Class of 2018, PSAT scores are in counselor’s hands and will be available to students on December 12, 2016. We have information on the results that I’ll be posting over the next couple of days. The important point is that the class of 2017 cut-offs are the best estimates of what we will see for the class of 2018. I will give some more caveats and information as soon as possible.
Class of 2017 Semifinalist Cutoffs and Estimated Range for Class of 2018
|State||Predicted Range||Class of 2017||Volatility|
|District of Columbia||221-224||222||Low|
If you are named a Semifinalist, what is next? Please visit our National Merit FAQ for more detailed explanations of what you will be expected to do and what SAT score you will need to provide. You may also want to look at the more recent comments on this page and the FAQ page. I try to answer every question.
There is still interesting analysis to be done on how National Merit Semifinalist cutoffs have fallen out, but I know that the number one concern among parents and students is finding out what the cutoffs are. From the time PSAT results came out in January, Compass has been working to understand what the new scores meant for National Merit. Students were given no guidance by College Board or NMSC other than a preliminary concordance table — one that did not concord Selection Indexes — and grossly misleading percentiles. We developed estimates for each state and refined our estimates when new tidbits became available. Over the last three week, we’ve worked to crowd source and confirm as much information as possible about cutoffs in each state and the District of Columbia. On 8/31 — two weeks ahead of the press embargo set for today — we were able to provide parents and students with the information they had requested from NMSC for months. There are good reasons why NMSC prefers to release information through high schools. There are good reasons why parents and students find the delays and gaps frustrating. Our allegiance is clear. Below are what we firmly believe are the cutoffs for the class of 2017. Students scoring at or above the cutoff qualify as National Merit Semifinalists and will be eligible to continue on in the competition. The Commended Student cutoff is at 209.
The rest of this post is preserved as a record of some of the work we began in January to interpret new PSAT scores. Our initial estimates took advantage of the PSAT concordance tables, figures from a selection of schools, and a look at past year performance to produce a range of potential scores for each state. This produced an estimate of 207 as the Commended Level — a key number since it helps define everything above. In April, as NMSC began collecting information from schools, it became clear that the actual figure was 209. We also received information about the new score cutoffs for several regions of the National Hispanic Recognition Program. We were able to develop a refined set of estimates based on this information.
**Final cutoffs can be found in the table above. The information below reflects the estimates Compass had made over the course of winter and spring. They also help to explain the hundreds of posts received on this topic. Most early posts are based on the estimates. Only on 8/31 were we able to post the final table.**
As always, we recommend looking at the estimated ranges rather than focusing only on the Most Likely cutoff. The ranges reflect the variability of year-to-year changes within a state even more than they do uncertainty about the New PSAT conversions. States with identical class of 2016 cutoffs may not have identical class of 2017 cutoffs. For example, the class of 2016 was an “up year” outlier for some states and a “down year” outlier for others. For more information, I recommend reading the post on our new model. Links and comments to the February version have been preserved for completeness.
College Board has a pending update of the old PSAT to redesigned PSAT concordance. For why the new numbers add little to our understanding our NM cutoffs, please see my post on National Merit and PSAT Concordances.
The class of 2017 faces an unusually high amount of noise surrounding the National Merit Scholarship Program and state cutoffs for Semifinalists. The redesign of PSAT/NMSQT content, the changes to test scoring (such as the lack of a guessing penalty), and the changes to the scale (from 20-80 to 160-760) all make it difficult to use prior data to predict the Commended Student and Semifinalist cutoffs that will be announced in early September 2016. Perhaps worst of all, expectations have been raised by the “percentile inflation” resulting from College Board’s reporting changes. More students than ever are seeing 98th and 99th percentile scores, whereas the number of recognized students is fixed. Compass feels strongly that percentiles have no business this year in estimating National Merit cutoffs (even in the best of years they are poor instruments). In order to refine student and parent expectations, we chose to develop a more robust method of predicting the national Commended Student cutoff and the state-by-state cutoffs for Semifinalist recognition. [See National Merit FAQ if you have general questions involving National Merit participation, qualifications, and timelines.]
Compass cautions juniors from 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. This was rarely an obstacle when 90% of California test takers chose the SAT over the ACT. Within the class of 2017, though, we are seeing a dramatic reordering of choices, and many students would like to stick exclusively to ACT. Students have until December to obtain a qualifying score, so October, November, and December test dates will still be available for students choosing to wait on the SAT until they receive confirmation of their Semifinalist status in September. Taking the SAT is not a requirement for Semifinalist recognition. See our National Merit FAQ for more information on the ins and outs of the program.
You can find additional information about our methodology and our caveats here. [More recent posts include those on our methodology, PSAT score compression, and concordance.] Prior years’ scores are provided to indicate the normal fluctuations seen year-to-year and to give a sense of how states have stacked up in the past.
|State||Class of 2017|
|Class of 2017|
|Class of 2016|
|Class of 2015|
|Class of 2014
|Dist of Columbia||222||221-224||225||224||224|
|z - U.S. Territories||209||209-210||202||201||203|
|zz - Outside U.S.||222||221-224||225||224||224|
|zzz - Commended||209||209-209||202||201||203|