop a zero). Your son’s 216 is 2 x 71 + 74 = 216. The student you mention with a 220 SI and the same 1450 must have had scores of 750 EBRW and 700 Math — 2×75 + 70 = 220. The two calculations do the same thing, but most people are familiar with the section scores. You are correct that the formula is universal.

            Unfortunately, all of the state cutoffs are accurate.

  • Suzy says:

    Your New Jersey range seems so high! Its hard to believe that so many kids in NJ could have only missed the 2 or 3 questions required to score that high end estimate number of 224. Are you just extrapolating the top score for NJ/DC based on the relative relationship to other states in the past? I think its quite possible that the top scoring states stop being just NJ and DC and may end up being NJ, DC, MA, and maybe even California!

    Thanks for your diligent and thorough work on this. You are a true professional!

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Suzy,
      If I were to conduct a draft of cutoffs for New Jersey, 222 would be my first pick, 221 would be my second, and 223 would get my nod at third. I don’t consider 224 a strong prospect, but I felt the need to include it as an admission that none of us has yet established the very upper end. I’ve tried to avoid making subsequent changes without some new evidence. I agree that 224 seems highly unlikely given the combination of factors it would require (not the least of which is where NJ would then stand relative to where I expect CA). I appreciate, of course, that you’d put CA in the mix of top states, but the realist in me suspects that there will still be a gap. Putting it in terms of rights and wrongs, California has always been 1-2 questions short of the top cutoff states. The lack of a guessing penalty might narrow things slightly, but the longer test would nudge things in the other direction. It will be an interesting September.

      And thank you!

  • Thompson says:

    Art,

    I am a super nervous parent about all the changes with the PSAT. Are you still comfortable with Texas being at a 220 or below? We are starting to visit colleges for NM information and do not want to waist their time nor ours. What is your advice? Holding in Texas with a 221!!

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Yes, I am still quite comfortable with that range. I don’t see a scenario where the Texas cutoff goes to 222. You are certainly not wasting time in pursuing these National Merit opportunities for your son or daughter.

  • Kate says:

    Hi Art,

    This information has been very helpful. We’re in NJ and my daughter spent last summer focused on the SAT. She took the old version and did amazing – even managing a perfect math score. Her PSAT score was a pleasant surprise (1450/216) since she hasn’t done particularly well on the PSAT as a sophomore. Obviously it’s highly unlikely she’ll go farther than commended scholar (we’re all very happy and proud for that). My question is what being a commended scholar does for a student as far as other scholarships and merit awards from colleges. What has your experience been with this? Thanks.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Kate,
      Few colleges have scholarship programs targeted toward Commended students. I’m not sure how comprehensive it is, but this site has several universities that do provide awards. Far more colleges offer academic scholarships based on SAT/ACT scores (usually with GPA requirements). I recommend the College Confidential scholarship forum as a great peer-to-peer resource.

      Congratulations on your daughter’s great PSAT progress and success!

  • nancy says:

    Hi Art–
    My daughter is sitting with a 221 SI in CA. She is hoping for a NM scholarship to USC (otherwise it is a long-shot financially). Do you have an estimated probability that 221 is sufficient?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Nancy,
      I don’t want to mislead you by claiming a mathematical probability on California’s cutoff. From the school data and concordance data I’ve seen, 221 seems like it will hold up in California, but I do consider 222 a possibility. In addition to its National Merit scholarships, USC has some excellent merit- and need-based aid (my Compass co-founder is a Trojan, so I’m obliged to give a plug).

  • Rachel says:

    Hi Art,
    My daughter has a 216 SI in Florida. I know she is barely making the expected cutoff, but what are the chances that Florida will be 217+ given that the highest score in past years was a 214. The 209 commended cutoff is scaring me. Do you think her score is sufficient? Thanks for all your help!

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Rachel,
      The expected increase in the Florida NMSF cutoff is not a matter of Florida breaking out of its historical range so much as it is a matter of the new test and scoring changing the cutoff range for all states. The 209 for Commended illustrates this exactly. Historically, the Commended level is very stable since it measures a relatively fixed number of students each year. In normal years, we wouldn’t expect it to change by more than a point in one direction or the other. The increase is about the changes in the test. As I’ve written elsewhere, another confusing part is that despite the increase in the Commended level, we expect the top states to have lower cutoff levels than in the past. Florida is in the middle of those extremes. My “most likely” figure of 216 implies that I think a 217 or greater cutoff is less likely than a lower figure, but there is too much uncertainty to assign a percentage.

  • John says:

    I am in Illinois with a 219. Which is what you have as the top end of your projection. Is a 219 safe or do I still need to worry. Thanks!

    • Art Sawyer says:

      John, I’ve tried to be fairly conservative in my ranges. It is highly unlikely that Illinois would hit 220. The 215 (old) for the class of 2016 was right in line with the 6-year weighted average, and Illinois has not had a cutoff higher than 216 (old) in the last 8 years. The fact that the state didn’t come up with the funding to do the intended switch to the PSAT means that there should be no reason to see Illinois jump out of range. It’s extremely unlikely that a 215/216 state would hit 220.

      • SK says:

        Art,
        My daughter in IL has 218 (710 EBRW + 760 Math)! Based on the figures from one of the Naperville schools, she falls in the edge as her School had 23 students in 2016 were selected for NMSF. Her School always had between 16 to 23 students/every year as NMSF except in 2011 they had 11 children. This year her School has only 10 students with 219 or higher. But 12 students including my daughter has 218! I am still keeping my fingers crossed that 218 will be the cutoff for IL. I know based on the above data you predicted 216-219 for Illinois in Feb 2016. Now with 5 months gone, do you draw any conclusion about IL based on the newly released concordance table, which scares me a bit. Though statistics looks like on my daughter side based on previous years NMSF from her School, I am still concerned as the time near by!

        • Art Sawyer says:

          I was interested in seeing how consistent the year-to-year NMSF numbers were for high schools in you area. The numbers show the difficulty of extrapolating from one school. I looked at Naperville Central, Naperville North, and Neuqua Valley for the classes of 2011 to 2016 (the PSAT dates would be 2009 to 2014). I’m not sure if the formatting will come through — the classes go from 2016 to 2011 left to right.
          2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011
          Naperville Central 17 23 14 23 12 22
          Naperville North 21 36 26 11 18 22
          Neuqua Valley 21 20 26 29 14 20
          As you can see, the swings can be quite large — doubling one year; halving the next. They have always managed to stay in double digits. I’m not sure if you’ve had a chance to see my update on the new concordance. I’ll spare you the read and say that the concordance contributed nothing of value. At this point, I think we’ll have to wait out the month. It does seem like your daughter has an excellent chance!

          • SK says:

            Hi Art,
            Thanks once again for your detailed report from Naperville schools. Yes, Naperville Central is the School she goes to. I guess we have to wait it out and see. It’s all the more difficult has she is planning to apply only to Chicago based colleges and one of them does consider NMF for full financial aid.
            Thanks,
            SK

  • Susan says:

    Hello from Idaho! My son has a SI of 214…seems like we are right in the gray area. I’ve seen other websites with predictions of 215 for Idaho. What are your thoughts?

    Thank you!!

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Susan, Idaho is a tough case because its cutoffs have moved around. While last year was at a 208 (old), the state has seen cutoffs as high as 211, and it’s 6-year weighted average is almost 210. I did factor this into my calculations, but I think 214/215 are right in the middle of expectations. It’s a case where you will have to keep the faith for another 2.5 months, I’m afraid.

  • Anonymous says:

    Hi Art,
    Thank you for the extremely helpful information! We were wondering if there are any good merit scholarship opportunities outside of National Merit for college. Our daughter got a 2350 on the old SAT and a 225 SI on the new PSAT (we live in California). She is really interested in STEM. Any information would be appreciated!
    Thanks for the help!

    • Art Sawyer says:

      You’ve gone beyond my area of expertise. I’d be surprised if there weren’t more colleges offering merit awards than those not offering them. Entirely need-based schools such as the Ivies and Amherst are exceptions. I’d recommend starting with a site such as Fastweb or College Confidential to explore the opportunities.

      Fabulous scores!

      • John Doe says:

        Mr. Sawyer,

        I’m a junior in Ohio, and I found out I got a score of 219 on the NMSQT selection index. It beats last year’s cutoff by 2 points, but I’ve heard that the cutoffs will rise dramatically in accordance with the new data released by CollegeBoard. https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/pdf/psat-nmsqt-understanding-scores-2016.pdf

        Was that data factored into your calculations? Do you think I’m safe?

        Thank you so much

        • Art Sawyer says:

          John,
          There are a lot of misconceptions floating around. The new data released is, in fact, old. The percentiles and means in Understanding are for the October 2015 PSAT (College Board traditionally lags reporting by 1 year). Since we already know the National Merit results from that test, the information in Understanding adds nothing to our estimates of what will happen on this year’s test. Commentators basing claims of higher scores solely on information in Understanding are, by definition, wrong. Everything in Understanding has to support the class of 2017 cutoffs because that’s where the data are from. Mind you, I am not saying that scores will not go up. I simply believe that no one is in a position to make or disprove the claim, yet. Until that time, the best data we have — which may not be great — are prior year cutoffs.

          For now, I really like your chances given that missing the cutoff requires a 3 point change in a large state such as Ohio. Then again, you should not believe everything you read on the internet. 😉

  • Confused In Texas says:

    Hi Art –
    My daughter’s PSAT was a 1480/221 here in Texas. She scored a 35 on her ACT and a 1560 on the new SAT. Are you still reasonably confident that the 221 will hold up for NMSF in Texas? And do you have any insight or opinion on whether she should use her ACT or her SAT score on her college applications? There is so much information out there regarding test score strategies that I am mostly just confused.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Confused,
      The evidence I’ve seen from modeling, from the Testmasters data for Houston, and the estimates for other states, the most likely values for Texas are 218/219. If you make assumptions that all skew in the same direction, you might have a case for a 220 cutoff. There is not an argument I’d believe for 221, and certainly not for 221. Congratulations!

      Her 35 and 1560 are about as interchangeable as you can get, so you have few concerns. She could submit either score or both and be in a very similar situation. Strategic decisions come into play when there are widely divergent scores or scores that are only achieved with superscoring. Your daughter has little to worry about.

  • Bill says:

    Art, I have a daughter in KS with a 220. Your thoughts?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Bill,
      My thoughts are very positive. Even had the estimates assumed that Kansas was at its high-water mark this year [the state hit 216 (old) for the class of 2014], my estimated range would have only had an upper bound of 219. And that class was an outlier.

  • Bill says:

    Art, thanks for your quick response. We are cautiously optimistic with the 220. She has a new SAT score of 1440. What do you think the qualifying score will be with the new SAT if she becomes a semifinalist?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Unlike the Semifinalist cutoffs that fit a very specific goal — produce the right number of students in each state — the confirming score to qualify as a Finalist is more of an NMSC judgment call. Historically, the figure has always come in slightly below the comparable SAT score, so I see 1400 as the upper bound. I’m expecting around 1360-1380.

  • ht says:

    Art,
    Is the 209 Commended official now ? thanks in advance.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      As official as we will get this summer. NMSC has confirmed the value in phone calls with parents and via mail sent to home-school students (since they don’t have principals). The press release won’t come out until September, but there is absolutely nothing that indicates anything other than 209.

  • Kathleen Winschel says:

    Hi Art. Thanks for so much helpful information. My son’s 214 is right at your estimate for Missouri. I skimmed through the posts but didn’t see any Missourians. Do you think he has a good chance at SF?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Kathleen,
      Missouri is like a number of the “mid-pack” states that are likely to fall anywhere from 4-7 points above the Commended level. The state is interesting because it has seen real change in its scores over the last few years. The SF cutoff was as high as 213 for the classes of 2014 and 2012. It was at 209 for the classes of 2015 and 2016. That’s why I estimated it a point higher than some of the other 209 (old PSAT) states. If Missouri has the sort of year it had in 2014, then I’m not sure that you son would make it. If the state has a year like last year, then I’d put his odds at least at 50/50. It’s unlikely that we’ll know much more before September. Best of luck!

  • Megan says:

    Art,

    I’m in Texas and I got a 1500 PSAT – 225 SI. Assuming I get NMSF, I’m concerned about qualifying for Finalist standing. I’m a homeschooler with a 4.0 unweighted GPA. My old SAT is a 2190 and my new SAT is a 1470. I’m planning to retake the SAT the first time it is offered this upcoming school year. What do you think about my current scores – are they enough to qualify me? Thanks!

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Megan, both of your scores should be high enough to qualify. Your old SAT score is about 200 points above the historic qualifying cutoff and NMSC has said that they will consider old SAT scores. While we don’t know the new SAT cutoff, it seems highly unlikely that it would go above 1400. Congratulations! Check in with NMSC if you have not received any correspondence from them (they wouldn’t have announced SF, of course, but you should have received a letter).

  • df says:

    Art,
    This is all greek to me and hadn’t checked in months. My child received a 225/1500 in DC. I had assumed that was a safe score but just heard from a co-worker that might not be the case. Your updated estimates seem to confirm 225 is about as safe as can be. Any chance my co-worker is right and the College Board has been misdirecting the experts such as you? Thanks and sorry for my ignorance. Child did not get the smarts from me.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      I shouldn’t say there is no chance that your co-worker is right, but there is very little chance that your co-worker is right. All of the statistical data and student data we’ve seen points to a ceiling in the 222-224 range. While an individual state might have a breakout year, the NJ/DC set starts hitting the limits of the score range. You cannot be lopsided on the new PSAT and reach that level in the way you could on the old PSAT. A 226 cutoff is almost inconceivable. That’s good of you to give your child all the credit!

  • Francine says:

    Art, thanks so much for what you do! If a child is not homeschooled, is all the correspondence regarding nmsf this coming September sent only to the schools? Don’t the kids get ANYTHING directly from the Board? My son found out he is in the running for 2017 (with a 226 in NY) from the principal at the National Honor Society Inductions in April.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Thank you, Francine. I enjoy helping out.

      It seems somewhat archaic in the internet/social media era, but all NMSF notifications filter through the schools (except for homeschoolers). This can lead to a period of intense anxiety, since schools have different policies –and different levels of promptness — about notifications. Some students in a state will hear before others. Some principals misunderstand the public announcement embargo date (NMSC likes to send out press releases all at once) as a restriction on when they tell the Semifinalists. Some schools may not be in session. The good news is that your son is a lock in NY. Although Finalist applications are delivered to NMSC through the schools, Finalist notifications come direct to a student’s home!

  • Paul says:

    Art,
    My son has recently found out that at his high school in Iowa that typically has 2-4 students make NMF that 5 have scores of 216 or higher. Do you see any information to support higher estimates in Iowa or likely outliers? Thanks for your thoughts.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Paul,
      That’s such a small sample that I’m hesitate to speculate. It’s very easy for a school to have a cluster of high scoring students without it indicating a statewide trend. Thank you for passing the information along!

  • Brian says:

    I’m curious why the Commended Student score of 209 seems to be so much higher, but your estimate for the NMSF is not. Last year the Commended Student cut off was 202, so the jump to 209 seems quite high, but you don’t show the same increases in the NMSF numbers from prior years. I am from New York. My daughter got a 220 on the PSAT (1460), which seems fairly safe as it is at the top of your range, but that assumes that there is not a bigger jump in the numbers. (FYI, she got a 35 composite on the ACT, so she didn’t take the SAT. She may take it if she becomes a NMSF.) Thanks.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Brian,
      It looks like I neglected to get back to you on this. The reason the 209 is so much higher than previous years has to do with the way the PSAT has changed. With the shift to no guessing penalty and 4 answer choices, there is an “inflation” in raw and scaled scores. However, this head start essentially evaporates as you get to the highest end of the scale. Also, the lowering of the top section scores from 80 to 760 (76) means that it is harder for a “lopsided” student to offset any weaknesses. So while it was easier to achieve a 209 on the October 2015 PSAT, it was just as hard or harder to reach a 220+. A more detailed explanation can be found in my discussion of score compression or my posts detailing my methodology for estimates here and here. New York is right on the cusp of that shift. I expect its NMSF cutoff to be similar to that of prior years.

      That’s great that your daughter has tied up her testing with her 35. I doubt she would have much problem at all putting up a qualifying score if she has the opportunity to move on to the Finalist competition.

  • CA538 says:

    Art – Any sense of when there will be a release or public information about the actual state cut off scores – we heard there will not be State Summary reports issued by the College Board and there is speculation that NMSF cut offs will be known by early Sept by homeschoolers, but it is unclear how students in various schools will find out or each state’s cut off will become known for sure. Can you share your thoughts on this?

    Many thanks!

    • Art Sawyer says:

      It’s over the next month where things can get the most frustrating for students, because information flows through the schools. NMSC does not officially announce state cut-offs. Instead, those are learned from counselors, crowd sourcing (I recommend collegeconfidential.com as a place where students will be sharing results), and insider releases. NMSC sets a “Press Release” date each year when news organizations are given lists of students receiving honors. Last year the date was 09/09 (the Wednesday after Labor Day). Schools will receive the information earlier, but some will not pass it along until the public release date. Last year scores started to roll in about a week before the PR date. After the public release date, NMSC will sometimes give cut-off information to parents who call. If thousands of parents start calling, of course, they won’t be able to help. Your first stop — once results start coming out — should be with your high school. I’ll certainly be updating things regularly on this page, but I’ll be dependent on the same public sources unless a kind insider wants to end the waiting game.

      The fact that NMSF results don’t get into student’s hands until the principal or counseling team passes along the information means that Anytown West students may know NMSF status, whereas Anytown East students are left wondering: “Did I not hear because I didn’t make NMSF? Did I not hear because the school hasn’t given me the information yet? I wonder what the cut-off is?” Homeschool students, AFAIK, are not notified before other schools, but homeschool students will generally hear without the principal/counseling office slowing things down. The crowd sourcing of information can be fast in some states and slow in others. A student with a 222 Selection Index who qualifies in TX, for example, tells us that the cut-off has to be at or below 222, but we wouldn’t know the exact cut-off until there are students on either side of the line — score 21x was Commended; score 21x + 1 was Semifinalist. We’re likely to know the cut-off for big states more quickly than we will learn the cut-offs for smaller states. At least the internet has helped narrow the gap.

  • Anonymous says:

    So with the new data, do you believe a 220 SI will make it? (In CA)

    • Art Sawyer says:

      There is nothing recent that allows me to update my CA estimates. I think 220 has a much better than even chance, but it is not out of the question that the cut-off goes to 221 or even 222 (I’d put the latter as a very low probability). We won’t know more, I’m afraid, for another 4 weeks. I’ll certainly be updating the post once scores start coming in.

  • ssv123 says:

    Do you think my daughter with SI 220 will make it as semifinalist in Wisconsin?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Wisconsin’s cutoff is typically 6-7 points above the national Commended level. Because of the compressed nature of new PSAT Selection Indexes, that figure should be lower this year — hence my high-end estimate of 215. Under no scenario would Wisconsin’s class of 2017 cutoff reach 221. As long as everything else is in order, your daughter will be announced as a Semifinalist in September. Congratulations!

  • Lisa says:

    Son got a 225 SI, California; did I understand you to say that he should have rec’d some sort of letter from the National Merit people?
    I excerpted the following in one of your replies to another poster. Thank you.

    Check in with NMSC if you have not received any correspondence from them (they wouldn’t have announced SF, of course, but you should have received a letter).

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Lisa, thanks for the excerpt. All communication prior to the Finalist stage is done through a student’s school. Homeschoolers — like the student in Texas to whom I was replying — receive correspondence from NMSC since school and home are one and the same (even this is not universal, since some homeschoolers work with the counseling department of an area high school). There is no way that you son’s score is not high enough to qualify as NMSF in California. The only issue would be whether NMSC has the proper information for him as eligible — citizenship and class year, for example. If your son logs into his online PSAT report, there will be a section labeled NMSC Selection Index. On that page will be Entry Requirements and information about correcting any faulty info. No one will receive confirmation of NMSF status for a few more weeks, and it will come via the school.

  • Johnathan says:

    Hi Art,

    I attend a boarding school in Illinois, and scored a 215 SI this year. Obviously for the state itself that would be on the low end, but it seems likeI’ll instead be grouped into a boarding school region. Do you have any idea what this region and it’s scores looks like for Illinois or if it could improve my chances at all?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Jonathan,
      Boarding school rules are confusing. First, if your boarding school has primarily Illinois students, then it’s considered like any other Illinois high school. If your school has a sizable proportion (NMSC’s words) of out-of-state students, then you fall into the boarding school competition. Boarding schools are divided into regions, and a region’s cutoff is set as the highest state cutoff within the region. AFAIK, NMSC does not publicly publish the states matched with regions. Presumably Illinois falls in a Midwest category. None of those complications may matter, since Illinois often has the highest cutoff in your area (as I said, though, I’m not sure how many states are included). The best that I can say definitively is that you’ll need to *at least* reach the Illinois cutoff under any scenario. Good luck!

  • jenny says:

    If you are a semi-finalist, what is needed on the SAT for national merit finalist to confirm you PSAT scores?
    Is it a certain score on the SAT or a certain increase in score from PSAT to SAT?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      It’s a minimum SAT score that is the same across all states. The change from PSAT will not matter. NMSC has not yet announced the confirming score, but I expect it to be in the 1360-1400 range.

  • Mollie P says:

    hello,
    we live in Michigan and were wondering if my son with a 219 SI on the PSAT would be a semifinalist. I have read your posts from April concerning the increased number of test takers but was wondering if you had any more insight a couple months later. Have you changed your estimates based on Michigan having more test takers?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      College Board never published the state-by-state score information that it had in years past. The information was never granular enough to determine NMSF cutoffs, but it was useful in narrowing things down. So I don’t have more recent information from Michigan. Even with the shift from ACT to College Board, I think it is extremely unlikely that your son will not qualify.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Mollie,
      I happened to be looking at ACT data in states that recently switched from the SAT and realized that North Carolina represented a “reverse-Michigan” and could be a test of the hypothesis that mandatory testing shifts NMSF cutoffs. The class of 2013 was the first to have state-mandated ACT testing in NC. Previously, only about 20% of students took the ACT. If the switchover shifted PSAT behavior among high-scoring students, then we’d expect to see NC’s NMSF cutoff decline for 2013 and beyond. This has not been the case. The situations are not completely analogous, but I thought that it would be an interesting check. As I mentioned earlier, seems incredibly unlikely that your son will miss out in Michigan.

  • Francine says:

    Oops. Don’t post that! I read it wrong. He listed only NY’s cutoff and every student (by name) in NY who qualified.

  • Duane says:

    Art,
    Can you explain the timing of announcing NM semi finalist in September? Especially in light of colleges opening up applications in August. My daughter is holding off applying due to the impact of her NM status and the fact that in Texas some schools require it to be the students 1st choice in order to gain the benefits of NM honors. Very frustrating as this puts her “behind” in applying in relation to other students. Your thoughts?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Duane,
      Information to schools should be going out this week. The official press release day is, I believe, September 10. Counselors can tell students the day the school receives a packet from NMSC, but I’ve seen other schools sit on the information and let students twist in the wind. Fortunately, most schools are happy to share the good news, and your daughter should hear something no later than 9/14. The next step is applying to be a Finalist. It’s only at that stage where students make a designation of a first choice college. Although Finalists are not announced in January, this should NOT hold up your daughter’s applications in any way. She should apply as soon as she is ready. NMSC can be updated later if her first choice changes.

  • Elle says:

    Why are these so high? Did you not take into account that last year it was out of 240 and this year its our of 228? They should be scaled down.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Elle,
      Nothing is quite as it seems with the new PSAT. We are quite certain about the upward change, though, as the Commended level has moved from 202 to 209. What can be more confusing is that the increase is not uniform. You’ll often hear it described as score compression and you can read more about it here. The difference between the lowest NMSF cutoff and the highest will be lower this year than ever. The states with traditionally the highest cutoffs are likely to see their cutoffs decline from those for the class of 2016. So Wyoming’s cutoff will be well up this year, whereas I expect New Jersey’s to fall. An important thing to keep in mind is that none of this changes the number of students in each state who qualify. Wyoming and New Jersey will have approximately the same number of Semifinalists as they had the year before. The change in test scoring made it easier for students to obtain scores around 700 on each test, so it was easier to reach 209-210 than in years past. On the other hand, with scores capped at 760, it was harder for students to reach the highest scores (224-228).

  • Cindi says:

    You state that the commended index is 209–is that for all states? I thought commended varies by states.
    I’ve been keeping an eye on PSAT cutoffs since my daughter took the PSAT last year as a Sophomore and had an index of 199. When she takes it again this year as a Junior I’m hoping she’ll be able to increase her scores enough to earn commended. Do you think cutoffs will fluctuate a lot as everyone adjusts to the new PSAT? Is it possible the NMSCorporation will find that too many students are qualifying and then they will increase the index to weed out students (or they already do that beforehand since they have access to the scores)?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Cindi,
      Yes, the Commended level is national. Only the Semifinalist cutoffs vary by state. It is possible that students will do better once more are exposed to resources such as Khan Academy (or Compass tutoring!), but these typically don’t move the needle much on a national basis. The other thing that may mess with the class of 2018 scores is revised scaling. The PSAT was done before the official SAT scale was set in the spring. College Board certainly had things close, but there may be refinements that will result in slightly different scores next year. NMSC sets the qualifying scores by looking at where the cutoff needs to fall to include the target number of students. So they don’t have to worry about being surprised — there work is done after scores are received — but it is possible that scores fluctuate.

      In the case of your own daughter, you at least know how the 199 compares to the 209 since she took the same test as the juniors. Any change in scoring would impact students uniformly. An average improvement in SI from sophomore to junior year is about 10 points, so you are right to be considering your daughter’s potential for National Merit honors.

  • Katie says:

    Do you think my daughter’s index score of 222 would qualify for Semifinalist in California? Also, if you are announced as a Semifinalist, do your SAT scores affect your standing much? My daughter took the old SAT and scored fairly well, but it is not one of the top scores.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Katie,
      It’s hard to imagine the CA cutoff going as high as 223, but we’ll soon know for sure. Your daughter’s SAT scores — beyond hitting the qualifying score — will not matter in making Finalist. At the Scholar (scholarship) level, scores, grades, essay, and recommendation all come into play — much like a college application. In previous years, the confirming score on the old SAT was 1960 (although the essay was backed out so that only the MC portion of Writing was used). NMSC has not announced any information about where this year’s score will be set.

  • Anonymous says:

    What is the timing of announcing the qualifying sat score needed?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      A date has not yet been announced. It will clearly need to take place once students begin filling out their material for the Finalist portion of the competition. I don’t expect any announcement prior to the press release date of Semifinalists on September 14, but I hope that it is right after that.

  • Mary says:

    Scores are in, Kentucky 215. Thanks for all of your patient advice as we anxiously awaited. The news. Your prediction are very close.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Mary, thank you so much for the information. Can I ask where you received the confirmation? I will update the site now.

    • Maria says:

      Hi, would you happen to know what the actual total score was in the 320-1520 range for that KY student? For an SI of 215 on the old PSAT, according to the Concordance tables, that would equate to a total score of 1490 on the new PSAT. However, my daughter received a 1490 but her actual SI is a 223. It would be interesting to know what total score the KY student received with an SI of 215 qualifying him/her for Semifinalist. Thank you.

      • Art Sawyer says:

        Maria,
        We’ll see if Mary provides more information. The 215 would have been on the new PSAT. I’ve mentioned old PSAT scores to be able to compare how much scores have changed. Your daughter’s 223 SI will certainly qualify in Arizona. Congratulations.

        • Maria says:

          Hi Art, thank you, although I am curious to see what Arizona’s SI score will be because if, according to the Concirdance tables a total score of 1490 is an SI of 215 on the old PSAT but a 223 on the new PSAT, then Arizina would have had to score an old PSAT SI of 215 in order for my daughter to qualify. That is, if I am understanding and interpreting the Concordance tables correctly. Your information online though and that of the other contributors has been really informative and helpful. Thanks again, Maria

          • Art Sawyer says:

            The concordance tables are best ignored when thinking about NMSF. The only thing that matters is the SI from the current (Oct 2015) PSAT scores. A 223 will certainly qualify in Arizona.

  • Michelle says:

    Thanks for the information! What are the chances for a Kansas kid with a 216?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Michelle,
      It looks to be very tight. I’m awaiting confirmation from a previous poster on 215 as the cutoff for KY. If that information is accurate, the high ends of my estimates for “mid-cutoff” states like Kansas may be more likely than the low ends. I’ll keep updating things as I receive more information.

      • John says:

        Mary’s post is a bit difficult to decipher, but she may be referring to a single NMSF score rather than a cutoff. No one on CC has reported any actual scores, but she may be the first known recipient. If so, that tells us only that Kentucky <= 215.
        To be the cutoff, we would need evidence that 214 is Commended. My understanding is that Commended letters come a bit later, so that won't help.
        Someone in KY with a 214 who didn't receive a letter yesterday doesn't provide proof since mail travel times can vary.
        To establish the cutoff, we would need a homeschooler at (cutoff-1) to not receive a letter in the next couple of days, or someone at (cutoff-1) to verify with their school that the list has been received and that they are not on it.

        • Art Sawyer says:

          Absolutely. I followed up with Mary for this reason. I did feel there were scenarios under which she could have known for sure that the state cutoff had come in at 215 (for example, her GC told her that she/student had made it whereas another student at 214 had not. Or vice versa. Or friends within the state.). Her mention of my prediction being close and of “scores” tipped me toward putting it on the site. But it also is why I couched my response to Michelle with an “if…” I believe KY came in relatively early last year, so either interpretation is possible.

  • Bill says:

    My daughter scored a 220 in Kansas. The GC told me that she should move onto SF! Haven’t heard anything official yet but excited to see the KY score being so close. Any homeschoolers in KS? I’ll call NM Monday to inquire about the scores.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Congratulations! Haven’t heard yet from any homeschoolers in KS. NMSC will likely deflect your questions for now. They stay mum until the press release in mid-Sept.

  • Maria says:

    Hello. According to the most recent Concirdance tables, a 1490 equates to a 215 based on the old PSAT scale. However, My daughter received a 1490 but her index score is a 223. We live in Arizona. How does than her actual index score versus what the Cincordance tables indicate affect your estimates for Arizona? Thamk you for your help.

    • Magee says:

      My son got 1470 and his SI on PSAT report is 219. Does this mean SI are state specific?

      • Art Sawyer says:

        The SI calculation is not state specific; the SF cutoffs are. Because of the way EBRW scores are weighted twice that of Math, students with the same 1470 can have different SIs. For example, a student with 720 EBRW and 750 Math would have an SI of 219. A student with a 750 EBRW and 720 M would have an SI of 222. You can ignore the discussion of old PSAT. I only mention that when trying to predict this year’s scores from last year’s.

        • Magee says:

          Thanks for the explanation. Is this SI calculation fair? Clearly students with strong math are penalize even it will cost them the Scholarship. Is there anything I can do to take it up to the NMSC board?

          • Art Sawyer says:

            Magee,
            The interesting thing is that it goes back at least 40-50 years and may date from the origins of National Merit just over 60 years ago. I’m not sure how/why the original decision was made. For decades, a student only had a Verbal score of 20-80 and a Math score from 20-80. The SI was 2V + M. When Writing was added to the PSAT, it actually made things simpler, since the three scores could simply be added: CR + M + W. It’s a little more confusing now because of the switch on the SAT back to 400-1600 (EBRW+M) and the PSAT’s shift to 160-760 for both EBRW and Math (320-1520 total). Since the EBRW is made up of both reading and writing, NMSC still follows the prior habit of adding the section scores (8-38) for reading, writing, and math and then doubling. The net result is that NM has kept its basic structure. The only significant change is that the top Selection Index is now 228.

  • Anonymous says:

    Since there are 16000 semi finalists n 15000 finalist
    What factors keep 1000 semi finalist from becoming finalist?

  • Courtney says:

    I realize this probably doesn’t help much, but I’m a homeschooled student in Illinois, with an SI of 222, and I received a letter today confirming that I qualified as a semifinalist.

  • Catherine says:

    Hopefully the cutoff for Illinois is lower than 222. The letters don’t indicate the index cutoff score right? Thanks!

  • Magee says:

    My son got 1470 and his SI on PSAT report is 219. Maria daughter has 1490 as 223 Does this mean SI are state specific? I am not following old and new PSAT I believe there is only one PSAT for 2017 Semifinalist. Can you pleae clarify?

    • Anon2 says:

      The calculation for the SI weights the english section more heavily than the math. The PSAT total score doesn’t. So two students with the same PSAT total score could have different SI if they had different subsection scores.

  • NM Hopeful says:

    When is the soonest do you think you can confirm the CA cutoff?

  • Dee says:

    Anyone has any idea for PA?
    My son scored a 1470 with 220 index.
    What are his chances?

  • Wonderboy says:

    Is a SI of 211 from NC too low or do I have a chance?

  • Daria says:

    Art,
    My son scored a SI of 218 and we reside in Georgia. Any predictions if he will make it to the semifinalist stage? It seems so close, but I am getting discouraged with the comments above which appear to support a higher SI cutoff for the states in the middle of the SI scale.
    By the way, I have been so thankful for your website.
    Daria

    • Art Sawyer says:

      I don’t think we’ve seen enough to take any discouragement from it. Keep in mind that the IL and TX scores probably cleared the state bars by a good amount. They don’t tell us where the cutoff is. Still question marks around the KY score. I think GA will fall in my estimated 216-219 range, so he has a good shot. We just don’t have enough information, though, to fine-tune the estimates.

  • L says:

    Hi! I was wondering if the cutoffs are based on where you live or on where you go to school. I got a 1440 with an SI of 216, which is higher than the 209 cutoff score, but I live in one state and go to school in another since I live right on the border. It looks like a 216 is right on the brink for the state I reside in but is too low for the state I go to school in. Do you think collegeboard will hold me to the standards of the state I go to school in?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Although the PSAT is given by College Board, the National Merit program is administered by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation. NMSC’s rules state that “A participant can be considered for
      Semifinalist standing in only one state or selection unit, based on the high school in which the student is regularly enrolled when taking the PSAT/NMSQT.” At minimum, you’d need to qualify in your school’s state. The rules get more complicated if your school is considered a boarding school by NMSC (for example, if 50% or more of the students are boarded from other states). In that case, the selection unit is no longer the state, but the boarding school region such as New England or Mid-Atlantic. The cutoff for a region is set at the highest state cutoff within that region. Either way, your home state’s cutoff will not be the one that applies.

  • Ravi says:

    Am hoping that a 219 SI makes it in Ohio.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      You have a good chance. Please let us know when you find out. Thanks!

      • Art Sawyer says:

        Ravi, just after I replied I saw that a student on College Confidential reported receiving SF status at 217. That’s a single report, but it would be great news for you.

        • Ravi says:

          Got confirmation today. Thanks for keeping us informed. my son also took the new SAT and scored a 1480. Will that be enough to confirm his PSAT score or should he sign up for another SAT this year? Hoping that NMC publishes their guidance on this soon. Thanks again to you and for everyone participating in this forum.

          • Art Sawyer says:

            That’s great news. NMSC would have had to do a major rethink not to consider 1480 a qualifying score for Finalist. Based on concordance of prior years’ figures, I estimate that they’ll want somewhere around 1380. Probably 2-3 weeks before we know for sure. Your son will have until the Dec date.

  • D says:

    My son just texted me from school here in TN. He is a SF. His score was 218.

  • Carson says:

    I’m a student in Kansas. 214 did not make semi finalist.

  • Stephanie Beall says:

    congratulations to those that have received word! My daughter has a 214 here in Arkansas. Keeping our fingers crossed!!!! Haven’t heard anything from her school yet. Trying to be patient!

  • david says:

    Are we still on the bubble for 218 in PA?
    Will i have to wait until Mid September?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Yes, 218 is still on the bubble. No reports yet from your state, and not enough states confirmed to make any definitive statement about how cutoffs are coming in. Your wait will depend on how inclined your school is to give out the information when they receive it. There are already reports — as there are every year — of principals and counselors interpreting the press release date as the student release date. There is no prohibition against the release of the information to students.

  • Mel says:

    I am not sure what the actual numerical confirming index score is for Alabama yet. However, I had an index score of 215 and was notified by my school today that I am a semi-finalist, so the confirming index has to be 215 or lower.

  • Kathy says:

    Art, Based on Illinois what do you now think about CA cutoff?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      I’m hesitating to draw strong conclusions from 1 state, but it does make the lower half of the estimated range less likely. Hopefully we get some more states soon.

  • PicoLA says:

    Hi Art – – Seems like the scores are tending towards the higher end of your range with Illinois as the very top end. (A couple other states, however, are not at the high end of your projections.) I recall there being some discussion about the testing environment in Illinois being somewhat different this year than prior years . . . is that correct and might it explain why Illinois hit the very top of your projections?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      PicoLA,
      Yes, I had speculated earlier in the year about the potential impact of the switch from ACT to PSAT/SAT in Michigan and Illinois. My speculation on Illinois was premature, since funding issues and a lawsuit by ACT kept the change from happening for the 2015 PSAT. It’s possible that there was some preliminary shift to the PSAT, but I doubt that it played a role.

      The important thing to keep in mind is that states jump around frequently. IL could represent a trend to the high side, or it could just be a local bounce. SK, another poster, had shared data from her daughter’s school that showed a cluster of students at 218/219. This is one of the the issues with the compressed scores for the new PSAT — lots of students at relatively few critical scores.

  • Art – any news from CA?

  • Allison Walters says:

    What was the commended cutoff for last years PSAT?

  • Denis says:

    Based on the data so far, how is it looking for a 221 in California?

  • PicoLA says:

    Art – – Just saw someone post on college confidential that he/she made the cut in California with a score of 222 . . . first report I’ve seen from the West!

  • CR says:

    Any scores from VA? D sitting with a 218 in VA. What are your predictions?

  • Katie S. says:

    I’m at a 219 in Ohio and am hoping to qualify. However, I was wondering if I qualify, do I have to take the new SAT to prove that my PSAT wasn’t a fluke? I did take the old SAT last fall and scored above a 1950, so is that enough for me to submit as my SAT score? Or will I have to retake the whole thing this fall?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Katie,
      Semifinalists qualify based on PSAT alone, and your SI looks to be high enough in Ohio. To continue to the Finalist and Scholar stages, though, you will need a confirming SAT score (old or new). NMSC has not released that figure yet, and I don’t imagine they will until at least 9/14. An old SAT score is acceptable, but I can’t say for sure that yours will be high enough. NMSC does things a little differently than College Board. They tried to ignore the existence of the SAT essay on the old SAT by using the Writing multiple-choice subscore only. For example, a total score of 2000 that was 650 CR, 650 M, 700 W (65 MC and 12 essay) would be a reconstituted score of 1950 (650+650+650). You’ll have until the Dec test if your current score is not high enough.

      • Katie S. says:

        Ok, my GC just informed me that I qualified as a semifinalist with a 219 in Ohio. Also thank you for your response. I did get a 2280 on the old SAT, so hopefully I won’t have to retake it. Thank you for all the work you have been doing for anxious students like me!

  • Thomas says:

    Hey Art,

    What are your thoughts on a 216 in Kansas? The trend seems to be favoring the higher end of the spectrum. Is there still a chance for the cutoff to be >=216?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Yes, I still think there is a chance that 216 will hold in KS. Scores don’t necessarily move in lockstep, so even if a couple states have come in toward the high end, that doesn’t mean all states will do the same.

  • Doubtful says:

    Hey Art,

    For the cutoffs that you have posted on here, how do you know if they are legitimate? Isn’t it possible that these people could be trolling? I mean, a 222 seems a bit low for CA given how much high the other states’ cutoffs are.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      For the most part, I don’t know. What I’ve found is that the community of NM students and parents is highly involved and helpful. Misinformation — intentional or unintentional — is bound to slip in at some point, but it would get corrected relatively quickly. I now have information that the highest state cutoff is 223, so the <=222 in CA seems very much in line.

  • ER says:

    Sitting with a 217 in Tennessee. Should I remain hopeful?

  • Anonymous says:

    How reliable is the score of 215 for SF for state of KY?

  • Hopeful_in_CA says:

    Art, if you had to guess at this point, do you think cutoff score for CA and MD will be 222 or 221? Given a large number of students who have taken PSAT in CA, I wonder why someone with 221 didn’t post yet?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Hopeful,
      Maybe it’s just the optimist in me, but I don’t think it will be 222. I’m not even ruling out 220. I just posted a correction to an earlier update on the page and clarified that the highest state cutoff is <=223. There is a good chance that it could actually be 222. That makes it far more likely that CA is a notch lower. You've lured me into speculating too much... I don't think it's unusual that we haven't heard from a 221 yet. We are still in early days for score reports.

      • Hopeful_in_CA says:

        Dear Art, don’t worry, I won’t blame you if CA cutoff turns out to be 222. 🙂 I have to say you are a super nice and diligent person. By the way, I feel that if the principal wanted to convey that the highest score was 222, he/she would have said “less than 223”, not use the confusing phrase of “no more than 223”. Who knows, maybe the principal didn’t want to tell you the exact cutoff score. Lol

        • Art Sawyer says:

          The mistake was entirely mine. When the principal confirmed a qualifying score at 223, I neglected to ask the rather obvious followup on students below 223. He was good enough to correct me after I posted. Thanks, Hopeful.

  • cowboy1999 says:

    Art, what do you think of 220 in TX?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Testmasters had more school data on Texas than anyone and they predicted it early at 219. I haven’t seen enough new information to move off of that figure. Because of the fairly large sample size, I estimated TX within a narrow range. It’s possible that that was a mistake. Still, I like 219 or 220 better than 221.

      • cowboy1999 says:

        Hi Art,

        Thanks for your response. I was asking the question after reading your latest update that the maximum cut off is equal to or less than 223 in the country. Does that compression for higher states has any impact on TX cut off value? Only 2 people who have reported so far from TX are both 221. So was wondering if you had seen any lower numbers from TX?

        • Art Sawyer says:

          I was expecting NJ/DC/Intl at 222. Neither a 223 or a 222 would change my view on TX. IL is the oddity right now. I try to get any reports up quickly. No Commended figures to report.

  • Lisa says:

    225 in California: have heard nothing from academic dean yet, all filled-out info is correct on original PSAT registration, and school may be honoring the media outlet release date or may not have yet rec’d the letter from National Merit. Not using the the SF status for merit since son’s ED choice does not really give money for National Merit, a very small token, if anything. And, can my son send his SAT scores in to the National Merit folks if he will not yet have submitted the supplemental application for finalist?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Congratulations to your son! Hopefully he wasn’t sweating it at all with 225. Yes, he can submit his scores now to NMSC. They’ll match them up with his Finalist application.

      Thank you.

    • John says:

      Lisa,I don’t post on CC, but respect so many who do. On the thread that you find to be beneath you there are many parents who, although their student has been eliminated from NM competition, continue to help those who need direction and/or advice on the thread. Art has been superb, but there is no need to backhand the parents on CC. The kindness of both Art and the others on CC has been amazing.

      • Art Sawyer says:

        Folks,
        I usually keep moderation to a bare minimum, but I want to keep the thread on point and in a cooperative spirit. John gives a wonderful summary of how students and parents (and the test prep community!) benefit from a variety of sites and sources. I read and appreciate every post that comes in — even those I’ve decided not to publish or over which I’ve exercised some editorial prerogative. Thank you to readers and posters alike!

  • StillerFan says:

    S just heard from gc in PA- He is in with 219. Your website has been the most informative/accurate on this- Thanks!

    • Art Sawyer says:

      That’s great news! Thank you for the PA info.

      • Maria says:

        Hi Art, thank you for posting the 223 maximum cut-off for any state/section. You were correct about my daughter qualifying for Arizona with a 223. What I have come to understand is that Concordance tables do not account for the reading/writing section counting twice yielding different SIs. We will probably receive confirmation in September as I believe the District we are in may prefer to give notice when NMSC releases the information to the general public. Thanks again for all the information! Maria

  • Pico says:

    There’s a new post on a CC thread that a parent in California received news from her son (from his GC) that he made the cut with a score of 221.

  • Shane says:

    Son in with 218 in Ohio

  • SB says:

    Heard anything about Missouri? I’m sitting on a 213

  • Sandy says:

    On the edge of our seats in New Hampshire. Today was the first day of school. I’m hoping my son comes home with some news!

  • Linda Bostic says:

    A 218 is the lowest score we’ve seen in Colorado for National Merit consideration. We have no one scoring a 216 or 217 to know if these scores will be considered.

  • Nathan says:

    Art thanks for all your help. GC just confirmed that 217=FL cutoff. 216 did not make it.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Thanks, Nathan. And a nod to helpful GCs everywhere.

      • NC says:

        This is all new to me. My daughter is in Florida with a 217, but we’ve not heard anything from her GC. Does this mean she made it?

        • Art Sawyer says:

          NC,
          It’s not unusual for some GC’s to delay — they may want to notify all students together or wait for the press release deadline, or they may not have received the mail from NMSC. As long as the info Nathan passed along is correct, your daughter is a Semifinalist. Congratulations.

          • NC says:

            Will we know what the confirming score on the new SAT will be before finalists are announced in March? She scored 1410 on the new SAT in March.

      • Craig says:

        Art my daughter in CA received a 221. I called the counseling office and the people I spoke with do not seem to know what a national merit scholarship is. Is that possible or am I just speaking to the wrong folks?

        • Art Sawyer says:

          Craig,
          I’d be shocked if a school truly didn’t know about National Merit — especially since they would have had to send along some confirmations earlier this year. Your college counselors should be the right contacts. In some schools the guidance counselors are in a separate department. Perhaps you were routed to the wrong folks.

  • Mississippi Girl says:

    In Mississippi- Received confirmation from my GC that I made NMSF with 213. I saw it on here already but just wanted to add to the evidence 🙂
    MS<= 213

  • Young says:

    Looks like 221 did not make the cutoff for NJ/DC/New England boarding schools plus internationals. From CC. Confirmed by a GC.

  • Stacey says:

    My daughter got pulled into her school today for Natl Merit Semifinalist – her score was 223 – there were three at her school – Florida

    • Art Sawyer says:

      That’s great, Stacey! FL has been confirmed at 217.

      • Kesari says:

        Art,
        Would you have access to the essay prompt for kids who have made it to semifinals status? I am now certain my daughter made it in California. Her school is notoriously slow in informing and some parents of past merit holders have mentioned it as well. I dont think she will be notified till Sept 14.
        Please do post the prompt if you can. That would be a very valuable service to all frustrated parents whose kids have made it but have to wait for the school to inform them.
        Thanks in advance,

        Kesari

        • Adam Ingersoll says:

          Here is the essay prompt: “To help the reviewers get to know you, describe an experience you have had, a person who has influenced you, or an obstacle you have overcome. Explain why this is meaningful to you. Use your own words and limit your response to the space below.”

  • Allison says:

    So is 214 for LA definite?

  • Auburnmom says:

    Any more on Alabama besides the one post yesterday of 215? Sitting with a 213 waiting….

  • Zeeshan Khan says:

    Is 219 for Illinois confirmed? I’m 217 in Illinois with my school a few miles from the National Merit office and we haven’t gotten any word. 219 seems very high for our state given that we’re usually 9 to 10 points below the max score (223 this year).

    • Art Sawyer says:

      The 219 was reported on College Confidential as coming from a counselor (counselors only know this when they have students both above and below the cutoff). AFAIK, the information is confirmed. Yes, there is some surprise that IL came in at the high end of estimates. The compressed nature of the cutoff range meant that there was likely to be less difference between the top scores and IL. Still, it is a narrower gap than expected.

  • Kevin says:

    Sitting with a 217 in CO, is it likely it will be 218 here or could be lower?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Kevin, it could be lower. Since there were no 216/217 students at the reporter’s school, there is no way to know. I don’t think it will be at 216, but it’s still a toss-up between 217 and 218.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Kevin,
      I found out this evening the the CO cutoff is at 218. I’m sorry that you (or your student) will miss out on related scholarship opportunities, but your testing strengths should serve you well on admission tests and beyond.

  • Minnesota Score says:

    Minnesota > 216. D not on the school list (via contact with principal).

  • Mamelot says:

    Hey Art, I was the one who posted AK <= 214 on CC this afternoon. Only I meant Arkansas, not Alaska! Oops. Sorry about that – can you please switch to AR from AK. Thanks!

  • Andy says:

    Sorry for the bonehead question. My D has a score of 222 here in California. I assume the <=221 means that the low end of qualification is 221, right?

  • PicoLA says:

    Hi Art – – Have you received confirmation of the <= 221 for California from more than one source?

  • Katy says:

    My daughter found out at school today that she is a semifinalist with a 217 in New Mexico. Her friend with a slightly higher total score but slightly lower selection index also made the cut. Sorry I can’t swear to what the friend’s SI is and be more helpful.

  • Di says:

    How are these cutoff scores (DC, MA, NJ, etc) already confirmed? I am a student in the Class of 2017 and we know our personal result but not the National Merit score for the state. Are some students/schools notified of the cutoff score before others?

    Thank you from all of the students at my school for compiling and confirming these results, we really appreciate it.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      NMSC sends all information to schools at the same time, but not all of the packets are received at the same time or released by schools at the same time. Many of my fellow compilers and I feel that leaving students hanging any longer than absolutely necessary — especially after a rough year for the class of 2017 with a new PSAT, new scoring, haphazard concordances, misleading percentiles, flawed questions, rough curves, etc. — is just cruel. I understand NMSC’s desire to have a nationwide press release day, but it seems just as important to have a student release day — a day when students — no matter what school or NMSC policy — can learn their status as quickly and responsibly as possible. The NM calendar is essentially unchanged from when I was a National Merit Scholar (thank you, State Farm!) several decades ago. It’s as if the internet never happened. Sorry, Di, I’m getting preachy. The bottom line is that we are able to determine — with a high degree of confidence — what the cutoffs are via sufficient crowdsourcing.

      Your welcome. I’m glad students find it useful.

  • Nico says:

    Hi Art – do we know anything about Maryland?

  • cowboy1999 says:

    Hi Art, Thanks for confirming TX cut off 220. Really appreciate it.. My S is with 220 in TX.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Cowboy,
      I’m punchy at this time of the day, but I don’t think I’ve congratulated your son. If I already have, take the second for yourself. Thank you for posting.

  • thankful says:

    Friend’s son made the cut with 216 in Wisconsin.

  • EM says:

    Any new on Tennessee? Waiting here with a 214…

    • Art Sawyer says:

      EM,
      Unfortunately, Tennessee is the first state I’ve seen with a cutoff that exceeds the Compass estimated range (my math told me that there would be a few). Relative to the rest of the states at it’s 2016 cutoff level, it just didn’t seem like it would move to 218. That’s higher than Florida’s cutoff, even though Florida’s old PSAT SI was often 2 points higher than Tennessee’s.

  • Rob says:

    216 in California Still have chance?

    Thanks

  • Edward says:

    I’m a student from a Florida public school with a 225, but have not heard anything from any one at my school or in the area local to mine. Is there some explanation for this? I don’t really know how the system of information release functions.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Edward,
      NMSC notifies schools, and schools notify students. The notifications to schools roll in slowly, although I’d expect most will have received it by this weekend. From there, it’s really up to the school. Some call in students right away, and other decide to wait until the press release schedule (9/14, I believe) when NMSC releases the names of winners to newspapers. At 225, you have nothing to worry about other than having an SAT score in place for the Finalist portion of the competition. Congratulations!

  • ML says:

    Is MD confirmed 100% to be 221?

  • musicallyinclined says:

    Indiana is silent with a confirmation. We are not hopeful. It looks pretty grim for those bubble people like us.

  • Michelle says:

    Hi Art,

    I see you have adjusted the Kansas scores a bit. However, I don’t see where you got the info about the 217 on here or on College Confidential. Was it a student that posted? My son is sitting on a 216 and Kansas information is minimal at this point.

    Thanks so much for all you are doing to help!
    Michelle

  • Curious says:

    Thanks for keeping us all updated as information flows in regarding the cutoffs in each state. I was wondering if you had any confirmation (beyond the one GC referenced above) that the Illinois cutoff is 219? (I’m wondering if there’s any chance it could actually be higher, or if a 219 in Illinois is safe). Thanks!

  • linda says:

    Hi, Art,

    Would you please let us know how KY confirmed is 215? Thanks!

  • Sandy says:

    Art,
    My son’s principal in New Hampshire says that he hasn’t received any information from NMSC yet. At what point should I be concerned about this being lost? If the results were sent out at the beginning of last week (?), I would think they would have reached NH by now.

    Thanks!

  • CT538 says:

    Art -Have you heard about New York and/or CT??

  • Matt says:

    Outstanding news on NH, thanks.

    • Sandy says:

      Matt,
      My son’s principal in Hudson, NH just contacted me to confirm that he’s a semi-finalist with an SI of 218. If you haven’t heard yet, it should be soon. Good luck!

      Sandy

  • Joe says:

    Hey Art,
    Any anecdotal info on Iowa yet?
    Thanks!
    Joe

  • Joe says:

    P.S. Could you explain the states with high ratio of SF to testers vs low ratio of SF to testers? Having generally low cutoffs in Iowa initially made me think that Iowa has lead in the water, but your comments regarding SF to testers made me rethink!

    • Art Sawyer says:

      For those who may not have seen it, Joe is referring to the last scatterplot in this post. This was a way of testing the hypothesis that some of the differences in cutoffs could be explained by the fact that some states have higher participation rates than others. Although most of us posting here can’t imagine students not wanting to be in the National Merit competition, not all high schools give the PSAT and not all students bother to take the PSAT. This would mean that some potentially high scoring students don’t have the opportunity to display that ability. Since NMSF spots are determined by the number of high school juniors without regard to participation, the non-participation should tend to lower a state’s cutoffs. Simply put, there are fewer students competing for the same number of spots. There is enough correlation to show that there is merit to the hypothesis, but not enough where I would be basing current estimates on the theory. Interestingly, we see the flip side of this when average SAT scores are reported. Those tend to be highest in states where SAT participation is low. For example, most students in IA take the ACT. SAT are a much smaller group, but they tend toward the more competitive score range. Both of these effects show the danger in generalizing about a state’s educational achievement just from 1 or 2 metrics.

  • marian says:

    I almost don’t want to know….BUT do you have any ‘feelers’ out there for Indiana?

  • Joe says:

    Thanks, Art! Looks like most states are coming in at the high end.

  • Pam says:

    Hi Art,
    The wait is killing me…. do you have any idea what the cutoff is looking like for Minnesota? Thanks so much for your help. It is appreciated!

  • Joe B says:

    Any word on Michigan? I see a lot of higher numbers in the surrounding states. Your analysis earlier speculated that MI could go high this year, any data yet to validate that assumption? Thanks for all your work on this!

    • Adam Ingersoll says:

      Hi Joe, I’ll leave any editorializing to Art, but I have received definitive word from a Michigan counselor that the MI cutoff is 216, well within Art’s predicted range.

  • Scott says:

    Hey Art,
    Your site is fantastic. Anything on the cutoff for NC yet? My son is at 216 and your predicted is 217. We are not very hopeful considering how the cutoffs are running at or above predicted. Thank you for all your efforts!
    Scott

    • Adam Ingersoll says:

      Hi Scott, unfortunately NC has in fact come in at the high end of the predicted range as well with a cutoff of 218.

      • Jen says:

        Hello,

        Thanks for this information!
        Is 218 in NC confirmed? This is my son’s score but he hasn’t heard anything from his school.

        Thanks,
        NC mom

        • Art Sawyer says:

          Jen,
          NC is confirmed. Many students still haven’t heard from their schools. Also, most schools inform both Commended Students and Semifinalists, so not hearing from a school should not be interpreted as missing the Semifinalist cutoff.

  • Sam says:

    Hi Art, Has there been any information on Nebraska? Thank you!

  • SS says:

    Is IL cutoff confirmed at 219, my S got 218. Thank you!

  • Medagon says:

    Hi Art-Thanks for what you do. I noticed that one poster on (CC) National Merit Predictions 2017 (Post #6310) stated that a school provided a possible cutoff score of 215 but I haven’t seen any verification of it. Can you confirm or comment? Thanks

    • Adam Ingersoll says:

      HI Medagon, I’m posting on Art’s behalf, helping manage the flood of incoming info that we’re receiving. The SC cutoff has been confirmed at 215.

  • Medagon says:

    Clarification:The 6310 post was for South Carolina

  • Rich says:

    Any info on UT. School will not release. I expect D just missed at 212, but this is agonizing.

  • Cole says:

    Any news regarding scores for Idaho?

  • Looking for Idaho numbers. Anyone?

  • Mamelot says:

    Hi Art,

    Any news on MN? Most of our neighbor-states have confirmed cut-offs at this point so we are feeling a bit left out 🙁

  • Anne says:

    Any reports from Missouri?

  • Alaska Mom says:

    Any word on Alaska?

  • candyandnuts says:

    Have we heard from anyone else from Oklahoma? The person posting on CC was me, and it was pretty vague — the GC telling me to go ahead and schedule the SAT for DS (who has a 215). I am getting more and more nervous that she didn’t actually have any info and was just basing that on the projections.

  • Michigan Mom says:

    Do you have any information on Michigan? Thanks.

  • Hollie says:

    I entered my email incorrectly. Hgreen824@gmail.com

  • Anthony says:

    I read earlier this summer you posted the confirmed score for GA was 219. Is this still the case because the predicted score is 218 in the chart?

  • Hollie says:

    My son scored a 215 in ky . Is he good as a semi finalist?

  • Festus says:

    Do ya’ll know anything about Georgia?

  • Adam Ingersoll says:

    Hi Hollie, what state were you referring to?

  • Barbara says:

    Nebraska?

    • Adam Ingersoll says:

      Hi Barbara, we answered that one just a minute ago in a comment below. 215. I’m pinch-hitting for Art and replying to individual comments. He’ll update the master list when he emerges from his other commitments today.

  • leah says:

    I wish someone would report from Maine.

  • Rebecca says:

    Hi Art,
    Looking for Vermont….any word?

  • ChillyKitty says:

    Any info on CT?

  • Rebecca says:

    Thanks Adam! Yes, there are not many kids that qualify even in a normal year and the schools start relatively late so information is slim.

  • Sarah says:

    Any info on Washington state?

    • Adam Ingersoll says:

      Another one that we can confirm. And another one at the top of the predicted range. 220. Hope that’s good news.

      • Abby says:

        So if my son got a 220 in WA state he is a semi finalist correct? I know this is probably a redundant and silly question. I’m assuming the cutoff means you got that score or above. Thank you so much!

        • Adam Ingersoll says:

          Abby, “cutoff” does mean that score and above has made semifinalist, but please note the correction for WA that I just posted in another comment (and in the final table at the top of the post). Unfortunately the WA cutoff is actually 221. I am so sorry for the confusion.

          • Adam Ingersoll says:

            Please see my most recent comment clarifying that the original info was in fact correct and WA’s cutoff is 220, not 221.

  • K says:

    Any news on AZ?

  • OnTheBuckeyeBubble says:

    Any word on OH? I feel like election night…

    • Adam Ingersoll says:

      Yes, that came in a few hours ago, sorry for the delay, we’re swamped! OH came in at 217, exactly as Art predicted.

  • Danny says:

    any info on AZ?

  • david says:

    Any word on PA?
    Son is on the bubble with 218.

  • Anon says:

    Any word on Oregon?

  • S says:

    Any word on score needed in Hawaii?

  • CuriousMomNV says:

    Have you heard about Nevada?

  • Marie says:

    Any word on Georgia?

  • DD says:

    Hi! I am going off topic here…Looks like my son qualified for NMSF with a 220 in Texas. He took his old SAT and had a score of 2190 (not his best). But he has a 35 in ACT and does not really want to take new SAT again unless he needs it for National Merit finalist.
    Do you think 2190 is acceptable for finalist standing.

    • Adam Ingersoll says:

      Hi DD, yes, 2190 should be perfectly acceptable as a NM confirming score. Congrats to your son! Looks like he’s done with PSAT/SAT/ACT.

      • Steve says:

        Hi Adam,

        My daughter took the old SAT and got 2370, so she didn’t take ACT or new SAT, she doesn’t need to take ACT, right?

        thanks.

        • Adam Ingersoll says:

          VA Tech won’t accept the old SAT from the class of 2017, but unless she wants to be Hokie, she’s good. 🙂

  • DD says:

    He took SAT (old format) in December of 2015

  • Rich says:

    Sorry to bug you again, but heard second hand 214 made it in Utah. Are you confident with 215 number.

    • Adam Ingersoll says:

      Rich, I’d be very surprised if our UT connection got this one wrong. Pretty sure your secondhand source received misinformation or misunderstood.

  • Young says:

    Adam, my kid qualified as a NSMF in CA but he took the old SAT one year ago and got 2060. I think this SAT score qualifies for NMF purpose, correct? He has no desire to take SAT again. Tx in advance.

    • Adam Ingersoll says:

      NMSC has not yet announced this year’s confirming score cutoff, but in recent years it has been in the mid 1900’s (and we expect it to be mid 1300’s on the new SAT), so your son should be fine.

  • OregonMom says:

    Wondering about the source for Oregon at 219? D has a 215 but that we are losing hope at this point. Her high school does not start until 9/6.

    • Adam Ingersoll says:

      Source was a school counselor who is highly reliable. All the best to your daughter; a 215 PSAT projects to a very high SAT or ACT.

  • PicoLA says:

    Dear Art,

    I want to thank you for your incredible energy and thoughtfulness over the past year! I’ve genuinely enjoyed reading all of your posts.

    Thanks so much!

    PS – My daughter just made it with a 221 in California 🙂

  • Sarah says:

    Dear Adam,
    I just wanted to thank you for putting this together. The moment my son received his PSAT scores last winter, I developed a not so healthy interest in the National Merit competition and whether he would quality. The information and educated predictions on your website helped me to calm down a bit. He has a 220 in Minnesota, so I think he can rest easy. (OK, he is already resting easy, but now I can rest easy.) Thanks to all and enjoy your/your student’s senior year!

    • Adam Ingersoll says:

      Hi Sarah, thank you for your kind feedback. All credit goes to my Compass co-founder Art Sawyer, for whom this has been a special project he has greatly enjoyed, most of all as an opportunity to connect with so many wonderful folks around the country. I was simply covering the inbox today while he had other commitments. All the best and congrats to your son!

  • jaytx says:

    Art, thank you for your incredible service. So many of us, for all these months, travelling this road together. And what a ride it has been. We owe you a tremendous debt of gratitude. Again, thanks.

  • SAM says:

    Art,
    A big thank you for your thorough, thoughtful analysis and information over the last several months. My son missed the cutoff, but I’m grateful for your wise guidance while we waited.

  • Nicole says:

    You are just awesome to be following this so closely and posting for parents and students. Thank you, thank you, thank you!! Do you have another blog that tells you what it takes to become a finalist after you have become a semi-finalist?

  • Adam Ingersoll says:

    Folks, we have our first official correction. Multiple earlier sources deemed reliable (one a school counselor) had given us a cutoff of 220 for WA and we ran with it. Now we have another school counselor in Seattle assuring us the cutoff is in fact 221. We’ve doubled back on these sources and have concluded that the 221 is accurate. Our sincere apologies for any roller coaster emotions we may have evoked. This is the first time that a “primary” source has (accidentally) given us incorrect information. Please bear with us – hopefully that will be the only case.

    • Adam Ingersoll says:

      Well, this is embarrassing: I have to report a correction of a correction. My inexperience in communicating with sources was on full display yesterday. The discrepancy in reports that caused me to call the WA cutoff as 221 was due to a misunderstanding involving a school with boarding students and local students and confusion on the counselor’s part between what was the lowest qualifying score at his/her school and what we were referring to as the cutoff. In all the hubbub yesterday I wasn’t careful enough to ask the right questions. The good news is that the WA cutoff is definitely 220, not 221. My sincere apologies to anyone who experienced whiplash over this.

  • Mamelot says:

    Thank you Compass Prep for this unprecedented accomplishment of getting cutoff information out so quickly! What a relief to know – one way or the other!

  • Karen says:

    Hi, can you confirm (100%) that the Idaho score is 214? Thanks!

  • MR says:

    Any idea about international? D has a 220. Thanks.

  • MR says:

    Sorry was trying to type in 222 international

  • Casey says:

    How certain are you that the cutoff in Virginia is 221? 100%? My son has a 221 and I don’t want to tell him he’s a SF unless you’re absolutely sure. Thanks putting all this together!

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Casey,
      I have a high degree of confidence. In addition to the confirmations we’ve received, it wouldn’t make sense for VA to be any higher. The state has always had a cutoff just a notch below that of the highest scoring states. I’ll have to leave it to you as to whether you should — or can — wait a bit longer to notify your son.

      You’re welcome.

  • Tery says:

    Hello, I have a kind of complicated question. So I attended a boarding/private school in Michigan and took my PSAT test there. However, a few weeks later I moved to a school in Missouri. I received a 219 and I was told by NMSC that my score will be based off the school I took the test at. But I am also not sure because it was a boarding/private school. Does anyone have any answers/advice? Do you think I will make the cut off? Also, does anyone know when NMSC officially notifies students?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Tery,
      NMSC gave you the correct information re: the school where you took the PSAT. The boarding part becomes tricky. If boarding was only a minor part of your school or most students were from MI, then your (former) school would be treated as a Michigan school. If a “sizable proportion” of your school comes from outside of Michigan, then your school would fall into the relevant boarding school “selection unit.” The cutoff for the selection unit is set at the highest state cutoff within the region. NMSC doesn’t make its regions publicly available. However, it seems unlikely that Michigan would be part of any region including a state at 220-222. The highest state in the midwest is IL at 219. It looks like you will qualify, but you’ll need to work with your former school to find out more.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      I neglected to mention that NMSC does not notify Semifinalists — that’s done entirely by the school (homeschoolers receive direct notification, because home and school are one). Check in with the college counselor at your old school. Good luck.

  • Laurie says:

    Art, thanks so much! If you come across the prompt(s) for the essay(s) for the NMF application, would you be able to post them?

    • Adam Ingersoll says:

      Here is the essay prompt: “To help the reviewers get to know you, describe an experience you have had, a person who has influenced you, or an obstacle you have overcome. Explain why this is meaningful to you. Use your own words and limit your response to the space below.”

  • Laurie says:

    Thanks, Adam. Any idea about how approximately many words would fit in the “space below”? I have a kid with a crazy fall schedule, and a school that may not give us the online link until AFTER the release date, so if she’ll can get the essay part out of the way, she will have more time later to enter the other material (I assume activities and stuff like that?).

    • Adam Ingersoll says:

      I saw a student report that his existing 650 word essay didn’t raise any length warnings, but I haven’t heard about the specific cap.

  • Francine says:

    Thank you, Art, for your diligence, dedication, and expertise in serving so many thousands of students and parents on this message board since January. There are over 500 posts on this one thread. I REALLY appreciate what you’ve done for all of us. Please rest now.

  • Missy says:

    I just want to thank you Art for all of your time! Your analysis, compassion, knowledge, enthusiasm, & expertise has been a Godsend! I discovered your site (along with CC) just this past week as I was trying to make sense of my eldest’s PSAT score. Unfortunately, in CO with a score of 1450 (117) he missed the cutoff by a point but it was exciting to hear of everyone else’s new NMSF status and most importantly I learned a ton! Thanks so much.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Missy,
      What began as mostly an academic exercise turned into a much more involved discussion with the National Merit community. I’ve loved it. It’s nice that you’ve come out the other side of the experience with your excitement and kindness intact. I may have to print up your words and share them with my employees so that they’ll take me seriously!

  • Lidia Schneider says:

    Hello thanks for this information are you 100% sure Texas is 220? my son scored a 221.Would like to know if you are 100% sure.
    Thanks again!

  • ag says:

    Art,
    Thank you so much for all the information. My took PSAT in ohio in junior year and we have moved to Kansas in her senior year. She has 219 on psat and will be a semifinalist based on cutoff posted on your website. I know that she will be a semifinalist from ohio since she took the test there. How about Finalist. Does it vary by state too? Will she be a finalist from ohio or from Kansas in case she makes it. She has a score of 1560 on new SAT

    • Art Sawyer says:

      AG,
      Finalist status is not determined by state. Basically it is a matter of checking off the requirements. In your daughter’s case, she definitely doesn’t have to worry about the confirming SAT score. I believe that in NM accounting your daughter remains counted as an Ohio student.

  • Alexis says:

    Art,
    Do you know why the cut off in Iowa jumped so much? Some of the smaller, better performing states’ cutoffs lowered but iowa’s jumped a whopping 7 points. I’m asking because I am a senior that scored a 214 and I was really hoping to make Semifinals.
    Thanks so much for compiling this!

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Alexis,
      Most of the move is explained by the change in scoring rather than anything specific to Iowa. The new PSAT made it somewhat easier (no guessing penalty) to achieve a good score while redefining a perfect score downward (760 versus 80). This created a more compressed range for scores. For the class of 2016, cutoffs ranged from 202 to 225. For the class of 2017, cutoffs range from 209 to 222. Consider what is happening at the end points — the lowest cutoffs went up by 7 points and the highest went down by 3. We knew the first part of that ever since the Commended cutoff leaked in the spring. What we could only estimate was what would happen at the highest scores. So states going from 202 to 209 was not a surprise at all. I had estimated, though, that states like Iowa (208 last year) would not be moving up by the full 7 points — since the higher up you go, the harder it is to “fight” against the downward pressure at the top end. If you look at states with similar Selection Indexes last year, you’ll find Missouri (209 to 216), Wisconsin (208 to 215), and Idaho (208 to 214), among others, having increases similar to Iowa’s. Utah even went up 9 points from 206 to 215.

      One of the problems with cutoffs is that they make hard distinctions (Commended vs Semifinalist) off of minor distinctions (214 vs 215). I hope that doesn’t color your great achievement.

      You’re welcome. It’s the least I could do for the class of 2017 pioneers.

  • Jake says:

    My school says they have not received any notifications yet (ky). Is this unusual? Should I be worried

    • Art Sawyer says:

      No, I wouldn’t worry. It’s likely just a mail issue. Since the notifications are of both Commended Students and Semifinalists, there is little chance your school would have missed out. Very worst case, it will be worked out with NMSC after the Sept 14 press release allows them to be more open about confirming status.

  • John says:

    Thanks for the hard work on putting this together. Now the question turns what is going to be the needed score on the new SAT to qualify for finalist!

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Good point, John. My estimated range is 1360-1400 with a most likely of 1380. I imagine that NMSC will need to release the information soon. It does seem like an unfair burden on students to have withheld the information as long as they have.

      • John says:

        I agree Art. My son is sitting at a 1410 and it would be nice for them to let us know if that is good enough. I do not want him to have to sit for another SAT if it is not necessary.

        • Art Sawyer says:

          I suspect NMSC is holding back until the 9/14 press release date. It’s verging on the irresponsible since students have no reference point for the new SAT. Parents and students have more credibility with NMSC than a lowly test prep person, so I encourage you to call them to see if they will at least provide a timeline.

  • Sharron says:

    Thanks so much for all this information. I too am wondering if you have any idea what SAT score will be needed to qualify for finalist status? My daughter scored a 1350 in May and we wondered if she should retake the test in October. We live in Oklahoma if location matters.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Sharron,
      Location does not matter in this case. The exact figure has not been released. If NMSC tries to achieve a similarly positioned cutoff to prior years, they’d likely end up somewhere between 1360 and 1400. While it may be lower than that, I would plan on registering your daughter for a retest simply because she is so close to the (probable) line. Consider the registration fee as an insurance policy. She can also take the November or December administrations.

  • Joe says:

    Dear Art,

    Not sure if you heard, but a few of your fans on the College Confidential Forum were “reprimanded” by a purported “super monitor” for acknowledging your help here at Compass! So glad that so many people worked together on this “project.”

    Take care,

    Joe

  • TXMom says:

    I just wanted to add my thanks for all of the helpful information, kind replies, and tireless work you have put into this task over many months now. As a parent, it has been so helpful to have this site and College Confidential to refer to since DD attends a school that has either not yet received information or errs on the side of not informing students until the press release date. Your responses to questions are patient, informative, and considerate. Thank you again for what you have accomplished here!

  • Billy says:

    I heard that the cutoff for NY is 218. Are you 100% sure on your end?

    Thanks for the hard work

  • DJ says:

    Our TX HS just called in the Semi-finalist and congratulated them. 220 was the cut off. Our school had six. My DD was one of six and is very excited.

  • Lidia Schneider says:

    Art,
    Thanks again for earlier reply. One more question: do students have to take the new SAT for a confirmation score for finalist or does an old SAT score taken in early 2016 count? My son a NMSF qualification score and did very well on the old SAT. He thinks he is done taking these tests and now I wonder if he has to take the new SAT for NM finalist status.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      NMSC does accept the old SAY as a qualifying score for Finalist. We still don’t know what level they will choose, but I’d say that he is safe if his score is above 2000. A can understand his desire to be done with this.

  • Paul says:

    Art,

    Thank you for all your hard work. My understanding is that NY has a 218 cutoff. Are you certain regarding the 219?

  • KimCol says:

    Hey Art, I, along with many others I’m sure, greatly appreciate all of your hard work to provide us with all of this pertinent information. I just wanted to ask, are you like absolutely 100% sure of all these cutoffs? I have a 220 in OR, so if it’s only a couple of points higher, I’ll be out. Also, for the SAT confirming score, can I submit a 2400 from the old version, or do I have to take the new version to match the new PSAT? Thanks again!

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Yes, confident about Oregon. You’re a Semifinalist, and you’ve blown away the score necessary for a confirming score (not matter where they set it). The old SAT is acceptable.

  • Ira says:

    HI Art,
    Thanks for your help. Are you 100% certain that Florida’s cutoff is 217 because I have a 216.

  • Anbu says:

    Hi Art: My daughter got 2 points higher ( Index 219 ) than the semifinalist cutoff score of 217 My question is: how does NMSC select the finalist?do they look for student near 228 index besides all other consideration? (OR) any body above the cut off date?

  • Anbu says:

    Hi Art: My daughter got 2 points higher ( Index 219 ) than the semifinalist cutoff score of 217 My question is: how does NMSC select the finalist?do they look for student near 228 index besides all other consideration? (OR) any body above the cut off index?
    Thanks

    • Anon2 says:

      Going from NMSF to NMF is a process of elimination. The students who dont advance are those who don’t do the application, can’t achieve the confirming SAT score, have bad grades, have disciplinary issues. The index is not considered.

  • CS says:

    It has been nice to read comments and see so many questions answered.

    My daughter had a PSAT of 217 which we were excited about all the doors that may open. Several months ago we found the estimated cut off was 216 for MN class of 2017. Yet as you say that is only an estimate. Of course we were still hopeful which allowed her to dream a bit bigger. Today she shared the new table with us. It reads MN is 219. She missed it. 🙁 She is handling the disappointment well and congratulates any of her peers who may be semi-finalists!

    Is there any chance that this table is still an estimate? Is there a possibility with a 217 in MN she could still be a semi-finalist? Being commended sounds wonderful too just a set back when thinking you were set for more. The percentage of students commended I’m guessing is quite high yet it’s still is an honor right? I think she is assuming all the top kids in her class at school will be commended. Do you know the % of students commended in MN?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      CS,
      Yes, Minnesota came in higher than expected at 219. The three other states with the same class of 2016 cutoffs as MN (214), ended up at 215, 217, and 217. This goes to show just how good your daughter’s score is. She happened to be in a class year where MN was particularly strong. MN ended up in the top quartile of states.

      Unfortunately, the 219 is the actual cutoff and not an estimate. In MN, there are typically about twice as many Commended Students (approx. 600) as there are Semifinalists (approx. 300), but I think the better way to think about it is by looking at where her 217 fell. While we’ll never know precisely, I’d estimate that 219 represented the top 300 PSAT takers in the state and 217 represented the top 375 scorers. Anyway you look at it, a 217 Selection Index is a great score.

      Semifinalist and Finalist status can be important for schools that give special scholarships for National Merit. At most colleges, though, Semifinalist status simply indicates a high PSAT score. Far more important to an admission office is a high SAT or ACT score (especially since colleges don’t actually see the PSAT score).

      • CS says:

        Thank-you for your encouragement and your detailed reply! 🙂
        Her 1st choice college would have been a full ride scholarship so it is pretty disappointing.
        Yet we are trusting she is ultimately in Gods hands. Somehow her dream to become a surgeon or do medical research will come true if it is meant to be. Even if the costs of school seem so out of reach I believe somehow the right thing will happen at the right time.

        Thanks again! I truly appreciate your input to each of us parents!

  • Tim says:

    Art —

    Thank you for your excellent work on this. Easily the best professional work performed on monitoring and publishing the PSAT cutoffs. You’re quite the counselor as well, encouraging and sustaining students and parents alike throughout this nerve-wracking process. S missed by three points (SI 218; Virginia cutoff 221) but we’re thankful for your dedication and effort on this. Congratulations to all the NMSFs!

  • Paul says:

    Art

    You may have already addressed this but why isn’t the NMSC using the overall score as the cutoff as they did in the past. It seems a bit unfair that a student with a overall lower score may have a higher SI and hence become a semifinalist due to the 2X weighting on the verbal section over math. Seems like they are creating issues.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Paul,
      The fact that the overall score and the Selection Index were the same for a period of time was a temporary quirk with the addition of Writing (20-80) to the PSAT. When the PSAT had only Verbal and Math components, the SI was 2xV + M. It’s arguable that the current scoring is as fair as when the SI was CR+M+W because reading and writing are still significant and separate sections of the test. The shift back to 1600 was, in part, a throw-in-the-towel reaction to the fact that the 2400 SAT score never gained full acceptance. College Board is now trying to have the best of both worlds — keep grammar and usage as a part of the PSAT and SAT but go back to score reporting more akin to the old school Verbal and Math. There is no doubt that this is confusing to many students, but it is still in line with the way NMSC has treated PSAT scores for the last 60 years.

  • Julie says:

    Are you sure about Utah? DS had a 216 and we’ve still heard nothing from the school, even though his GC knows we’re expecting great things. I’m biting my nails…

  • Tom says:

    Mr Sawyer,
    Awesome support which you are providing.
    My son has a 216 in NH. Assuming your table holds at a 216 cutoff, is there anything we can do between now and when we hear from the school?

    Thank you!
    Tom K.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Congratulations to your son and his proud dad! Probably the most time sensitive thing is making sure that your son has or will have a confirming SAT score in order to continue on in the competition. If you’ve been reading the posts here, you’ll know that NMSC has not yet released the necessary score. I expect it to be no higher than 1400. [If he took the old SAT, it will likely be no higher than 2000.] Your son can still take the October, November, or December SATs. I’d recommend registering now [if he still needs a score].

      He could start mulling over the essay, but he’ll have plenty of time. I haven’t seen anything official from NMSC, but my understanding is that the essay will follow the general idea of previous years’s topics: “To help the reviewers get to know you, describe an experience you have had, a person who has influenced you, or an obstacle you have overcome. Explain why this is meaningful to you. Use your own words and limit your response to the space below.”

      A box of chocolates to the principal? Kidding. He’ll need his GPA to be solid and a recommendation from the school, but not much to do on either score.

      • Tom says:

        Thanks Mr Sawyer!
        I appreciate the input and the insight. My son is looking forward to the next steps (with fingers crossed)

        Best regards,
        Tom K.

  • MI Dad says:

    My daughter has 216, SAT 1520 and 1530, ACT at 34., GPA 4.0 We are in MI. It seems that she will qualify for SF. Can you confirm? How do you see at chances for finalist/scholar?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Yes, a 216 will qualify for NMSF in Michigan. Your daughter seems a virtual lock for Finalist. Her SAT scores are well over any possible confirming level. Presuming her 4.0 is unweighted, then it includes no Cs or Ds. She’ll need the recommendation of the school and will have to submit the appropriate forms and essay, but her Finalist status seems assured.

      I’m not able to offer a prediction on the Scholar part because there are too many factors and too little released data. Decisions are made holistically based on the full “application.” Just as important, about 4,000 Scholars are the result of school sponsored awards. There are some schools where Finalists are guaranteed to be Scholars as long as they designate the college as their first choice. The Ivies, Michigan, Duke, Stanford and hundreds of other colleges, on the other hand, provide no school sponsored awards. Students attending one of these colleges can only obtain Scholar status by winning one of the corporate sponsored awards. Only about 1 student in 4 receives such an award.

  • Mamelot says:

    Hi Art – wanted to share some interesting news in case it hasn’t been discussed.

    Today NMSC told met that the confirmation SAT score would be presented as a Selection Index rather than a Total Score (think 209 rather than 1380) and that it will actually be less than 209 (which is the lowest qualifying score). The don’t have a number yet.

    Does this news change any of your guidance on what scores will clear the confirmation hurdle? As my daughter had only taken the new test, they made sure I understood how to tally up her individual test scores to arrive at a Selection Index. It’s the same calculation as for the PSAT so easy to do. Obviously anything 209 or higher should be fine. However, for the old test (which I didn’t discuss with NMSC), it would seem that one has to be a bit careful to convert accurately. An old 1960 always converts to a 1380 Total Score; however, the resulting SI will depend on the individual conversions of CR, M and W. Any thoughts?

    As usual, many thanks for all you’ve done to shed light on PSAT and National Merit in this year of crazy!

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Mamelot,
      That’s in step with what a couple of other parents reported over on our NM FAQ page. The info you received is far clearer, though.

      It makes perfect sense. NMSC is used to using R + M + W from the old SAT and for the Selection Index, so why abandon it for the new confirming score? If they would only set a number (!), then students can think of their confirming score in relation to their PSAT SI. As for my guidance, I’d say it is largely unchanged. The most important shift is that we now need to be careful about saying “you need a 1380” or “you need a 1400” etc. As you say, total scores can result in different SIs [I just posted a mini-opus above on the history of SIs.] We also have the lingering problem of old SAT scores versus new.

      New SAT Confirming Score
      I agree with you at 209 would seem to be the upper bound for a confirming SI. AFAIK, NMSC has never set a confirming score higher than the Commended level. We know that in prior years the confirming score was essentially 5-6 (50-60) points lower than the Commended SI. So it seems likely that it will fall somewhere in the 203 – 209 range for the class of 2017. Because of score compression, I think it will be closer to 209 — 50-60 points ain’t what it used to be. Students with new SAT SIs below 209 should at least keep an eye toward a Saturday morning in Oct, Nov, or Dec. Stating for the record: SI = 2 x EBRW + Math (drop the 0).

      Old SAT Confirming Score
      The easiest thing for NMSC to do would be to recycle the previous cutoff. If it was good enough for the class of 2016, why not good enough for the class of 2017? The caveat is that even on the old SAT NMSC thought about the confirming score as similar to a PSAT equivalent — in other words, no essay. So it was possible for a student with a strong essay score to have had a 1960 that came up short in qualifying as a Finalist. There is the possibility that NMSC sets a higher mark this year. If they set a 205 for the new SAT, do they work backwards to score X for the old SAT? There is no such thing as an SI concordance, so it would require certain assumptions about R/WL/M splits. We can’t think about it probabilistically like we could NMSF estimates, because this is a human decision. I think it’s simpler to assume that achieving a reconstituted old SAT score [CR + M + Writing MC x 10] at 2000 and above is probably safe. The 1960 – 1990 range concerns me until Evanston speaks.

      I’m really hoping that NMSC clarifies things. The comments on the FAQ scared me about when and if that clarification will take place.

      • Mamelot says:

        Thanks, Art, for this comprehensive reply! It does seem odd that NMSC hasn’t determined a final confirming score, but a comment they made during my phone call may(?) shed some light. The very nice gentleman I spoke to mentioned that they were very concerned with making sure not to set the score so high that it knocks out some who should have qualified for finalist. Perhaps they are running simulations of test score combinations that sum to 1960 (or whatever the number they settle on for the “old” test), determining the concorded Selection Index results, then selecting something on the lower side to make sure they cover all the possibilities. This is just speculation on my part but it’s what I thought of immediately upon hearing the comment.

        However, after reading the posts on the FAQ page tonight, I must admit to wondering if I even heard NMSC correctly!

        In any case, if someone has an old SAT they should probably have NMSC walk them through the computation of concording the test scores and converting that to a Selection Index. Only then would they know for sure whether they truly have a confirming score. The concordance tables themselves can be very confusing because it’s not clear in this case whether you should use the College Board Score Converter (which concords to a Total Score with EBRW and Math which, in turn, can be turned into a Selection Index) or use the Concordance Tables to concord the individual test scores CR, M, W (and then double that sum). Not only can different SI’s result from a Total Score – they can also result from slightly different concordance methods, as many of us who have used these tables extensively have discovered! That’s why it would be best to contact NMSC and have them give out exact instructions. Perhaps if NMSC has to to continue to spend time fielding numerous phone calls on the subject, they will finally opt for Clarity over Tea Leaves. Obviously, with scholarship money on the line, the latter really has no place at all in this competition.

        Cheers!

  • BH@MD says:

    Hi Art, My son got 1480 in PSAT but only 220 for NMSC selection index score, which means he is not a semifinalist in Maryland. But some students who received lower PSAT scores of 1460 or 1470 actually got selected as NMSC semifinalists with 221 index score. I was surprise by this. So I did a little calculation and found that things have totally changed this year for the NMSC. So PSAT has 760 for one section of Reading/Writing and 760 for one section of Math (that’s like 50% weight of each)., but when NMSC calculated their selection index scores, they only used max 38 for math (1/3 weight) and split English/writing into two sections (2/3 weight, with max. 38 for Wring and max 38 for English). In other words, whoever students did super well in Math section of PSAT will be systematically discriminated in their selection index calculation for NMSC and subsequently be replaced by the students with close scores but did well in English/wrting in teh selection of semifinalists. I am not sure how NMSC could claim that they are using PSAT scores to select semifinalists as they have always done in the last many years because they made changes in their way of calculating the selection index scores. I felt so bad for whoever students scored better in math in PSAT – it seems so unfair to be systematically affected by how the selection index scores are calculated this year. I would like to hear your thoughts about this. thanks.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      BH,
      As a bit of a math geek myself, I can appreciate your frustration given how well your son did and how close he was to the challenging MD cutoff. The fairness of the calculation is beyond my interpretation, but I can give you some context that shows a continuity in NMSC’s thinking. Your concern regarding the SI is a common one, so I’m going to make this a bit generic for re-use. I’ll put the tl;dr version up front: NMSC is actually following its traditional path. It is College Board that has made things more confusing. NMSC has always (about 60 years) given more weight to verbal skills, and the current SI of equal parts reading, writing, and math is in line with its practice for the last two decades.

      For those interested in much more context, I provide the following history. Some of the dates are from memory, but the arc is correct.

      While College Board and NMSC jointly sponsor the PSAT/NMSQT, they do not necessarily have the same goals. The recent decade where the PSAT, SAT, and Selection Index all followed the same scoring was a happy coincidence. College Board and NMSC have used the same building blocks for about 45 years, but they’ve sometimes differed about the final structure.

      1957-1970
      NMSQT was an independent test that included scores in English (grammar), Reading (specifically, in social studies and natural sciences), Word Usage (vocabulary), and Math. The Selection Index was calculated from these four areas, so Math represented only 1/4 of a student’s score. The test used its own SI scale from 5 – 170.

      1971-1996
      College Board and NMSC joined forces to offer the PSAT/NMSQT. The test mimicked the SAT’s Verbal and Math breakdown. However, the Selection Index was calculated as 2 x Verbal + Math. This is important, as it established the SI as ranging from 60-240 and essentially locked in NMSC’s weighting of skills. [I’m glossing over the fact that the 20-80 score range of the PSAT was merely the 200-800 range of the SAT without a zero.]

      1997-2003
      A Writing Skills section was added to the PSAT, but it was left off of the SAT. The Selection Index remained at 60-240 but was now Reading + Math + Writing. The weighting retained the 2 to 1 emphasis on verbal skills.

      2004-2014
      The PSAT and SAT were both overhauled in the 2004-2005 academic year. They waved goodbye to analogies, and the SAT added the grammar content that the PSAT had already incorporated. The SAT also added an essay. The SI remained virtually unchanged as CR + M + W. A major problem in this SAT era was that the essay was widely derided, and the Writing section was guilty by association [the essay was never a part of the PSAT, but it represented about 1/3 of the SAT Writing score.] The SAT steadily lost ground to the ACT, which was better able to market itself as “academically aligned.”

      2015-
      The redesigned PSAT (Oct 2015) and SAT (Mar 2016) were introduced with great fanfare. The new tests were meant to more closely reflect what students were learning in school. College Board faced a problem, however. On the one hand, it felt that it was important to continue testing grammar and usage — just as the ACT does on its English test. On the other hand, the 600-2400 score had gathered an aroma of failure. The College Board decided to shift its “brand” back to the 400-1600 that it had used for more than 60 years. The convoluted solution was to start distinguishing between “test” scores and “section” scores. The new exams have scores for 3 tests — Reading, Writing and Language, and Mathematics. In order to return to the verbal/math split of prior periods, though, the reading and usage were combined into a single section score of 200-800 for Evidence-based Reading and Writing (EBRW). Math has its own 200-800 section score. For reasons too complex to detail here, PSAT scores were shifted to 160-760 (the PSAT finally gained the missing 0!).

      Calculating the Selection Index
      The PSAT report will say that the SI is derived from the 8-38 test scores — (R + WL + M) * 2. I hate this definition. In the nearly 600 comments to this post, I’d be surprised to find that more than a couple of folks have described scores by referencing the test scores such as 34/32/30. Instead, students and parents think of a score as 660 and 600 or 1260. My preferred SI calculation harkens back to the old days and uses the section scores — drop the 0 and the SI is 2 x EBRW + M. In my example, 2(66) + 60 = 192. The definition’s lineage from the 2V + M of my day is clear. Unfortunately, the total score (1260) alone cannot be used to arrive at an SI. In theory, such a student could have an SI as low as 176 (scores of 500 EBRW and 760 Math) to as high as 202 (scores of 760 EBRW and 500 Math). The fact that the SI is not a function of total score is confusing — and sometimes infuriating. This post has been a long way of saying that it is, at least, historically consistent.

      • BH@MD says:

        Hi Art –
        Thanks so much for the information on how SI was calculated in the past. I really appreciate your hard work to help us understand the system!
        Despite the historical factors, I have to say that the fact that the new SI used by NMSC now is not a function of total PSAT score is not only confusing but also unfair to many students. Essentially at every potential cutoff lines, they took away the semifinalist title or the Commended student title from the ones who did better in PSAT and math section, and give the title to some others who have lower total PSAT scores but did better in reading/writing. At least in the past 10 years, the SI is a simple function of the PSAT scores (like PSAT is 2300, then SI is 230, which seems to be clear to people). But now, it becomes somewhat random. It’s as if saying to the students that “well, you did better in PSAT, but we are giving the semifinalist to someone else who did not do as well as you!” I wonder how many percentage of student nationwide have been affected by this in 2017 (my guess is that it is not a small number). Anyway, thanks again for your help in understanding the situation!

  • Claire says:

    Hi Art,

    My daughter has a 223 in Texas and has been told by her GC that she made the cutoff for SF, but was also told to “keep it quiet” for now. Does that mean she cannot put it on her applications until the official announcement?

    Thanks for all this info and your hard work!

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Congratulations. She should include it. Colleges will not be sharing her information; admission offices aren’t aware of, and wouldn’t care about, the press embargo date; NM would have no way of knowing that she released this information about *herself*, and I know of no student ever penalized for not keeping quiet. My only caveat would be with the GC herself. If she would see the application in the next week, I’d recommend asking permission first.

  • Claire C. says:

    Thanks a bunch for the information, and again for all your hard work.

  • Steven Wang says:

    Hi Art,

    Thanks so much for the info table. Do you know approx. how many commended students and semifinalists in NJ for 2017?

    SW

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Steven,
      I don’t have the exact figures for the last 2 classes, but the distribution changes little in most years. For the class of 2015, there were 2,580 Commended Students and 521 Semifinalists in New Jersey. The SF number is unlikely to be that different because they are apportioned based on student population. The Commended figure could fluctuate a bit since the national cutoff is applied to all students in NJ. That said, I think those are good estimates.

      • Renee says:

        Dear Art,
        Do you know roughly how many Commended Students and semifinalists for PA in given year?

        • Art Sawyer says:

          Renee,
          NMSC doesn’t get around to reporting all of the figures by state until the graduating class is off in college, so their last annual report gives numbers for the class of 2015. These will not have changed that much. There were 1,565 Commended Students in Pennsylvania and 682 Semifinalists. In some states, news organizations publish the entire statewide list. I have only found regional lists in PA. If you’d like to see how PA stacks up to other states, I’ve published a new resource with all of the information on National Merit Semifinalists by State.

  • Paul says:

    Art,

    Thanks for all your information, it is greatly appreciated. Quick question. Son made semi finalist. Is registered for November SAT exam. As he is seriously considering a school that offers a substantial benefit, and the Nov SAT results not available until after December registration deadline, should we register for both exams dates to be on the safe side in case he has a less than expected showing on the Nov exam? Thanks for your advice