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National Merit Semifinalist Cutoffs Class of 2019

By April 9, 2018National Merit, PSAT
National Merit Semifinalists

The last two years have been unusual ones for National Merit. With the October 2015 PSAT, College Board introduced an entirely redesigned exam and scale, and the Commended Student cutoff came in at 209. The October 2016 PSAT resulted in even more changes: the Commended Student cutoff moved to 211, and Semifinalist cutoffs increased in forty-six of fifty states. [For a full review of how things played out, see the Semifinalist Summary for the Class of 2018. Our National Merit FAQ has more information about the overall process, and we have an in-depth selection of related posts.]

April 6 Update — Confirmation of National Merit Commended Student Level at 212: For the class of 2019, the Commended Student cutoff has moved one point above last year’s 211. The 212 Commended Student cutoff was what we expected based on our analysis of PSAT results. We have updated the estimated Semifinalist cutoffs based on this information. Because the 212 Commended cutoff was already expected, most estimated ranges have not changed.   We continue to believe that the majority of states will see no change or one point increases versus class of 2018 Semifinalist cutoffs. Less common will be two point increases or one point declines. Larger changes are likely to occur in only a handful of states. Changes are not equally likely across the Selection Index range. See the table below for our estimates in your state. College Board no longer releases state-by-state PSAT results, so the ranges are based on historical probabilities rather than on this year’s scoring data within a state.

Although we now know the Commended cutoff, commendations are not actually made until September. Eligible students at or above a 212 Selection Index will either be Commended Students or will continue in the competition as Semifinalists. The Commended cutoff is a national figure. Semifinalists cutoffs are calculated state-by-state and do not become known until late August or early September.

February 11 Update: Students eligible for the National Hispanic Recognition Program have been notified. Since initial NHRP qualification is based on PSAT/NMSQT scores, I am often asked how the results impact predictions for National Merit cutoffs.  For the class of 2018, Compass has the qualifying scores for only the South and Southwest regions. For the class of 2019, we have all regions except New England. Optimists will note that the Southwest’s cutoff went down 10 points this year (NHRP uses PSAT Total Scores rather than the Selection Index). Pessimists will note that the South’s cutoff went up 10 points, which would translate to 1-2 SI points. Realists will note that NHRP scores — especially since they are neither state-based nor representative of the entire pool of PSAT-takers — are not good predictors. There is no clear trend, so NMSF cutoff predictions remain unchanged. See Compass’ NHRP post for details.

Will the class of 2019 see still higher cutoffs or will scores settle back to earlier levels?

Compass’ working hypothesis has been that the higher October 2016 scores are more representative of future results. The 2015 PSAT was a rushed effort, and College Board was still refining the SAT scale. After crunching the numbers for the current PSAT, we believe that the hypothesis is correct and that — at least on a national level — there may still be upward pressure on scores. Compass estimates that the Commended level could rise to 212 [this rise has now been confirmed. Ed.].

The table below represents Compass’ best estimates for class of 2019 cutoffs. Although “most likely” cutoffs are provided, we recommend that parents and students consider the full set of possible outcomes in the estimated ranges. Historically, the Semifinalist cutoffs fall within the estimated ranges about 90-95% of the time once the Commended cutoff is established. Extensive analysis is included below the table.

StateClass of 2019
(Most Likely)
Class of 2019
(Est. Range)
Class of 2018
(Actual)
Class of 2017
(Actual)
Typical # of
Semifinalists
Alabama216214 - 218216215225
Alaska216213 - 21721721340
Arizona220217 - 221220219300
Arkansas214212 - 215215213140
California222220 - 2232222212,050
Colorado220217 - 221220218245
Connecticut221219 - 222221220185
Delaware221218 - 22222121845
District of Columbia223221 - 22422322250
Florida219216 - 220219217810
Georgia220217 - 221220219460
Hawaii219217 - 22122021765
Idaho216214 - 21821621485
Illinois221219 - 222221219735
Indiana219216 - 220219217335
Iowa216214 - 218216215170
Kansas219216 - 220219217155
Kentucky217215 - 218217215215
Louisiana216214 - 218216214210
Maine215214 - 21821521475
Maryland222220 - 223222221315
Massachusetts222221 - 224222222345
Michigan219217 - 221219216565
Minnesota220217 - 221220219300
Mississippi213212 - 215213212135
Missouri217215 - 218217216335
Montana214212 - 21521421050
Nebraska215213 - 217215215100
Nevada217214 - 217217214100
New Hampshire217215 - 21921721675
New Jersey223221 - 224223222520
New Mexico215213 - 21721521390
New York221219 - 2222212191,010
North Carolina219216 - 220219218440
North Dakota212212 - 21421120930
Ohio219216 - 220219217615
Oklahoma216213 - 217216213185
Oregon220217 - 221220219180
Pennsylvania219216 - 220219218680
Rhode Island217215 - 21821621755
South Carolina217215 - 218217215200
South Dakota213212 - 21521520945
Tennessee218216 - 220218218325
Texas221218 - 2222212201,340
Utah216214 - 218216215155
Vermont217215 - 21921721540
Virginia222219 - 223222221390
Washington222219 - 223222220330
West Virginia212212 - 21321120975
Wisconsin217214 - 218217215330
Wyoming212212 - 21321320925
​U.S. Citizens Studying Abroad223221 - 224223222
​U.S. Territories212212211209
​​Commended Student212212211209
Did scores on the October 2017 PSAT change significantly from those on the October 2016 PSAT?

The percentiles and average scores shown on the PSAT/NMSQT score report and in the Understanding Scores publication do not actually pertain to the class of 2019. All of the normative data are from previous class years. Instead of using these sources, Compass has turned to the score information made available to schools.

The average score for the class of 2019 declined 4 points from the 1019 total score seen for the class of 2018.

Average scores, though, do not give an excellent indication of what is happening at the high end of the score range where Commended and Semifinalists cutoffs are determined. More relevant are the results for students in the 1400 to 1520 score range.

Both the percentage of test-takers and the absolute number of test-takers in the 1400-1520 score range increased this year. The increase, however, was notably smaller than that seen the previous year. We believe that these results point to a Commended Student cutoff of 211 or 212 for the class of 2019 [now confirmed as 212. Ed.].

National results do not determine the state cutoffs.

While there is a rough correlation between upward movement in the Commended level and upward movement in state cutoffs, it is not a one-to-one relationship. Additional students taking the PSAT in Illinois or more top scorers in New Jersey — as hypothetical examples — have absolutely no effect on the cutoff in California.

New Jersey (and, by extension, DC and U.S. students abroad) will continue to have the highest cutoff.

The high-water mark is likely to remain at 223. We believe that a 224 cutoff is a remote possibility, and a drop back to 222 is not eliminated. A cutoff higher than 224 is, simply, not a possibility in any state or selection unit.  We believe that cutoffs on the redesigned PSAT reach a natural limit. A “lopsided” student has a much harder time of reaching a top SI. On the old PSAT, a strong math student might score a 720 CR, 800 M, and 720 W and reach an SI of 224. A top-notch verbal student could have a mediocre Math score and still reach 224 (800 CR, 640 M, 800 M). On the new PSAT, a perfect scoring EBRW student must now pair that performance with an excellent Math score to reach the same level (760 EBRW and 720 M). While it is possible that a state might eventually hit a 224 Semifinalist cutoff, we think it is unlikely.

The best estimate is still a weak bet.

Compass has repeatedly shown that, in the absence of definitive movement in the Commended level, the best estimate of a state’s future cutoff is the current cutoff. However, even that best estimate is only correct 28% of the time. The chart below reflects historical changes in cutoffs over the last decade (adjusted for the scaling change of the new PSAT).

Changes are not equally distributed across all states. High scoring states, in particular, have more stable cutoffs than those with cutoffs near the Commended level. The standard deviation for the cutoffs in the dozen highest scoring states (which also represent 4 of the 5 largest states) is approximately 1. The standard deviation among the lowest scoring states is approximately 2.

Large states see more stability than small states.

The 9 states that saw 3-point or greater increases for the class of 2018 had a total of about 1,100 Semifinalists. California, in comparison, has almost twice that number. Large numbers bring stability. The largest state seeing a 3-point increase last year was Michigan, which switched from being an ACT state to being an SAT state. Illinois has made a similar transformation, and there may still be some upward movement.

If the Commended level does increase by a point this year, does it mean that all of the estimates go up by a point?

Historically, a one point change shifts the curve slightly so that there is a toss-up — across all states — between no change and a 1 point increase. Since we expect the Commended level to remain the same or increase by a single point, we believe that the most common situation will be “no change.” As seen in previous years, we expect a lower likelihood of change in the highest cutoffs and in the largest states. A few states have “hand-tuned” estimates based on historical patterns. Understanding the inevitable distribution of changes can help students and parents better appreciate why Compass presents estimated ranges and why a “most likely” can be “best” and “weak” at the same time.

Why are score changes so much smaller at the high end?

Even in this “up year,” only New Jersey saw a cutoff of 223 (cutoffs for DC and U.S. students studying abroad are based on the highest scoring state). Several more states were bunched up at 222. These results lend credence to the theory that cutoffs on the redesigned PSAT reach a natural limit. A “lopsided” student has a much harder time of reaching a top SI. On the old PSAT, a strong math student might score a 720 CR, 800 M, and 720 W and reach an SI of 224. A top-notch verbal student could have a mediocre Math score and still reach 224 (800 CR, 640 M, 800 M). On the new PSAT, a perfect scoring EBRW student must now pair that performance with an excellent Math score to reach the same level (760 EBRW and 720 M). While it is possible that a state might eventually hit a 224 Semifinalist cutoff, we think it is unlikely. Unless the test undergoes dramatic changes, we believe that it is impossible for a cutoff to ever reach 225.

Cutoffs increased for the class of 2017 and have now increased again. Will they keep going up? In both cases, the College Board played a larger role than did test-takers in overall score changes. There is not yet evidence that scores are on the rise for future years. In fact, we think it is the least likely case – although not by a large margin – when choosing among “no change,” “lower scores,” and “higher scores.”

Nationally, the ability levels of the top 16,200 students among 1.5 million NMSQT participants is relatively static over any mid-term window. The change for the class of 2017 was as expected as it was dramatic. The PSAT underwent a complete overhaul. The elimination of the guessing penalty and the reduction in multiple-choice answers helped “inflate” most scores. The shift from 200-800 scoring per section to 160-760 per section slightly lowered the top end.

What, then, caused scores to rise for the class of 2018?

There have been a number of theories to explain the increase in PSAT scores for the class of 2018. Test-takers for the 2016 PSAT had the advantage of additional practice materials, improved test preparation, and increased familiarity (many took the redesigned PSAT as sophomores in 2015). While any or all of these factors may have had some impact, Compass’ research points to PSAT scaling imperfections or irregularities as the more likely cause.

College Board’s goal is to make sure that PSAT scores from one year are comparable to PSAT scores in another year. It has not always met that goal. It faced a more difficult task than usual for the October 2015 and 2016 PSATs, because the scales were in flux and several PSAT problems had to be discarded as invalid. The fact that 46 of 50 states saw increased cutoffs and that PSAT scores increased for sophomore and juniors at essentially all ability levels means that student-specific factors such as increased preparation do not adequately explain the changes. The rise in cutoffs does not reflect an inexorable increase in scores. While cutoffs fluctuate from year-to-year, a longer view shows that there has not been a national trend toward higher scores. That claim cannot be made as universally at the state level. In-migration and economic growth help fuel competition for Semifinalist slots, which is why a state such as Texas has seen an upward trend over the last decade. Michigan is an example of where heightened attention to the PSAT can raise scores quickly. Even at the state level, though, it is unwise to focus on year-over-year changes as an indicator of future results.

Why do states have such different cutoffs?

Cutoffs vary across the country because the approximately 16,200 Semifinalists are allocated proportionally to states based on the total number of juniors in a class. The table at the top of the page shows how many Semifinalists from the class of 2016 were recognized in each state. A state’s cutoff is derived by finding the score that will produce, as closely as possible, the targeted number of Semifinalists. Students in any given state are competing only against fellow residents. The test is national, the competition is local.

Is it just my imagination or do PSAT scores bounce around more than SAT scores?

It is not your imagination. While approximately the same number of students take the PSAT each year as take the SAT, there are crucial differences. Every student takes one of two PSAT/NMSQT forms on one of two dates in October (technically, there is a third, “alternate,” form and date). SATs have more dates, more forms, and students take and retake them throughout the year. The relative homogeneity of the PSAT means that it is highly susceptible to shifts, as there is no averaging out of differences. The size and direction of these shifts, though, cannot be predicted in advance. If they could be, College Board would take steps to prevent them.

Semifinalists — or prospective Semifinalists — may want to visit the Compass National Merit FAQ to understand more about the National Merit Scholarship Program and the steps along the way.

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.

3,164 Comments

  • Prat says:

    Does 218 for my son have a chance to make the cutoff in NC, since you expect a handful of states to end up with a lower cutoff?

  • Dave says:

    Hi, my son got a 219 in Ohio, do you think that will make it?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Dave,
      I think it is too close to call. I think about half of states will have cutoffs that remain stable or decline, but that is only an approximation.

  • J H says:

    Hi – My son got a 219 in Wisconsin. How far do you think that will take him in the competition?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      J H,
      Your son will likely qualify as a Semifinalist based on his PSAT score. In order to continue as a Finalist (and potentially a scholarship winner), he will need a “confirming” SAT score, good grades, and the support of his school. The confirming score is not determined until later in the year, but it will likely be in the 210-213 range (calculated as a Selection Index). Semifinalists will receive more information about the Finalist application in September.

  • Maria says:

    How far will a 213 index take my daughter in KS?

  • Daniel says:

    Hello Mr. Sawyer,

    I am writing to ask if you (or any of your readers) will publish the last 4-5 years of essay prompts for the NMF applications. I realize it can change this year but if there is a pattern, it could help with some summer preparation.

    thank you!
    DP

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Daniel,
      The pattern is that NMSC has not changed its prompt for at least 3 years. It is so broad that I think it is a safe starting point for students thinking ahead to this fall.

      “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 provided.”

  • Max says:

    Hi, I received a 214 in Florida. Do you foresee a chance that I may qualify as a Semi Finalist? Thanks!

  • Tina says:

    Hi, My son has a score of 217 and lives in. MS. How likely is it that he will be a semi-finalist and finalist?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Tina,
      He is essentially certain to reach the Semifinalist stage. More than 90% of Semifinalists become Finalists. He needs to achieve a confirming SAT score (not yet set, but probably an SAT Selection Index of around 212), have good grades, and get the recommendation of his school. He will receive more information in September. The scholarship portion of the competition is a bit more competitive, with about half of Finalists earning a scholarship from a college or sponsor.

      • Tina says:

        Hey. We just got his June SAT scores. He made 1470. The SI is 221. Do you think that is a confirming score high enough to go beyond commended? Will he be a Finalist?
        Thank you.
        Tina from MS

        • Art Sawyer says:

          Tina,
          Sorry for the delay in replying. Yes, the 1470 (221) will be well over the confirming score needed. His 217 in MS is almost certainly high enough for Semifinalist. As long as his grades are good and he receives the support of his school, he should also proceed to the Finalist stage. The scholarship stage is harder to handicap because it largely depends on the choices a student makes. A Finalist choosing to go a school that offers NM awards — and who designates the school as first choice — will be a Scholar (unless all award money is gone). Receiving one of the $2,500 awards directly from NM is competitive, and your son would be assessed holistically versus other students in your state.

  • MT says:

    Hi! How likely is it that a 220 in MN will make it to the semifinalist round? I see that 220 is the predicted score, but what are the chances that it could go up or down?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      MT,
      In a “normal” year, getting the same score as the previous year’s cutoff would work out about 60-70% of the time. There still seems to be some upward pressure nationally — although much less than last year — which is why I estimate this year that it is about 50/50 that last year’s cutoff will qualify. MN has been on the rise in recent years, but I would still handicap things at 50/50. Good luck.

  • S says:

    Hi, my daughter received 220 in CA. will she be a semi-finalist?

  • Natalie says:

    I earned a 227 in California. What do I need to do to become a finalist/scholarship recipient?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Natalie,
      In September, you’ll get an application for Finalist. In order to qualify, you’ll need
      1) Good grades. There is no set cutoff. If you get mostly A’s, you should be fine.
      2) A “confirming SAT” score. This is a national cutoff that usually falls around the Commended cutoff (212). Given your PSAT score, you shouldn’t have any trouble. You can use any score through December of this year. High scores can improve your chances of becoming a scholarship recipient.
      3) A recommendation from your school.
      4) A completed application — think of it as a barebones college application with a single essay.

      The Finalist stage is just a hurdle to overcome by checking off the four boxes. The Scholar level is a competition where your application will be weighed against other students in CA.

  • Mary says:

    If my child was recognized as a qualifier by her high school does that mean she will, at least, be recognized as a commendable achievement?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Mary,
      Schools are not supposed to do any recognition until official announcements in the fall (although I don’t mean that as a criticism a school that is honoring achievement). I’m not sure what your school chose to recognize exactly, but it was probably students with at least a 212 Selection Index — who will be, at least, Commended Students. You can find the Selection Index on your daughter’s PSAT report. Schools do not know the Semifinalist levels.

  • Eric says:

    Hi Art,

    Great article, and really helpful. I am trying to understand the conversion between the PSAT scores and the old three-digit NMSQT scores that everyone still seems to prefer. It seems like the cutoffs between semifinalist and commended are really squishy year to year, but my confusion has now extended to the actual conversion. The best I have been able to find as a guide is the set of tables released in 2015 with the PSAT redesign, but I feel like the accuracy might be suspect as they have had a couple of years to shake down the test. Do you know if they have made changes to these tables in the last couple years?

    Many thanks!
    Eric

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Eric,
      You may be confusing the concordance tables that were used during the switchover from old PSAT to new PSAT with the conversion of PSAT numbers into a Selection Index. The concordance no longer plays any role in the process and would just make squishy estimation that much squishier. The only reason the old PSAT scores were simpler to work with was that they added up to the Selection Index. It just takes a couple more arithmetic steps now (ERWx2 + Math)/10.

      You are correct that the accuracy of the concordance tables is suspect — at least in the sort of fine detail that would be needed for NM. New tables by ACT and College Board will finally be released this month. Again, these in no way impact or inform National Merit. The previous year’s National Merit results are the best information available. Think of the concordance as a rule of thumb necessary when comparing two tests (old to new or new to ACT). We don’t need that rule of thumb when every eligible student took the same exam.

  • Talib H. says:

    Hi, I got a 219 on the PSAT. Do you think I have a chance at qualifying for National Merit Semifinalist?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Talib,
      It completely depends on where you live. In more than half of states, a 219 will likely qualify. In others — including the most populous — a 219 will not qualify. The estimated figures on this page will give you some idea of you rank in your state.

  • hj says:

    Hi, My daughter has a score of 222 in VA.
    Do you think that will make it?

  • NS says:

    Hi Art, my child earned a 218 in Michigan. Do you think she has a chance to become a finalist/scholarship recipient?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      NS,
      There is certainly a chance, but Michigan’s cutoff has been on an upswing thanks to its switchover from ACT to SAT. The cutoff would need to fall by a point this year. That would be for NMSF qualification. Finalist/Scholarship are additional steps along the way.

  • Tom says:

    Hi Art,

    We are from California and my son took the PSAT during his junior year in 2017. Graduating in May of 2019. Don’t quite understand the scores. He scored a1480 with a selection index of 221. I have seen quite a few of the scores with 1470 and an equivalent SI of 222. Does that mean he did not make it? Does that mean he needed to score 1490 to get 222? So the 2 scores are totally 2 different scores and do not correspond?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Tom,
      The components are weighted differently in the case of the 1480 and 221. Reading and Writing are combined to form a 160-760 score that is then added to the 160-760 Math score. In the Selection Index, Reading, Writing, and Math are all given equal weight. Working backwards, I calculate that your son received an ERW score of 730 and Math score of 750. You can derive the SI from these by dropping the zeros, doubling the ERW, and adding the Math — 73*2 + 75 = 221. If his scores were reversed, he would have had an SI of 75*2 + 73 = 223. Unfortunately, the CA cutoff is likely to fall above 221. We won’t know for sure for a few more weeks.

  • Jay says:

    Hi Mr. Sawyer,

    Thanks so much for the article. I just had 2 questions:
    1. Do you think a 218 has a chance for being semi-finalist in Ohio?
    2. Last year I got a PSAT score of 1460 with a selection index of 219, and this year my actual PSAT score rose to 1470 but my selection index went down to 218. How does this work? I tried reading some articles; I know the selection index factors in the number of questions answered correctly, but it appears that I missed less questions this year compared to last year. Any insight you’re able to offer is much appreciated.

    Best,
    Jay

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Jay,
      1. In past years, we’ve seen about a third of states show cutoff declines, so it is possible that Ohio will move to 218 (it was at 217 for the class of 2017).
      2. The difference is not in number of questions but in the way scores are weighted. The ERW carries twice the weight of the Math score in the SI calculation. Although your total score went up, I believe that you improved in Math and fell in ERW. It’s that combination that led to the lower SI.

  • Karen says:

    I have been told not to take the SAT until college board nitifies that I am a semi-finalist because there are only certain SAT test dates that will give accepted scores to submit for qualifying as a finalistt. Is this true? Does the college board send you the dates to take the SAT that are acceptable with the semi-finalist notification letter?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Karen,
      You do not have to wait until receiving NMSF notification. For some students — such as those doing well on the ACT — it makes sense to wait. Any test date from October of sophomore year through December of senior year is eligible to serve as a confirming score in the NM process. I recommend registering now.

  • Carlee says:

    I got a 219 Selection Index in Missouri, so I will hopefully be a semifinalist. Even if semifinalists are not selected as finalists, can they still receive scholarships?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Carlee,
      Is “sort of” an acceptable answer? Most awards are specifically for Finalists. However, a few colleges do provide awards to Semifinalists and there are some corporate scholarships that can go to Commended Students or Semifinalists. Keep in mind that 90% of Semifinalists do end up as Finalists.

  • Shra says:

    Hi, I got a 220 on the PSAT. Do you think I have a chance at qualifying for National Merit Semifinalist? (I live in Texas)

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Shra,
      It is possible that TX’s cutoff will move down this year — it was at 220 as recently as the class of 2017. You just need to keep up the hope for a few more weeks.

  • Tom says:

    Hi Art,

    My son’s SI is 221. What is the chance for Florida’s SI to be higher than 221?

    Thanks Again,
    Tom

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Tom,
      Almost no chance. Only a few states will be at 222 or higher, and Florida will not be among them this year. Congratulations to your son. Confirmation, of course, won’t be out until the end of the month.

  • Raja says:

    I earned a 219 in Arizona in PSAT and 1460 in SAT. Where do I stand?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Raja,
      You are on the cusp of where the Semifinalist cutoff is likely to fall this year in AZ. If you do make Semifinalist, your 1460 will be high enough to serve as a confirming score.

  • Made says:

    Hi Art,

    I live in NY. My son took the SAT a month prior taking the PSAT. He was studying during the summer of his junior year and took the SAT in October and the PSAT in November in that year. He got 1490 on the SAT and got 1480 (SI: 222) on the PSAT. Both scores are in the 99th percentile. My question is if he qualifies as a semifinalist, can he use his SAT score that he took before he took the PSAT? He is not planning to take the SAT again because the 1490 score has met his his goal. What do you think? Thanks!

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Made,
      Yes, an SAT score can be a confirming score as long as it is taken between Oct of sophomore year and Dec of senior year. Your son’s score will be high enough to be a confirming score.

  • Jay says:

    Hi Art,

    Great article! Just wondering, do you think 218 could be semi-finalist in Ohio?

    Thank you very much!

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Jay,
      There may some upward pressure this year nationwide, but I still expect about a quarter of states to show lower cutoffs this year. There is no reason why Ohio can’t be one of them! We will know in 2-3 weeks.

  • Morgan says:

    HI. My son got a 223 in NC. Would that possibly reach finalist range? Assuming a similar SAT score and appropriate grades? Thank you.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Morgan,
      Yes, your son will easily qualify as a Semifinalist in NC and move on in the competition. With a similar SAT score (or even lower), good grades, and the support of his school, he will also become a Finalist.

  • Isabel says:

    Hi,
    My daughter got a 212 in Texas. Do you think she will qualify as a semi finalist?

  • Tom says:

    What are my chances with a 222 in texas?

  • Michael says:

    What is the likelihood of actually getting a scholarship and what is the typical scholarship amount, assuming you are a semifinalist? This would be for California, confirming SAT score of 1560, weighted GPA around 4.4, unweighted GPA around 3.95

    Do they consider AP test scores at all?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Michael,
      That’s a tricky one to answer because of all of the permutations. Assuming he qualifies as a Semifinalist, it looks like he will advance to the Finalist stage. It’s at the next stage where things get tricky. I’m simplifying a bit, but we can say that there are three types of scholarships — those sponsored by colleges, those sponsored by corporations, and those sponsored by NMSC. In the case of college awards, most Finalists will be recipients of scholarships as long as they designate the college as their first choice (that designation comes later and is not the same thing as EA/ED). These are not transferable. Technically, college awards are between $500-$2000 per year. However, some colleges use Finalist status to provide much larger awards. Texas Tech, as an example, provides a full-ride scholarship. It’s important to note that many colleges do not sponsor scholarships at all.

      Students not receiving a college award are eligible for corporate-sponsored awards. Many of these are designated for Finalists that are the children of employees or are in a specific geography. These can range in value from $500 to $10,000. Students not qualifying for a corporate-sponsored award are eligible for for one of the 2,500 scholarships from National Merit that are for $2,500. These can be quite competitive.

      AP scores are not considered at either the Finalist or scholarships stages.

  • Kim says:

    Do you think a 220 in Texas will qualify as a semifinalist or is it unlikely that the cutoff score will move down?

  • Renee says:

    Hi Art,

    Always informative pages here, so thank you for your articles and correspondence.
    My son received a 218 in Florida on PSAT, was told he was one of 2 students at our (huge) school notified about possible semifinalist qualifying scores.
    SAT 1500 (first time)
    ACT 35 (first time)
    I have a 2 part question:
    1) Since only 2 at our school, could this possibly help him in qualifying as a finalist somehow?
    2) He thinks he should retake the SAT, I think its not worth stressing over…opinion?

    Thank You!
    Renee

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Renee,
      Unfortunately, he will competing against everyone in the state, and his status at the school won’t help him. Florida is likely to have a cutoff somewhere in the 218-220 range. His ACT is the stronger of the two scores, and I don’t see a reason to retake the SAT. Unless he brought it up significantly, it would not be stronger than his 1500. The latter, btw, is more than high enough to serve as a confirming score for National Merit if he does become a Semifinalist.

  • Cole says:

    Odds of 219 for Ohio?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Cole,
      I expect to see at least half of state cutoffs to fall at or below the 2018 cutoffs. I don’t have any extra insight unique to Ohio. Cutoffs will start filtering in within 2-3 weeks.

  • Susan S. says:

    Do you think a 217 in Michigan will be enough this year?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Susan,
      While Michigan had a 216 cutoff 2 years ago, I don’t think it is likely that it will move back to the 217 level this year. The state has seen an upward trend because of the switchover from ACT to SAT. There is no reason to give up hope. We’ll know in a few weeks.

  • LC says:

    with a 221 in PSAT in MO and SAT 1550 (curved), what is the chance of becoming Finalist?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      LC,
      Your 221 will make you a Semifinalist in MO, and your 1550 is strong enough to serve as a confirming score. Most Semifinalists become Finalists. As long as your grades are strong and you have the support of your school, you will move on to the next stage.

  • RP says:

    Hi –
    My son received a 220 in TX. What are his chances of becoming a semifinalist?
    Thank you!

  • Sarah says:

    Hi! I’m from California and have a 223. How far should that take me?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Sarah,
      That will likely qualify you as a Semifinalist (the only stage where PSAT score alone matters). There is an outside chance that CA’s cutoff will move to 224, but I consider it highly unlikely. From another post, I know that you scored a 1560 on the SAT. As long as your grades are good and you have the support of your school, you should move on as a Finalist. The scholarship stage is more competitive and a number of factors come into the mix. I describe things in a bit more detail in a reply just a couple of places above this one.

  • Natalie says:

    Hi Art,

    My daughter has a 218 in Louisiana. I know she is commended. What are her chances of being a semifinalist/finalist?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      It is extremely likely that she will qualify as a Semifinalist in Louisiana. I see little chance that the state’s cutoff would jump 3 points. In order to move on to Finalist status she will need a confirming SAT score. She should plan on an SAT Selection Index above 214 to be sure. Finalist status also depends on grades and a recommendation from the school. You’ll get more information after Semifinalists are announced in September.

  • Stephanie says:

    Art my daughter earned a 220 on her PSAT, we live in Texas. I see above that you mentioned it could be possible that score may qualify as a semifinalist. What is the range for commended? Are the scores shown on charts the cut off for commended or semifinalist? Confused.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Stephanie,
      Commended status is set at a national level and is 212 this year. Semifinalist cutoffs are determined at the state level. As you mention, it is possible that a 220 will qualify this year in TX.

  • Frank says:

    Art,
    Thanks for the informative article. We live in Florida. My son received a 219 and a SAT of 1430. Semifinalist material? Also, is there an exact date when semifinalists are announced? How is that communicated. Thanks in advance for your response.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Frank,
      Only the PSAT score matters for Semifinalist status. The 219 in FL is right on the bubble. Communications are made via schools. Notifications to schools will likely be mailed next week. However, we’ve found that the notifications arrive in unpredictable fashion. The “official” announcement occurs in mid-September. I believe that it will fall on Sept 12 this year. Many students will hear before that date.

  • S says:

    Hi Art. How strong is a 220 in AZ?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      S,
      A 220 would have qualified in recent years in AZ, and I think it is more likely than not to be high enough this year. We should know within the next few weeks.

  • Angie says:

    Hi Art,

    Thank you for the great information! My son’s PSAT score is at 215 for Oklahoma. What do you think the chances are that Oklahoma’s cutoff will move down 1-2 points? Last year’s cutoff score was 216.

    Thank you!

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Angie,
      Several years ago College Board stopped releasing detailed state-by-state data for the PSAT. This means that I can only based my best guess on historical patterns. In a year such as this one where the Commended level bumped up 1 point, I expect about a quarter of states to see lower cutoffs. Oklahoma is not one of the larger states by population, so its cutoff tends to move a bit more than the cutoff for a state such as CA.

  • Will says:

    Great Article! I got a 221 in Texas. What are the odds that the threshold in TX moves up this year? Thanks!

  • Quentin says:

    Hi Art,
    I’m sure you’ve mentioned it somewhere in the comments above, but when will senifinalists be notified?
    Thanks,
    Quentin

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Quentin,
      I’ll post more about this in the next couple of days. Semifinalists are not notified directly by NMSC. Instead, NMSC notifies schools, and schools are responsible for notifying students. The public announcement of Semifinalists will likely be on September 12, and some schools wait until that date. There is no requirement for schools to wait until then. Notifications to schools will likely be mailed out next week. We will start getting reports of qualifying scores after that, but the process can drag out. Every year, some schools fail to notify students even after the public announcement date. It’s a nail-biting few weeks.

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