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National Merit Semifinalist Cutoffs Class of 2025

By April 8, 2024July 1st, 2024National Merit, PSAT

April 8 Update:

The Commended cutoff — the minimum score to be considered for National Merit honors — for the class of 2025 is 208. This is the highest cutoff in 4 years. Compass’s analysis of the results from the first digital PSAT showed that the Commended cutoff would fall in the 208 – 210 range, so the 208 is in line with expectations.

Compass has incorporated the Commended cutoff into its projections for the Semifinalist cutoffs, which will begin filtering out around Labor Day.

Why haven’t I been told anything by my school?
The April announcement is to schools only and is not an official notification of a student’s status. Honored students are not notified until September.

Why aren’t Semifinalist cutoffs announced at the same time?
National Merit must receive student eligibility information from schools and then calculate the separate Semifinalist cutoffs for each state. Only the Commended cutoff is national. NMSC will mail high schools the names of Semifinalists at the end of August, and students will be notified by their schools in early to mid-September. Schools are not given the Commended Student letters until after Semifinalists are announced.

[The November 2023 post below has been updated with the Commended cutoff information.]

The 2023 digital PSAT/NMSQT for the class of 2025 represents the biggest change to the National Merit Scholarship Program since the PSAT was overhauled in 2015. Each year Compass looks at the results from the PSAT and tracks projected Selection Index cutoffs for Commended Students and for Semifinalist in each of the 50 states. [See National Merit Scholarship Program Explained for full details on stages and instructions. For information on the class of 2024 cutoffs, see this archive.]

Instead of having schools administer a paper test on fixed dates, College Board allowed the digital PSAT to be offered throughout October. College Board also introduced a new score return policy. Students taking the test on or before October 14th receive scores on November 6th. Students taking the PSAT after October 14th receive their scores on November 16th. Compass now has the data from both release windows. Approximately 50,000 students landed in the 1400-1520 score band from almost 1.5 million test takers. The initial half of scores already accounted for 30,000 of top band scores, so the later testers had a lower proportion of high scorers. This will come as a relief to students who were fearing an extremely large jump in Selection Index cutoffs.

This year is shaping up similar to the class of 2021 (the last pre-pandemic PSAT) and, reaching back farther, the class of 2017.

The number of top scorers is the most critical piece of information that we get this early in the process. There is a strong correlation between the 1400-1520 band of students and the Commended Student score.

The line of best fit shows that this year's total of 50,000 top scorers is likely to result in a Commended cutoff of 209.

[We now know the exact Commended cutoff is 208. -Ed.] The Commended Student cutoff is likely to rise to 209 (above the 207 from the last 3 years). Estimates can be imperfect, but we are confident that the Commended cutoff will fall within the 208 to 210 range. The higher Commended cutoff, in turn, correlates with higher Semifinalist cutoffs. Below are those estimates.

StateClass of 2025
(Most Likely)
Class of 2025
(Est Range)
Class of 2024
(Actual)
Class of 2023
(Actual)
Class of 2022
(Actual)
Alabama212210 - 216210212212
Alaska212209 - 215209210208
Arizona217214 - 220216214218
Arkansas212209 - 215210210211
California221219 - 223221220221
Colorado217215 - 220216217217
Connecticut221219 - 222221221220
Delaware220218 - 222219218220
District of Columbia223222 - 224223223224
Florida216215 - 219216216217
Georgia219216 - 220217218219
Hawaii217215 - 220217215217
Idaho214210 - 216211215214
Illinois219217 - 221219219218
Indiana216213 - 219216214215
Iowa213210 - 216210212211
Kansas215213 - 218214214215
Kentucky214210 - 217211212212
Louisiana214211 - 217214213213
Maine214211 - 217213215211
Maryland222219 - 223221222224
Massachusetts222220 - 223222220221
Michigan217215 - 220217218217
Minnesota218215 - 220216216218
Mississippi211209 - 215209210213
Missouri215212 - 218214213214
Montana210208 - 214209207208
Nebraska213209 - 216210212210
Nevada214210 - 218211210214
New Hampshire215213 - 219215213214
New Jersey223222 - 224223223222
New Mexico211208 - 214207208210
New York220218 - 222220219220
North Carolina218215 - 220217217218
North Dakota208208 - 210207209207
Ohio216214 - 218216216215
Oklahoma211209 - 215208211210
Oregon217215 - 220216216220
Pennsylvania219217 - 221219218218
Rhode Island216213 - 219215216213
South Carolina213209 - 217209213213
South Dakota211208 - 214209212210
Tennessee216214 - 219217215215
Texas220218 - 221219219220
Utah212209 - 216209211212
Vermont213210 - 217212213211
Virginia221219 - 222219221221
Washington220218 - 222220220220
West Virginia208208 - 210207207207
Wisconsin214212 - 217213213214
Wyoming208208 - 210207207208
​U.S. Territories208208207207207
​​Studying Abroad223222 - 224223223224
​​​Commended208208207207207

[See Compass’s National Merit Historical Cutoffs post for data going back to the class of 2008, which can be helpful in comparing this year to its analogues.]

The shift to a shorter, online and adaptive exam is unlikely to wreak the havoc we saw when the “revised PSAT” was introduced 8 years ago. That test overhauled content AND scoring. The digital SAT represents a content change — mainly on Reading and Writing — but keeps the 320-1520 score range intact. The Selection Index, too, remains consistent, with the Reading and Writing score having twice the weight of the Math score.

However, for any given state, a change in cutoff is more likely than not. Historically, Semifinalist cutoffs remain unchanged only about one-third of the time.

Distribution of year-over-year cutoff changes shows that there is a roughly normal distribution, with no change occurring 30% of the time.

Even in years where the Commended cutoff remains static, we see half of state cutoffs go up or down. And it is extremely improbable that the Selection Index will be static. The chart below divides the 50 states into those that saw increases (blue), those that remained unchanged (gray), and those that saw declines (red). We are likely to see a year with far more blue than gray and more gray than red.

 

The number of states seeing cutoff changes has never dropped below 25. In some years, virtually all cutoffs have gone up or down.

Uncertainty around exactly which state cutoffs will change and by how much is why we encourage students to compare their scores to the full estimated range in the table above rather than to a single value (our “Most Likely”). These estimates are built from prior performance data and from data on what scores are doing nationally. State and national numbers are not always in alignment. Cutoffs are particularly bumpy in states with smaller pools of test takers and National Merit Semifinalists. Over the last 10 years, large states’ cutoffs have remained within 1 point of the prior cutoff 88% of the time. That figure drops to 73% for midsized states and 53% for small states. No large state’s cutoff has jumped by more than 3 points in a year, whereas 6-point changes have occurred in the pool of smaller states. Scores also tend to be more stable as they get higher. It is more unusual for a state to move from 221 to 222, for example, than for a state to move from 212 to 213.

What does a cutoff mean? Do I need to score at the cutoff or above it?
Students must have a Selection Index at or above the official cutoff in order to qualify for National Merit honors.

The top 52,000 to 54,000 students will receive some form of honors. National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) determines the cutoff number that comes closest to producing the target number of national honorees. This is the Commended cutoff.

How are Semifinalist cutoffs set?
Unlike the national Commended cutoff, Semifinalist cutoffs are calculated state by state. NMSC allocates the 16,000 semifinalists among states based on the annual number of high school graduates. For example, California sees about 2,000 Semifinalists every year, Michigan 500, and Wyoming 25. In each state, NMSC determines the Selection Index that comes closest to matching its target number of Semifinalists. If 1,900 California students score 222 and higher and 2,050 score 221 or higher, then the Semifinalist cutoff would be 221 (this assumes that the target is exactly 2,000). Because score levels can get crowded, it is easy for cutoffs to move up or down a point even when there is minimal change in testing behavior or performance.

No Semifinalist cutoff can be lower than the national Commended level. Cutoffs for the District of Columbia and for U.S. students studying abroad are set at the highest state cutoff (typically New Jersey). The cutoff for students in U.S. territories and possessions falls at the Commended level each year. Boarding schools are grouped by region. The cutoff for a given region is the highest state cutoff within the region.

Why does the number of top scorers vary from year to year?
While there are changes in the number of students taking the PSAT/NMSQT, there can also be small flaws in test scaling that play a role. Prior to the digital PSAT, a single test form was seen by a large percentage of test takers. Something amiss with that single form could impact selection cutoffs across the country. The digital PSAT is constructed differently. Students receive unique form codes drawn from a large pool of problems. Scaled scores are generated based on the characteristics of those problems. In theory, this should make scores more stable. College Board’s early studies have found an extremely high correlation between the paper-and-pencil test and digital test. Still, even with its adaptive nature, the uncertainty remains as to whether the much shorter test can reliably score students at the 700-760 end of the scale. It appears that the class of 2025 is roughly average compared to the classes of 2017 to 2024 (the years after the change from the 2400 to 1520 scale).

Will test cancellations raise or lower qualifying scores for the National Merit Scholarship Program?
College Board’s online systems failed under load on one of the biggest testing days. There was also a bug that prevented iPads on the latest operating system from submitting exams. We do not know how many schools or students simply gave up and did not retest on rescheduled dates. If the cancellations increase the number of students pursuing alternate entry (see Compass’s explanation of National Merit alternate entry) then cutoffs could rise. Alternate entrants tend to have higher scores, because they can submit SAT scores through June 2024 to enter the competition. They must apply by April.

When are National Merit Semifinalists announced?
The Commended cutoff becomes unofficially known by the end of April. The lists of Semifinalists are not distributed to high schools until the end of August. NMSC sets a press embargo on Semifinalist announcement until mid-September, but schools are allowed to notify students before that date. NMSC does not send Commended Student letters to high schools until mid-September. Compass will keep students updated on developments as those dates approach.

Do state and national percentiles indicate whether I will be a National Merit Semifinalist?
No! Approximately 1% of test takers qualify as Semifinalists each year, so it is tempting to view a 99th percentile score as indicating a high enough score — especially now that College Board provides students with percentiles by state. There are any number of flaws that rule out using percentiles as a quick way of determining National Merit status.

  • Percentiles are based on section scores or total score, not Selection Index
  • Percentiles are rounded. There is a large difference, from a National Merit perspective, between the top 0.51% and the top 1.49%
  • Percentiles reveal the percentage of students at or below a certain score, but the “at” part is important when NMSC is determining cutoffs.
  • The number of Semifinalists is based on the number of high school graduates in a state, not the number of PSAT takers. Percentiles are based on PSAT takers. States have widely varying participation rates.
  • Most definitive of all: Percentiles do not reflect the current year’s scores! They are based on the prior 3 years’ performance. They are set even before the test is given. And if you are going to use prior history, why not use the completely accurate record of prior National Merit cutoffs rather than the highly suspect percentiles?

Entry requirements for National Merit versus qualifying for National Merit.
Your PSAT/NMSQT score report tells you whether you meet the eligibility requirements for the NMSP. In general, juniors taking the October PSAT are eligible. If you have an asterisk next to your Selection Index, it means that your answers to the entrance questions have made you ineligible. Your answers are conveniently noted on your score report. If you think there is an error, you will also find instructions on how to contact NMSC. Meeting the eligibility requirements simply means that your score will be considered. Approximately 1.4 million students enter the competition each year. Only about 52,000 students will be named as Commended Students, Semifinalists, Finalists, or Scholars. See National Merit Explained for more information.

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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.

3,713 Comments

  • Sonia says:

    Hi Art,
    I spoke to a manager in charge of scholarships at National Merit and I was informed that they waited for a good number of alternate entry scores to be submitted and then created the semifinalist cutoff. She would not comment on the cutoff number for California. I feel like kids were penalized for taking the PSAT’s.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Thanks, Sonia. That confirms what we’ve heard regarding how AE scores were used this year. NMSC had to pick some point (July, let’s say) and close the books. NM stays mum about things until the press release date.

      It was certainly an unfortunate situation. With all of the SAT cancellations this spring in CA, getting in a January PSAT was still probably the safest way of entering the competition, even if it’s easier to score well on the SAT.

      • James says:

        Hi, Art. When you do have confirmation on whether a score of 221 meets the cutoff in New Jersey, can you let us know? On pins and needles here.

      • Kailie C says:

        Hey Art,
        Do you have any information on Louisiana? Also, how does the “press release” on September 15th work? Will NM post an official list of cutoffs on their website?
        Thank you for any help or advice!

        • Art Sawyer says:

          Kailie,
          No news on Louisiana. The September 15th date is helpful in some cases and totally useless in others. NM does not release the cutoffs. Instead, they send the list of NMSFs in a state to media outlets in that state. The problem is that many media outlets aren’t interested in publishing a list of hundreds of names outside of their coverage areas. So we’ll see lots of partial lists: Semifinalists in XX County or YY City. Some areas won’t be published at all. It’s better than nothing! Some schools also interpret the 15th as when they can announce results to students. In actuality, they can tell students earlier. Most students will learn their status by or on the 15th, but it is not universal.

      • Rick says:

        Kudos to the school administrators who if they had to choose between giving a PSAT and SAT in the Spring of 2021 chose the latter. Not only would their students get a crack at the test that matters for college admissions, those students would still be able to enter the National Merit competition with the ‘easier’ SAT test. Crises reveal decision-making skills. Some school administrators knew what they were doing, others didn’t; as a consequence, some students had better opportunities than others.

        • Art Sawyer says:

          Rick,
          Given the tradeoffs administrators had to make, I’m willing to cut them some slack. At many schools, NM would just have been one element in the decision to offer the PSAT. And an SAT was far from guaranteed in some areas.

  • Maryland Mom says:

    Any news on Maryland?

  • David says:

    Hi Art – I am curious about the blending of alternate entry (AE) and those that took the PSAT. I don’t think if they were blended it is appropriate to do so. The initial reports were that they would use the pool of people who took the PSAT and determine the cutoffs as normal, but then allow “no excuse” AE to supplement the number of semifinalists. Since the semifinalists are then cut down basically in half to achieve finalists, there is no harm in this approach as they would end up trimming low scoring semifinalists from the finalists. It sounds like NMSC changed what they said they were going to do partway through the process.

    In my daughter’s state there were a large number of PSAT cancellations, which would then depress the cutoff (maybe substantially). Kids, especially these kids, are smart. They know that using the SAT scores results in a higher selection index (SI). Many were forced to go AE, but many opted for that route. The PSAT SI is based on a maximum of 38 for each subject. The SAT is based on 40. It is technically wrong to calculate the SAT SI by simply capping the SI subject score at 38. A 38 on the PSAT represents a much higher percentile than a 38 on the SAT. The college board has all this data, they could do a proper scaling of SAT scores to equivalent PSAT scores but they apparently didn’t. An organization (NMSC) that is representing technical excellence should do better.

    This doesn’t even get into the other issues about taking the SAT multiple times, it coming later in development, etc. My daughter’s PSAT SI was 219 (didn’t have a great day) and she probably won’t make the cut but she scored 1580 on the SAT and would have easily made the cut.

    Thank you!

    • Art Sawyer says:

      David,
      You’re correct that NM had, in the past, treated Alternate Entry scores in that way. I think there was hope that the January PSAT would save them from needing to alter that strategy. The pandemic had other ideas. In my state, California, I doubt that we were able to achieve even 1/3 of the usual volume of test takers. Had NM set the cutoffs based on the PSAT alone, they would have had 2x to 3x the targeted number of Semifinalists in the state. A state where most students were able to take the PSAT, on the other hand, would have been about normal and had 1x the target. I can see why NM felt that that was not an ideal outcome.

      The PSAT and SAT are vertically scaled, which means that a score on the PSAT should represent the same level of achievement on the SAT. I’ve written before about why this is not really true, but percentiles are also a flawed way of comparing the tests because the pool of students varies. And College Board has no incentive to undermine its claim of vertical alignment.

      I was worried that the inclusion of AE scores might distort the cutoffs and push them far higher. Fortunately, we are not seeing that. Yes, cutoffs would have been lower if there had been no blending, but they at least aren’t falling outside of historical norms (if anything, they are below them).

      Yes, one strategy would have been to allow all students the option of submitting SAT scores.

      Congratulations on your daughter’s 1580, btw!

  • Ross says:

    Hi Art,
    How late do you suspect reports arrive at schools here in PR? I imagine it would take longer due to having to be shipped over water.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Ross,
      I don’t know about the typical mail delivery to PR, but I do know that the cutoff for U.S. Territories has never been above the Commended level (at least in the last couple of decades). I think it’s a pretty safe bet that the cutoff is 207.

  • VAmom says:

    How is it possible not to have any news from a state as big as Virginia? Going crazy with a 221.

  • Utah says:

    In Utah, My son with a 213 was just notified that he is a Semifinalist.

  • Faris says:

    Hey Art, is Texas now fully confirmed at 220?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Faris,
      Yes, in the sense that all student reports have been consistent that a 219 did not qualify and that 220 and above did.

  • Heather says:

    When will the press release go out notifying the list of semi finalists?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Sept 15th is the press release. National Merit sends the names to media outlets but does not directly publish the lists or notify students.

  • Texan says:

    My student asked the school today if they got the list and was told they have not received the Semifinalist list yet. Is that even possible considering NMSC mailed the letters August 24? And yes, we expect 6-10 Semifinalists from this Texas school. Thank you.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      It’s usually 1 of 3 things: (1) Mail. (2) In somebody’s box, but hasn’t made it to the right person. (3) A polite way of saying, “We’re not releasing the names yet.”

      • Texan says:

        Thank you. It cannot be 1 since Amazon and USPS delivers things from faraway places to here in 2 days. It can be 2 or 3. I suspect 4. Being Texas, football is the greater god than everything else in school. So, NMSF not the highest of priority for the school.

  • Amani says:

    Hello Mr. Sawyer!
    I’ve done the alternate entry, but I’m getting a different SSI depending on whether I use the raw test scores (capped at 38) or the section scores (capped at 760). I am not sure which one I should lean towards… I got a 1530 on my SAT, 730 in Reading/Writing and 800 in Math, and my raw score are 33, 38, 38. So with one method, my SSI is 222 and with the other, it’s 218. Which one is more likely to be the one NMSC considers?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Amani,
      The correct method is to cap your R/WL/M scores at 38, add, and double. With a 730 RWL and 800 M, I assume your section scores are 33, 40, and 40. So 2x(33+38+38) = 218.

  • Cyndi says:

    Hello! I was wondering if the SAT confirming index is state dependent? Or will it be a single index for everyone no matter which state you are in? If it’s just a single number for everyone, doesn’t it have to be at most the lowest qualifying PSAT index of all states (which this year so far is 210 (OK))? Our qualifying score is just above the commended level which is why I ask. Thanks, Art!!

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Cyndi,
      The confirming score is a single national number. Oklahoma is the lowest confirmed cutoff, but it’s extremely rare — to the point that I can’t come up with an instance — where at least 1 state’s Semifinalist cutoff falls at the Commended level. This is because no Semifinalist cutoff is allowed to fall below the Commended cutoff. I would recommend calling NMSC and seeing if they can give you any guidance. There are still a number of test dates on which to qualify, but I’m sure your student has better things to do than retesting.

      • Cyndi says:

        Art,

        Thanks so much for this. I took your advice and called the NMSC with the question. The answer was: The NMSC will not release the number that is needed for the confirming score cutoff (ugh). However, she said that the confirming score cutoff will NOT be higher than the lowest qualifying score, which she said was 207 (!!!). So as long as you score at least 207 on the ACT/SAT, your score will be enough to confirm.

  • Impatient says:

    My child asked at school and was told that nothing can be shared until September 15. This is a school that does not regularly have NMSFs. Can I assume the fact that they knew the date of release was September 15 means that this year they do have one? Schools without any NMSF don’t get that letter, do they?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Impatient,
      I don’t know the answer to that. It seems unlikely that they are mailing to every school in the country, but they may also notify schools with Commended Students (the Commended letters themselves don’t go out until Sept 15th, but there is not much mystery there given the known cutoff).

      The school is incorrect that nothing can be shared, but I’d advise putting up with another week of anxiety rather than pushing that point. Fall of senior year is a bad time to run afoul of a counselor!

  • Mathew says:

    Hi Art, just letting you know that I made it in Illinois with 219.

  • Rick says:

    Will we ever find out what the distribution of semi-finalists qualified through the AE and the PSAT test itself is in each state? It could be that a much higher proportion qualified through AE in a state like CA where there was mass cancellation of the PSAT. It looks like trying to qualify through the PSAT tests in October or January is really going to hurt CA students who didn’t have an SAT result that they could qualify with. There could be a shockingly low percentage of qualifiers via the PSAT test in CA.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Rick,
      I can’t imagine that NM has any interest in publishing this data. One way of looking at the fairness issue is what PSAT students needed to achieve versus prior years. On that score, it doesn’t seem like things are changing much. In some of the highest scoring states the cutoffs are down from an already record low year for the class of 2021. I think the number of PSAT qualifiers will be shockingly low only in rough proportion to the shockingly low percentage of PSAT takers. How is this result possible given qualifying via SAT score should have been a bit easier? Those who were able to take the PSAT benefitted from the fact that there was likely a group of high-caliber student who missed out on the PSAT and didn’t bother to apply AE or weren’t able to get in an SAT by June. There were concerns that an AE blend would greatly distort the cutoffs on a historical basis. That doesn’t seem to have happened. I will be curious to see how many students qualified in each state. Was NMSF able to stick to its targets?

      • Rick says:

        Before you could not use a SAT score for AE if you had a PSAT score, no? Now many more people could use AE via a SAT score because the PSAT was cancelled for them. We don’t know how much AE via SAT scores have pushed up cutoffs because we don’t have data yet from states where there was heavy use of AE due to mass cancellation of the PSAT. It could be that with these PSAT’s in Oct and Jan the cutoff would have dropped to 217 in, say, CA had there not been mass cancellations and few AE’s. Let’s say my kid now gets a 1590 after having finally been able to take the SAT; five were cancelled in the Spring semester. Her school instead chose to give the PSAT, not the SAT. Dumb, in my opinion. She just took a test on 8/28. She can’t use that SAT score for National Merit qualification.

        • Art Sawyer says:

          Rick,
          I agree that we would likely have seen a healthy decline in CA were it not for AE. My only point is that the standard CA PSAT takers needed to meet (still unclear whether it was 220 or 221) was not that different from what CA students have needed in the past.

          The most sensible thing would have been to allow AE for all students. NM’s AE policy effectively assumes/maintains two things: (1) PSAT and SAT are interchangeable as long as the score capping standard is applied. [We can debate that, but AE is built around that assumption.] and (2) Score Choice is OK with SAT scores for AE. If students can choose their best SAT score, why not allow them to choose their best PSAT/SAT score? They are interchangeable, right?

          On a practical level, NM may not be setup to handle such a flood of potential scores. Conceptually, however, it seems like it would have been fairer and involved less gaming of the system.

          • Rick says:

            I am raising the counterfactual that there would have been a sharp drop-off in the CA qualifying number even if there was heavy participation in the Oct and January PSAT’s. Why? It was hard to study for the PSAT without in-person group work and tutoring. We are seeing drop-offs in states where PSAT scores were heavily used. But we may not see a sharp drop-off in CA because so many people not having taken the PSAT will qualify with SAT scores that are only in the 96th percentile (or perhaps lower), as Howard has astutely pointed out. In Silicon Valley there was a smart decision to drop the PSAT and give SATs that served the dual purpose of being used for AE and college applications.

          • Art Sawyer says:

            I tend to push back when percentiles are used to make comparisons across tests. The test-taking pools for the PSAT and SAT are different. Entire districts, for example, take the PSAT. SAT taking (although there is some state and district testing) tends to be for those applying to 4-year colleges. What we see more than anything when comparing PSAT to SAT is academic growth — similar to what we see between 10th grade PSAT and 11th grade PSAT. College Board uses students final SAT when calculating percentiles across 3 prior academic years, so those scores, on average, probably come 8 months after fall PSAT. Even among top-scoring students, timing matters. Among the many oddities this year, we have entrants taking the PSAT in October, entrants taking the PSAT in January, and entrants taking the SAT anywhere from August of sophomore year to June of junior year.

          • Dave says:

            Art I understand what you are saying but a 221 SI PSAT does not equal a 221 SI SAT because as Howard pointed out they are not scaled properly. Prior to the pandemic about 3.5 million students took the PSAT whereas 2.2 million took the SAT in an average year. Yes the composition of the PSAT test takers is different from the SAT test takers as you indicate. Scores should follow a normal distribution. A (37, 37, 37) 221 on the PSAT is 99.3% or in a state with 10 million people is top 700 whereas that same (37, 37, 37) 221 on the SAT is ~ 97% or top 2000. SI’s may be ‘generally’ the same but they are mixing apples and oranges in those states that had high cancellations. Composition and sample size can’t make up for this large difference. Higher quality PSAT takers will be bumped by lower quality AE’s.

            You make a very good point, if they are scaled differently and you can take the SAT multiple times then for this year and the special circumstances they should have let kids choose or simply let in more semifinalists in those affected states. There seems to be little harm in that.

            This may not seem like a big deal but considering how competitive this is and what an honor it is to make NMSF it is a very big deal for those kids that are affected.

          • Art Sawyer says:

            It is a big deal to many students, and I hope I don’t come off as dismissing the concerns of those who missed out on qualifying. I also don’t want to minimize the achievement of any NMSF. Through no fault of their own, AE students were not able to take the PSAT. They followed rules set up by NMSC, and they qualified.

            We’re in agreement that the timing of SATs versus PSATs matters. My point is that this plays a much larger role than scoring differences between the two exams. Maybe it’s mixing Macintosh with Red Delicious. A side note for the testing aficionados: Neither the PSAT or the SAT have normal distributions. They were originally created that way, but College Board abandoned the concept with the revised SAT. The distributions are colloquially referred as normal, but they don’t fit the conditions for normality.

      • CA Mom says:

        Hello Art,
        On the same note, if the cut off and the # of semifinalists is calculated based on PSAT and AE scores submitted through June, what will happen to the AE entrants who submit their scores between June and October and qualify?

        • Art Sawyer says:

          My understanding is that they will qualify as NMSFs, although I’m not sure how things will get handled in order to meet the October Finalist application deadline. I think NM is assuming that the number of students in that category is small, since students needed to test by June. It would have represented an interesting case of mass altruism (or self-interest depending on the point of view) if every AE applicant waited until September to submit scores. NM would not have been able to blend AE scores in calculating cutoffs and, in theory, even more Semifinalist would be named.

    • Sonia says:

      I called National Merit again this morning. They told me nationwide AE was just over 1% . I asked them to give me the numbers for Ca- the supervisor refused to give me the numbers. In states like Ca where PSAT was widely canceled I have to believe that AE was much higher and that is totally unfair for students that had qualifying SAT scores but took the PSAT anyways and missed out. She explained how she gets calls from parents saying how the SAT is harder and how it’s unfair. I don’t even see how anyone would think that. I asked if we can send an appeal letter in to count SAT scores instead and she obviously said no to that as well.

      • Art Sawyer says:

        That’s interesting information, Sonia. Yes, the percentage likely skewed higher in states such as CA. One factor may be that we overestimate the use of AE because we are in an echo chamber. Those of us posting on this site and others are highly attuned to these things. Many students would not have known about AE or may have missed the deadline.

        Alternatively, the 1% figure is wrong.

        • Dakota says:

          I think the more likely answer is the former – that we are wildly overestimating the use of AE. (with the caveat that states like California might be exceptions to that rule) The fact that cutoff scores haven’t dramatically increased from 2020 would seem to be an indicator that AE isn’t playing a major role.

          My guess is that the majority of students that would most likely have used alternate entry would be the same universe of students that would’ve scored well on the PSAT anyway. The number of students that entered the semifinalist pool solely due to being able to take the SAT multiple times should be a relatively small number.

          There is of course the question of fairness, but in a pandemic year with multiple test cancellations there wasn’t going to be a perfect system.

          • Art Sawyer says:

            Dakota,
            From what Sonia was told by NMSC — 1% of NMSFs being AE — it sounds like you’re right.

    • Howard says:

      Hi Rick – I doubt NMSC will publish any of that information because it shouldn’t paint a pretty picture.

      Based on last years information, a 760 on the SAT math corresponds to the 96th percentile (which according to the SAT SI calculation for AE would be a 38). A student that scores a 760 on the PSAT math corresponds to the 99+ percentile (also a 38). If AE SI were combined with PSAT test taker SI by NMSC it is heavily biased towards AE as you indicate. Kids that took the PSAT are clearly punished because NMSC or College Board did not perform proper scaling/normalization. Art has a voice and does a great job, it would be appreciated by many if he could find out what NMSC did.

  • VAMom says:

    My son got notified by his school that he made it in Virginia at 221.

  • OneAndDone? says:

    Hi Art – if a student qualifies through AE, that SAT score also serves to confirm, right? Thank you for being our trusted resource!

    • Art Sawyer says:

      One,
      Good question. I’m 99% sure that it does. I certainly have never seen anything that says otherwise, and it would put a real burden on AE qualifiers.

  • AZ mom says:

    Any new on Arizona?

  • S says:

    Hi Mr. Sawyer,
    I applied AE, with a breakdown of 760R, 780M. Do you know what index score that would be? Thank you so much.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      S,
      It depends on how your 760 is split between reading and writing. You should have two 10-40 scores that add up to 76. But each of those gets capped at 38 when computing your Selection Index for AE. So if your 760 is split evenly as 38 and 38, you don’t have to worry about the cap. If it is split 36 / 40, then NM uses 36 and 38 for your reading and writing scores. Since your Math score is 780, I know that your section score is 39. That gets capped at 38.

      To calculate your SI, cap each of the three 10-40 scores (R/WL/M) at 38. Sum them. Double that.

  • Mom says:

    Since nobody else from AZ has chimed in, my daughter qualified with a 218. The principal called her in to the office and told her a week ago. He also called me to congratulate us. He didn’t give her the letter that everyone else is getting, but did mention that they couldn’t really say anything until September 15. I appreciate the thorough blog and checked it frequently while waiting for decisions. We were all quite surprised she made it – her SAT was significantly better than her PSAT and we were kicking ourselves that we didn’t do AE.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Congratulations to your daughter! And your news is perfectly timed, since I just got a question about Arizona from another parent.

  • Ryan says:

    California : Just informed by my counselor that I made it with Score of 221.

  • Manisha says:

    218 in CA is a commended student, not semi-finalist.

  • Ron says:

    Hey Art,
    Sorry if this question may have already been answered, but I was just wondering with alternate entry this year since the AE scores are not put towards cutoffs and AE students can have until October to submit their SAT scores, will this dramatically increase the amount of total NM students above 16,000? If so, how much do you think they will go up by, and will this potentially alter some universitys’ outlook on the value of this year’s national merit semifinalist/finalist total and decrease the scholarships they are willing to give for NM students?
    Thanks

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Interesting take, Ron, but I think it’s a non-issue from both sides.

      Even if I didn’t take NM at its word that only about 1% of NMSFs are AE, it’s hard to imagine the profile of a late-entry qualifier. You’d need to have missed both PSATs, been on top of what AE even is, sent in your application by April, taken the SAT by June, scored at Semifinalist level, and then not bothered to send your scores until Sept/Oct. I’d be surprised if that describes a set greater than low double digits. Single digits? The typical NMSF total is 16,500, so it’s a rounding error.

      The other side is that universities won’t care. There are some scholarships that are capacity constrained, but usually colleges offer NM scholarships in order to brag about how many NM Scholars they’ve enrolled. If the pool is a little bigger, more opportunity!

    • MIa says:

      There were 16,740 semi-finalists in total this year.

      • Art Sawyer says:

        Thanks, again. So a modest increase from last year, but in line with my earlier speculation that it would fall between 16,500 and 17,000.

  • H.S. says:

    Hey, student from Wisconsin here. I just found out today that I qualified with a 216! Wanted to pass it along since I haven’t seen any Wisconsin info yet. Thanks for all you’re doing, I spent all of last weekend anxiously reloading the page😂

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Congratulations, H.S.! I’m glad that you’ll be able to relax this weekend. Adding the WI information now.

      • Seacy says:

        Update from Virginia:

        Email from college counseling office today to high-scoring sophomores mentions a Commended cutoff of 207 and NMSF cutoff of 221 for Virginia “last year”, which seems to me to be confirmation it is indeed 221 for the c/o 2022.

        • Art Sawyer says:

          That wording would be so much clearer if 221 hadn’t been the cutoff in Sept 2020, too. It does look like that’s where Virginia ends up. Thanks for the information.

    • MIa says:

      Art,
      Booklets delivered to HS
      Wisconsin went 214

      Here is finalized list:
      Alabama- 212
      Alaska-208
      Arizona-218
      Arkansas -211
      Cali-221
      Colorado-217
      Conn.-220
      Delaware-220
      Florida-217
      Georgia-219
      Hawaii-217
      Idaho-214
      Illinois-218
      Indiana-215
      Iowa-211
      Kansas-215
      Kentucky-212
      Louisiana-213
      Maine-211
      Maryland-224
      Mass.-221
      Michigan-217
      Minnesota-218
      Mississippi-213
      Missouri-214
      Montana-208
      Nebraska-210
      Nevada-214
      New Hampshire-214
      New Jersey-222
      New Mexico- 210
      New York-220
      North Carolina-218
      North Dakota-207
      Ohio-215
      Oklahoma-210
      Oregon-220
      Penn.-218
      Rhode Is.-213
      South Carolina-213
      South Dakota-210
      Tenn-215
      Texas-220
      Utah-212
      Vermont-211
      Virginia-221
      Washington-220
      West Virginia-207
      Wisconsin-214
      Wyoming-208
      DC-224

      • Art Sawyer says:

        Thank you, Mia! We’ve been working to get this list. I’ll get this in the main post, but I won’t want to wait. That Maryland number stings. Not sure how NMSC explains that without AE. That cutoff also pushes DC and International to 224. Most unfortunate.

        • Beth says:

          The MD number is truly galling. This is clearly a function of AE (most high performing districts in MD did not administer PSAT) and has unfairly advantaged high-performing districts. This seems like a major equity issue. Do you think there is any possibility of movement on the part of NMSC? Is it worth protesting?

          • Art Sawyer says:

            If nothing else, some pressure might at least force NMSC to explain the impact of AE in Maryland. I’ve never seen them bend, though. What’s odd is that this only happened in Maryland (Oregon saw a 3 point increase, but that fell in line with its historical norms).

        • Dakota says:

          It looks like Oregon was +3 from last year as well.

          While I didn’t think AE would play a significant role, is it possible that smaller states (with fewer semifinalists traditionally) were more susceptible to this type of variance?

          • Art Sawyer says:

            Historically, smaller states are more susceptible to variance of all kinds. New schools opting into the PSAT. An oddball exam. Small shifts in population. Etc. Alaska bounces all over the place. Oregon and Maryland certainly aren’t CA and TX, but they aren’t particularly small, either. Maryland usually sees about 300 Semifinalists.

  • Rick says:

    Looks like there is going be sharp drop off in cutoff scores especially as compared to 2018-2020 scores (2021 seems to have been anomalous) except in those states that there was mass cancellation of the PSAT and heavy use of AE, meaning that in those states PSAT takers were penalized.

  • Ben says:

    Hi Art,
    Have you heard that the University of Oklahoma has sent its National Merit Scholar Family Guide to NMSF before the the lists are released on September 15? Is it true? If so, how does OU get the NMSF lists so early? Thank you.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Ben,
      I did hear that. A few possibilities:
      1) Oklahoma is buying lists from College Board just like every other college and is setting the parameters to approximate expected cutoffs. I had always assumed this to be the case.
      2) As a major sponsor of NM, they get advance notice from NMSC.
      2a) They mail the guides whenever they want after receiving the list from NMSC. [A bit odd, since NM makes a big deal about the information not becoming public before the press release.]
      2b) Someone messed up this year.

      • Ben says:

        I’m inclined to believe #2a is more possible. My son’s PSAT score is one point lower than last year’s state cutoff. We thought that fat chance he had of being a NMSF this year. When we received the NMS family guide from OU two days ago, I was not sure if it was a good news or not. Today it turned out that my son’s score is just exactly the cutoff. Therefore, I assume OU gets advance notice from NMSC rather than approximating cutoffs.

        • T.B. says:

          FYI: there are reports scattered around r/psat of that mailer going to people who did not qualify and how angry they are about it. So my *guess* is 1) AND 2b).

      • AL says:

        We also got the guide and my son is one point below your cutoff. His school has not notified anyone yet.

        • Art Sawyer says:

          Coming close can sting, but your son is clearly a great test taker. Best of luck to him during application season. Thank you for sharing information about the OK guide. It does seem like the university uses score ranges rather than a list of Semifinalists.

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