National Merit Semifinalist Cutoffs Class of 2018

By September 17, 2017National Merit, PSAT
National Merit Semifinalists

The National Merit Semifinalist cutoffs for the class of 2018 are now final, and they confirm Compass’ analysis that there would be widescale increases. A detailed review of what shaped the changes and what might be expected for the class of 2019 can be found below the state cutoffs table.

Forty-six states saw higher cutoffs versus the class of 2017 figures. Only Rhode Island saw a decrease in its NMSF cutoff. Most of the large moves came in states with low student populations or with lower than average cutoffs. Michigan was the largest state to see a significant move, going from a 216 cutoff to 219. The state recently moved from state-funded ACT testing to state-funded SAT testing.

StateClass of 2018Class of 2017ChangeClass of 2016
Semifinalists
Alabama2162151234
Alaska217213443
Arizona2202191294
Arkansas2152132143
California22222112,102
Colorado2202182253
Connecticut2212201180
Delaware221218343
District of Columbia223222144
Florida2192172807
Georgia2202191455
Hawaii220217366
Idaho216214292
Illinois2212192758
Indiana2192172337
Iowa2162151167
Kansas2192172155
Kentucky2172152225
Louisiana2162142212
Maine215214176
Maryland2222211307
Massachusetts2222220345
Michigan2192163543
Minnesota2202191304
Mississippi2132121128
Missouri2172161349
Montana214210452
Nebraska215215097
Nevada2172143104
New Hampshire217216175
New Jersey2232221512
New Mexico215213291
New York2212192961
North Carolina2192181436
North Dakota211209220
Ohio2192172603
Oklahoma2162133187
Oregon2202191177
Pennsylvania2192181699
Rhode Island216217-155
South Carolina2172152201
South Dakota215209644
Tennessee2182180335
Texas22122011,308
Utah2162151156
Vermont217215235
Virginia2222211381
Washington2222202345
West Virginia211209279
Wisconsin2172152323
Wyoming213209424
​U.S. Citizens Studying Abroad2232221120
​U.S. Territories2112092140
​​Commended Student211209239,765

While cutoffs can trend in a certain direction, they do not move in lockstep. Typically, we see a distribution around the mean, and this year was no different.

States with lower populations – and lower numbers of Semifinalists – can have more volatile cutoffs. The average change for states with fewer than 100 Semifinalists per year was 2.5 points. States with more than 400 Semifinalists per year saw an average increase of 1.5 points. [Counts are given for the class of 2016, the most recently available figures.]

An even larger difference is seen when comparing states at the two extremes of the cutoff range. The 10 states with the lowest cutoffs (209-213) for the class of 2017 saw an average increase of 3 points. The 8 states with the highest 2017 cutoffs (220-222) saw only about a 1 point change.

This difference can be seen graphically when the 2017 cutoffs are plotted against the 2018 cutoffs.

Had no cutoffs changed, all of the states would have fallen along the dotted red line. Instead, a best-fit line (blue) reflects the increases. The gap between the lines narrows from bottom to top. When looked at from this vantage point, Delaware’s 3-point change is almost as significant as South Dakota’s 6-point swing.

A change does not mean a trend. A trend does not mean that movement only occurs in one direction. For this reason, Compass advises future classes to think of cutoffs in terms of estimated ranges. No one can predict exactly where cutoffs will fall for the class of 2019 or 2020. Instead, it is important to combine present data (the best indicator until we know more about October 2017 scores) with an understanding of how much variation can occur from year-to-year. As always, this page and other posts on the Compass blog posts about National Merit will be updated throughout the year.

Expand the sections below for answers to common questions about the Semifinalist cutoffs and the PSAT/NMSQT.

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.

Have scores changed like this in the past?

There is relatively recent precedent for the sort of changes seen for the class of 2018. The class of 2012 had a 2-point increase in the Commended Student cutoff, just as happened this year. Only one state (Alaska) saw a lower cutoff, just as this year only one state (Rhode Island) saw a lower cutoff. Perhaps the most important takeaway, though, was that 2012 was an anomaly. It did not represent a shift in test performance but a one-year blip caused by imperfect scaling. The next year, the cutoffs fell, and they have since bounced around within expected ranges.

Does this mean cutoffs will fall back for the class of 2019?

We won’t have a good answer to this question until scores from the October 2017 PSAT are released in December. Compass’ working hypothesis is that the results from the October 2016 PSAT were more accurate than those from the October 2015 PSAT. In 2016, College Board had more time to create the tests, millions more data points, and an official P/SAT scale that it set in May 2016 when the March SAT was graded.

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.

Why do some states see such large changes?

Most teachers and counselors can point to a class of students that just seemed to have more award winners, more college admittances, or more star writers or athletes. Each year we see schools that make giant leaps from 20 Semifinalists to 35 (or the reverse). The smallest states have between 20 and 80 Semifinalists annually. Virginia’s magnet Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology had more Semifinalists in the class of 2018 (145) than 18 states and more than the smallest 4 states combined. A “special class” can easily shift a small state’s cutoff.

Also, there is no such thing as a 220.427 cutoff – it must be all or nothing at 220 or 221. This means that even larger states can see swings based only on small chance effects.

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.

2,152 Comments

  • ... says:

    From Ohio: I scored a 224 but did not qualify

  • Confused says:

    Hi, I’m from SC and qualified for semi finalist, but was never given a packet by my school. They said all the information would be coming from NMQT in the mail? Is that correct? Or is it supposed to be the school that gives me all the information required for finalist?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Confused,
      It’s your school that is confused. The school would have received a letter for each Semifinalist in their master packet. This congratulatory letter will also have the login information that you need to begin the Finalist application. You do not receive anything directly from NMSC. Check again with your school and describe what you are looking for. If they can’t find it, they need to call NMSC to get a new copy (NMSC will only send the information to the school).

  • NMSF says:

    Art, I am a national merit semifinalist, but have not received my username or password yet from my school for my national merit account. I live in an area affected by hurricane Irma, so my school doesn’t open until Sep. 25th. I called the national office for national merit and they gave me the essay prompt for the finalist application but did not give me a word limit or character limit; they only told me that it was a limited space. Do you happen to know what the word limit for the essay is?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      NMSF,
      I am assuming that they mean a text box of a given size on the online application. Not being a Finalist myself this year ;), I don’t have access to the live form. My advice would be to post the question in the College Confidential forum for Finalists. I’m sure that someone will be able to give you an estimate based on their own essay and how much room there seems to be.

      I’m sorry to hear about your situation. I hoped NMSC is willing to make any necessary accommodations. Your school needs to prepare a recommendation, and I imagine that they have quite a lot on their minds right now.

  • What says:

    I am confused on what these numbers mean. how do you know what score you got, my score was given out of 1520

    • Art Sawyer says:

      What,
      National Merit uses a special score known as the Selection Index. Instead of the Total Score (out of 1520), the SI needs to be calculated from the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and Math scores (up to 760 each). The easiest way to calculate the SI is to drop the zeros from these scores, double the EBRW and add the Math. For example, a student with a 710 EBRW and 730 Math (1440 Total) would have a Selection Index of 71 x 2 + 73 = 215.

      If you have already taken the PSAT, you’ll find the Selection Index on your paper report and on its own tab of your online report.

      • Tara says:

        My daughter’s score of 227 was calculated by taking her scores of 38+38+37.5=113.5×2=227. It was explained somewhere in the PSAT report.

        • Art Sawyer says:

          That’s right, Tara. The “official” calculation uses the Reading, Writing, and Math subscores. The problem is that few people remember scores as “36, 37, 35.5.” Instead, they are likely to think of those scores as 730 (36+37)x10 and 710 (35.5)x20. Since you end up with the same SI using either calculation, I prefer a formula based on EBRW and Math scores. For example, I can tell that your daughter got a 760 EBRW and 750 M [congratulations!], so I can computer the SI as 76×2 + 75 = 227.

  • Kristen says:

    Art,
    With the scores going up so much this year (and last year), do you predict a similar rise next year? As a homeschool mom, I graduated 2 National Merit finalists already, but our son will be taking his PSAT in a few weeks, and it’s starting to look like only those with virtually perfect scores are going to be in the running anymore, as just a few wrong answers will now knock a student out of the race. Would you venture a guess on next year’s cutoffs going up further, or is that speculation premature?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Kristen,
      If I didn’t know better, I’d think that I’d planted your question myself. The just-published revision to the post addresses these very issues. I think the score changes are particularly odd for parents familiar with the old PSAT. The back-to-back cutoff increases for the last two classes make it seem like there is a trend, but they need to be viewed separately — especially the rescaling that took place for the class of 2017. I do not think there will be a similar rise next year, but I am quick to admit that we don’t know this for sure.

      You are correct that in many states NMSF status requires high scores that leave less room for error. The flip side is that this near perfection is easier to attain. Your son will face a very different test than your two older children. It’s more straightforward in a number of ways. It no longer has a “guessing penalty,” and guessing itself is easier with only 4 answer choices. Your son will face the same competition as your 2 NMFs, he’ll just do it on a different playing field.

  • Miku says:

    Mr. Swayer,
    What is the commended cutoff score??

    VR

  • Unfair says:

    It is so unfair that they calculate the scores based on the formula EBRW X 2 + Math. My daughter got 670 in EBRW & 750 on Math (Total = 1420) and she did not qualify. where as her friend got better score in EBRW than hers and she got it. Very unfair!!

  • Nancy says:

    Has the cutoff for Commended Student status been announced?

  • Cindi says:

    Washington State homeschool mom here. Received daughter’s Commended Certificate in the mail today, SI 213. Couldn’t be more proud. 🙂
    ( What a long journey…glad it’s over. Thank you for making the ride more enjoyable Mr. Sawyer!)
    Cindi

    • Art Sawyer says:

      I’m glad that NMSC finally got the Commended letters out to schools last week. As you discovered, they are showing up! Congratulations.

      • Lori says:

        Any idea when Michigan will be sending out the commended letters? My son qualified and has received nothing?

        • Art Sawyer says:

          Lori,
          At this point, most hold ups are at the school level. NMSC mailed Commended letters to schools on 9/14. It is up to schools to see that students are notified. I would recommend a polite check in with your son’s counselor. 🙂

  • Kate says:

    On your distribution graph for up 4, I think MO should be MT.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Thank you for catching that, Kate. I’ve fixed the graphic. It can take a little while for our provider to spread the new version, but Montana and Missouri are now squared away.

  • christi says:

    Hello Art,
    Do only the semi finalists get into the finals? I missed the start-up application for semi finalist. Is there any way I can jump thru the finals list? Thank you.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Christi,
      U.S. students should be automatically entered in the NMSP when taking the PSAT/NMSQT as juniors. I’m afraid that there is no option to apply at this point in the process.

  • Confused says:

    Hi Art,
    To what benefit is NMS to students who have scored at the PSAT index or higher on the actual SAT ?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Confused,
      A National Merit Scholarship can provide a nice reward for students who did well on the PSAT and followed it up with a good SAT performance and great grades. At some colleges, the scholarship can be substantial and dramatically impact a student’s ability to attend college. However, a PSAT is not used for admission, so a high SAT score has benefits that the PSAT can’t match. Is there a benefit to National Merit? Yes. Is having a high SAT score even more useful? In most cases, yes.

  • Amy says:

    Hi Art,

    My son got a 1460 on the PSAT giving him a NMSC selection Index of 219. It says the cutoff for Kentucky is 217. He hasn’t heard anything from his school yet. Is it possible he didn’t qualify?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Amy,
      I would call NMSC to find out if he qualified. A 219 would be a qualifying score in KY, so there are a range reasons why he may not have heard — for example, NMSC didn’t have him as a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, it had his class year wrong, the school hadn’t confirmed the information back in the spring, etc. Not all 1460s give a 219 SI, so I am assuming that he had a 730 EBRW, 730 M. A different mix could still give him a 1460 while producing a Selection Index below KY’s cutoff.

  • TS says:

    My son just got his SAT score and it was a 1570. Do you think that will be high enough for a confirmation score? If not, do you know what the last SAT is that can be used for confirmation? If he has to retake it, do you suggest any classes or prep material he should try? He didn’t take any classes or study at all for his first SAT.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      TS,
      His 1570 will be a confirming score (well done!), and he should not bother trying to lift it for colleges, either. If he doesn’t already have good Subject Test scores in place, I would recommend considering them, as my guess is that he is looking at very competitive colleges.

  • Elena says:

    Hi Art, thanks for the excellent analysis. Any idea what the numbers mean before the semifinalist’s names on the state lists? Thanks, Elena

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Elena,
      That’s simply the code students fill out when registering for the PSAT that identifies their areas of interest — for example, Computer Science – 303 or Undecided – 999. It’s a number that always confuses parents and students, and I have no idea why NMSC bothers to include it on the Semifinalist lists.

      • Tara says:

        Thank you for this info, we were wondering also.

      • DallasMom says:

        Have you done an analysis on what the NMSF are choosing for their areas of interest? Would be fascinating analysis, and early look, of majors of choice for the brightest – and therefore possible issues with capped majors.

        • Art Sawyer says:

          Dallas,
          I haven’t, but NMSC has. 😉 [Actually, the below is based on NM Scholars for the class of 2016, but is likely indicative of Semifinalist preferences.] The NMSF cohort will end up at over 600 colleges, so I think it would be hard to make the leap from this data to impacted majors.

          Engineering – 25%
          Biology or biomedical science – 13%
          Computer and information sciences – 7%
          Physical sciences – 6%
          Social sciences or psychology – 6%
          Business or finance – 5%
          Health and clinical science professions – 5%
          Mathematics or statistics – 5%
          History, humanities, or pre-law studies – 3%

  • Elena says:

    Crazy — I was wondering if my son was the 999th choice:) Thank again for great reporting.

  • James says:

    Is there a master list of semifinalist for North Carolina? Can’t find anything.

  • Meg says:

    Hi, Art: My daughter’s PSAT score was a 1480 (99th %ile, 223 SI, which qualified her as a NMS Semifinalist in Florida). Her SAT, taken in March 2017, was a 1470 (99th Nat Rep Sample %ile, 98th SAT User %ile- National). Is her SAT score high enough for a confirmation score, or should she retake the test? What is the difference between a “Nationally Representative Sample Percentile,” and an “SAT User Percentile-National.” and are those values important to Finalist selection? Thank you!

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Meg,
      Your daughter’s SAT should be more than high enough to serve as a qualifying score. NMSC uses an SAT Selection Index (SSI) calculated just like the PSAT SI. That SSI is not yet set, but we expect a confirming score between 209 and 211. For example, if your daughter’s 1470 was 750 EBRW and 720 Math, her SSI would be 75×2 + 72 = 222. [Drop the zeros, double EBRW, add Math.]

      The percentiles are not used for Finalist selection. College Board came up with the National Representative Sample by estimating the percentiles as though every student in the country took the SAT. The User Percentile-National is the percentile among actual test-takers (“users”). This confusing distinction is one of my least favorite features of the redesigned SAT’s score report.

  • EL says:

    So if your child takes PSAT this fall as a junior, he/she won’t know whether they have qualified until NEXT fall when the indexes come out? I’m guessing PSAT scores (and the index numbers) come out before that.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      EL,
      That’s right and is one of the reason this blog post exists. Scores (with Selection Index) will come out in Dec. In April, word of the Commended level will leak out. Not until the last week of August do Semifinalist numbers start getting mailed to schools, with the official unveiling not until the middle of September.

  • DiotimaDM says:

    For some strange reason, sorting by number of SFs in that column gives strange results with Texas on top, California in the middle and no apparent correlation with the number in the column.

    Aside from that, however, thank you many times over for being such a helpful source of data and hand-holding as families all over the world navigate this particular obstacle course. 🙂

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Thanks, Diotima. Our table was interpreting those values as text because of the “approximately” symbols for Outside U.S. and U.S. Territories. The numbers now sort correctly.

  • Joe says:

    I see you said that the Commended # is 211. Does that # change per state like the national merit #? My sons scores is a 215 so would that make him Commended?

  • Tracy says:

    Art-
    I need to expand upon my prior thanks, because my son’s school filed his semifinalist letter away without reading it and would never have even located it if I hadn’t bugged them yesterday — and I wouldn’t have known that my son was a semifinalist but for your blog, so if and when my son becomes a finalist and/or a scholar, I will have you to thank.

    Tracy

  • Joe says:

    “Typically, we see a distribution around the mean, and this year was no different.” I’m shocked that, once again, everyone didn’t score exactly the mean score.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Ah, sarcasm, I believe. I’m talking here about the mean change not the mean score. What I am trying to convey is that the distribution of changes was a bell-curve rather than a chaotic mess of peaks and valleys. This fact helps us understand how likely future scores are to change when the Commended level increases.

  • Trinidad says:

    Hello. Do you know where the US citizens living abroad list might be posted? Thanks!

  • Lewis says:

    So, for the commended scholar for the class of 2018– the cut off is 211 for everyone? It is a national number and not a state number?

  • Lewis says:

    If my child who had over a 211 but under the score of 221 for her state, she would be a commended scholar but her school has said nothing to us. What can we do to rectify the situation?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      The Commended letters were only mailed to schools on Sept 14, so I would give it some time. You can check your student’s score report to make sure that it says that she was a junior and a U.S. citizen or permanent resident when taking the test. As long as she was eligible, she is a Commended Student.

  • Beth says:

    Art,
    Do you know where I can see a list of South Dakota semi-finalists?
    Beth

  • Inerested Dad says:

    Do you think that the cutoff will continue increase as more and more high schools implement test preparation courses?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Int. Dad,
      No, I don’t think the impact will be wide enough, as most students already have access to effective prep. It hasn’t played a major role in the past, and there has been no sea change.

  • Susan says:

    Art,
    Is there a published cutoff for the SAT confirmatory score for this year?
    -Susan

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Susan,
      AFAIK, NMSC has not yet confirmed the confirming scores. It will likely be an SAT Selection Index between 209 and 211. I’d say that a student is fine above that level. For someone at 211 or below, I’d recommend at least signing up for an additional SAT. You should also feel empowered to press NMSC occasionally on this topic.

  • ThatGuy says:

    Art, have you ever come across a late/last moment change in the SI score from the collegeboard? The reason I ask is, whenever we logged in to review my son’s scores, the PSAT in particular, the page for the SI said 221. While he was filling out the finalist application, we noticed that the application preview stated his score was 222. To be sure, we logged into the collegeboard website to review his score, and sure enough it was now a 222. I’d say that I simply misread it, but we have the hardcopy too, which confirmed our previous assumption it was 221. Is there something that happens, such as a test audit that may change things?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      ThatGuy,
      The SI would only change if the PSAT scores changed. I’d be very interested to hear what is listed on the report for EBRW and Math on the printed report (with the 221) and the current report (222). If you have the individual subscores for reading, writing, and math (8-38) that would be useful, too. Which test date did your son take?

      If the score did change, the most likely circumstances would be a problem being thrown out after the fact. The revised scaling may have worked out in his favor, particularly if it involved a problem that he missed. The SI itself is just a calculation from the test scores / subscores.

  • Susan says:

    That’s very helpful. Thank you. Fortunately, my daughter has a 228 confirmatory score. I’m happy that she won’t need to do more testing.

  • Confused says:

    Hi Art,
    Why is so much emphasis put on EBRW score for selecting NMS when everything in the education world these days is putting so much emphasis on STEM. it would seem Math scores would be given as much weight. It’s tragic to me that student who score above there SI but don’t qualify because their Math scores were better.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Confused,
      It’s a decision that dates back about 50 years, so the original goal may be lost to history. When the PSAT, like the SAT, had Verbal and Math and was 40-160, the formula was 2V + M. When the PSAT went to Critical Reading, Math, and Writing and was 60-240, it made a bit more sense, since the SI was CR+M+W. Now that the SAT has switched back to 400-1600 scoring, the NMSC took a different tack and kept W and Reading at equal strength rather than combining them into a single score.

      So while I cannot say why the original decision was made, I can put it into the historical context. I’m sorry that it negatively impacted your student.

  • KCW says:

    For semifinalist, NMSC mailed the letters in late August but only allowed school to announce to the public on Sept 13. Is it the same for Commended students? Since the Commended letters were mailed on Sept 14, do they require announcement at later certain date?

  • Carol says:

    My son is a semifinalist in NC for National Merit Scholarship. The problem is that he took his SAT 5 months before before the PSAT and scored a 1590. 800 Reading 790 Math. They said he needs to retake the SAT before December 31st to meet their criteria of a 2 year window. What score would he need to achieve in order to not just be a confirming score, but make him competitive enough to be among the 7,500 winners ?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Carol,
      The person giving you this information was wrong. You should immediately call NMSC and clarify. The rules state clearly that an SAT can be taken from SOPHOMORE fall through Senior fall. Five months before the Junior PSAT would have put him in spring 2016 (presumably the June test). From the Requirements and Instructions for Semifinalists: “You must take (or have taken) a national administration of the SAT between October 2015 and December 2017.” Unless he took the test in June 2015 (in which case it would have been an old SAT), he is set.

  • Mary says:

    Does the College Board ever revisit the PSAT exam scoring? My son’s SI was 221, one point below the NSF cutoff for California. His low score was in Math (35.5), generally one of his better subjects. When he took the test as a sophomore he scored a 36 in math, even after omitting 5 questions because he didn’t see them. Looking at the test/answer sheet, he missed “fewer” questions this year, but 2 questions were thrown out as unscorable. He took the SAT in January, 3 months after the PSAT, and got a 1580 (790/790). We were hoping that he would make the NSF cutoff to increase his chances for merit aid in college.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Mary,
      Test scaling is a complicated business, since it depends not just on the number of questions missed, but on the number of questions available and, most importantly, on the difficulty of the scored questions. Equating is the process of trying to make two different tests equivalent even when they differ in raw difficulty. This often means that different raw scores (the number right) will give different scaled scores (8-36). There is no process for revisiting equating unless problems are thrown out after the fact. I’m sorry that your son will miss out on NM scholarships. There are many other merit scholarships available.

  • Mike says:

    Mr. Sawyer,

    When we suppose to be receiving a letter for the Commended students?? We have not received it yet..

  • Wondering says:

    Art,
    My score is exactly the cut off score for my state, but I haven’t received anything. Is this because the cut off means you have to have scored higher than the listed score to qualify?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Wondering,
      If you scored exactly at the cutoff, you should still be a Semifinalist. Keep in mind that things are more complex if you are at a boarding school. I would call NMSC to check on your status.

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