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National Merit Scholarship Program Explained

By October 4, 2023November 1st, 2023National Merit, PSAT

Below we cover the the most frequently asked questions about the National Merit Scholarship Program. Please see our National Merit Semifinalist Cutoffs page for the latest information on actual and projected Selection Index cutoffs by state.

What is the National Merit Scholarship Program and how do you enter?
The NMSP is a program administered by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation in cooperation with the College Board to recognize high achieving high school seniors. Some recognition levels are based purely on junior PSAT/NMSQT scores, while other levels have additional qualifications (explained below). The NMSC gives out approximately $50 million in scholarships each year, and some colleges provide lowered—or even free—tuition to recognized students, multiplying the net impact of National Merit severalfold.

You must take the PSAT/NMSQT as a high school junior and either attend high school in the United States or U.S. Territories or be a U.S. student studying abroad. On your PSAT score report, you will see a section with your Selection Index and how you answered the questions about your entry eligibility. If there is an asterisk next to your Selection Index, it means that NMSC believes that you are ineligible.

What if I couldn’t take the PSAT?
Every year students miss the PSAT for legitimate reasons such as illness. To allow those students the opportunity to compete in National Merit, NMSC has a process known as alternate entry. Students must make a written request to NMSC for an alternate entry application form. The application itself must be signed off on by your principal or counselor and postmarked no later than April 1 after the missed PSAT/NMSQT.

What is the Selection Index?
The Selection Index is a weighting of your PSAT component scores to determines the level of your recognition within the initial stages of the National Merit program.

How is the Selection Index calculated?
The Selection Index is double the sum of your Reading and Writing (RW) score, and Math score divided by 10. Alternatively, you can simply drop the last zero on your section scores, double the RW and add the Math. For example, a student with scores of 690 RW and 720 M would have a Selection Index of 69 x 2 + 72 = 210. You cannot directly calculate a Selection Index from a Total Score (320 – 1520). For students entering the competition with an SAT score through Alternate Entry, note that — when calculating a Selection Index — each SAT section is capped at 760. If, for example, you have a 700 RW and 800 Math, your Selection Index would be 70 x2 + 76 = 216.

Why is the Reading and Writing twice as important as the Math?
The emphasis on “verbal” skills has a long history with the NMSP. The digital PSAT no longer has separate Reading and Writing scores, but the RW score is still doubled.

I’ve already received my PSAT scores; how can I find out whether I will qualify for recognition?
Although you can use the Compass projections to estimate whether you are likely to qualify as a Commended Student or Semifinalist, there is no way of knowing your official status until high schools are notified by NMSC in early September of your senior year (sometimes schools hear by late August). Compass has published the cutoffs for the class of 2024 and estimates for the class of 2025. An historical archive dating back more than 15 years can be found here. The Commended cutoff for future classes becomes unofficially known in the April after the PSAT. Compass will report this score and how it may impact Semifinalist cutoffs on our regularly updated cutoffs post.

Will I qualify as a Semifinalist if I am in the 99th percentile for Selection Index according to my score report?
Although approximately 1% of test takers will become Semifinalists, there are a number of reasons why percentile scores are far too inaccurate to determine eligibility. Even the state percentiles that are now on the digital SAT report do not have enough information, because they are actually based on the prior 3 years of scores. Further, the percentile is rounded, and not accurate enough to determine cutoffs.

Why do some states have more Semifinalists and Finalists than other states?
Although Commended Scholars are honored based on a single, national cutoff, NMSC distributes Semifinalists proportionally to states (and District of Columbia and U.S. Territories) based on the number of graduating students in the state. For example, California sees approximately 2,100 Semifinalists each year—the most in the country. It gets 13% of Semifinalists because it produces approximately 13% of high school graduates. Mississippi, on the other hand, typically sees about 135 National Merit Semifinalists, because the state produces a bit more than 0.8% of U.S. graduates. The distribution is completely unrelated to the number of students taking the PSAT in the state.

Why are Semifinalist cutoffs so much higher in some states than in others?
Two things that have impact on cutoffs are participation rates and demographics. In some states, ACT is the dominant test and not as many students take the PSAT. This leaves some students out of the competition and will tend to produce lower cutoffs. Some states have large pockets of extremely qualified students and are particularly competitive. For example, Massachusetts and New Jersey have class of 2024 cutoffs of 222 and 223, respectively. At the other end of the spectrum, North Dakota, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Wyoming had NMSF cutoffs of 207 for the class of 2024. The minimum Semifinalist cutoff for a state is the national Commended level. If, for example, the Commended cutoff is at 210, no state can have a Semifinalist cutoff less than 210.

How are Semifinalists set for homeschoolers, boarding school students, or U.S. students studying abroad?
Homeschoolers are treated no differently than other students in a state. U.S. students studying abroad will have to meet the highest state cutoff in the country. For the class of 2024, that was 223. Boarding school cutoffs are the most complex to calculate. Instead of being set at the state level, they are determined regionally. A Northeast boarding school student, for example, must meet the highest cutoff of any state within the Northeast region. NMSC defines boarding schools as schools with predominantly out-of-state students. NMSC considers your state to be where you went to school when you took the PSAT, not your state of residency or the state of your new school.

Do I have to be a U.S. citizen to participate?
NMSC has made this part of the process easier to understand than it was in the past. Students at high school in the U.S. or in U.S. Territories are eligible. Period. Students studying abroad are eligible as long as they are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents of the U.S. (“green card”) or or have applied for permanent residence (the application for which has not been denied) and intend to become U.S. citizens at the earliest opportunity allowed by law.

Will NMSC notify me if I become a Semifinalist?
No. NMSC provides information only to schools until a student becomes a Finalist. Homeschoolers are the exception.

When will my school tell me?
NMSC mails information to schools in late August. Some schools let students know their status in early September. Many schools wait until NMSC officially releases student names to the press in the second week of September. Compass will track all of the latest news on our Semifinalists cutoff page.

Will being a Semifinalist help get me into my first-choice college?
While Semifinalist status is a nice award to list on your application, you should not expect it alone to have a significant impact on your admission chances at most colleges. The recognition tells college that you did well on the PSAT. Your SAT and ACT scores are far more important to colleges; your National Merit status does not add much new information. However, having a high number of enrolled Semifinalists is seen as a badge of honor at some colleges and will factor in their admission decisions. Some colleges have programs specifically to attract National Merit Finalists and offer large merit awards.

Do I need to take the SAT to become a Semifinalist?
No. Commended Student and Semifinalist recognition are based only on your Selection Index and your entry eligibility.

What happens after I am named a Semifinalist?
Semifinalists will receive login credentials for the Finalist application portal. You will need to provide background information and an essay. Your school will need to provide its recommendation and electronically submit your application in the second week of October,

What is the National Merit Finalist essay prompt?
NMSC may change the prompt in future years, but it has been the same for many years. It is broad enough that most students are able to use or slightly rework their Common App essay. For the class of 2024, the prompt was:

“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.”

There is not a word limit specified, but the essay must fit within the provided space (approximately 3500 characters). Expect to keep your essay to 600 – 650 words.

Do I need to take the SAT or ACT to become a Finalist?
Among the requirements to proceed from Semifinalist to Finalist is that you receive a “confirming score.” This score helps validate that you can, on an official SAT or ACT test date, achieve a high score and confirm your testing skill.

Can a high ACT score be a confirming score?
Yes, the ACT can be used to confirm PSAT results.

How high of an SAT score do I need for a confirming score?
The confirming score is determined each year by NMSC and is calculated in the same way as the PSAT Selection Index. The confirming score is set nationally, so it does not matter what Semifinalist cutoff you met. The confirming SAT Selection Index (SSI) generally falls at or near the Commended cutoff.

The easiest calculation of the SSI is from your section scores. Drop a zero, double your RW, and add your Math score. For example, Student X might have a total score of 1450, with section scores of 720 RW and 730 M. Student X’s SSI would be 2(72) + 73 = 217. It’s possible for a student with a lower total score to have a higher SSI. Student Y has a total score of 1430, with section scores of 750 ERW and 690 M. Student Y’s SSI would be 2(75) + 69 = 219.

You cannot determine your SSI directly from your total score. One student scoring 1400 might have a high enough SSI, whereas another student with a 1400 might fall short. You must know your RW and Math scores.

How high of an ACT score do I need for a confirming score?
NMSC wants to have a level playing field, so it converts components of the ACT score into an SAT Selection Index. In order to do that, you need to use the official concordance tables published by ACT/College Board. There is no SAT Science, so NMSC does not look at ACT Science. So discard that score.

Step 1: Add your ACT English and ACT Reading scores
Step 2: Use the ACT E+R to SAT RW concordance table to find the concordant SAT RW score based on the sum in step 1. Be sure that you are going in the correct direction when using the concordance tables. ACT E+R to SAT RW is not always the same as SAT RW to ACT E+R.
Step 3: Use the ACT M to SAT M table to find the concordant SAT M score based on your ACT Math score.
Step 4: Calculate your SAT SI: drop the last zeros (i.e. divide by 10), double your RW, and add your Math score. You want this number to be at least as high as your class year’s Commended Student score.

A student has ACT scores of 32E, 34M, 33R, and 31S. Science is not used. The sum of E and R is 65. In the concordance tables, this is equivalent to a 700 RW. The 34 Math is concordant to a 760. This student’s SAT Selection Index is 70×2 + 76 = 216.

When do I have to take the SAT or ACT for the score to be ‘confirmed’?
You can use any SAT or ACT score from the fall of your sophomore year to December of your senior year. This means that you could have received an SAT confirming score even before taking the PSAT/NMSQT. NMSC recommends that you not wait until the December test date.

How do I submit scores to NMSC?
NMSC does not automatically know your SAT and ACT scores. You must submit them just as you would to a college. The College Board code for NMSC is 0085. The ACT code is 7984. Please verify these codes before submitting. Since NMSC will use your highest scores, there is no penalty for choosing them as one of your free score recipients when you register for the SAT or ACT.

Can I superscore SAT or ACT dates in order to reach the confirming score cutoff?
No. NMSC will use your highest scores, but will not superscore across test dates.

If I have achieved a confirming score, is there any reason to shoot for a higher score?
The requirement for a confirming score is simply true or false when applying to become a Finalist. However, your test scores are used to evaluate you during the scholarship phase of the competition. Depending on your goals, you may want to optimize your score.

Can sophomores qualify for National Merit recognition?
No. Even if your scores are high enough, you will not be eligible for National Merit as a sophomore unless you will be graduating a year early. In that case, you should contact NMSC or your principal about next steps as NMSC has no way of automatically knowing your eligibility.

Is it hard for a Semifinalist to become a Finalist?
Of the 16,000 Semifinalists, 15,000 become Finalists. You must go through an application process to proceed to Finalist level and then to compete for National Merit Scholarships. As part of the application, you must meet citizenship requirements, have a satisfactory academic record, achieve a confirming score on the SAT or ACT (and submit the scores to NMSC!), write an essay, and receive a recommendation from your principal. More information can be found in the PSAT/NMSQT Student Guide. In the Semifinalist letter from your school (it will NOT come from NMSC unless you are homeschooled), NMSC will provide details about how to begin the process online.

When will I find out if I am a Finalist?
You will be notified in February of senior year.

Do all Finalists receive scholarships? What is a National Merit Scholar?
Only about half of Finalists become National Merit Scholars and receive a National Merit Scholarship. There are three types of scholarships for Finalists, each with its own criteria. A student can only receive one type of scholarship. Approximately 4,000 Finalists receive scholarships from sponsoring colleges with renewable stipends of $500–$2,500 per year. Students must be accepted by a sponsoring institution and list the college as first choice in order to receive a college-sponsored award. These awards are not transferable to another college. Corporations sponsor approximately 1,000 awards for Finalists each year with a minimum one-time value of $2,500 or $1,000 renewable. Most of these awards are to Finalists who are the children of employees. Approximately 2,500 students receive awards of $2,500 directly from National Merit. These awards are highly competitive and are allocated proportionally by state. A list of sponsoring colleges and corporations can be found in the PSAT/NMSQT Student Guide.

I’ve heard about colleges that provide full-ride awards. Why are college-sponsored awards only listed as $500–$2,500 per year?
Colleges can also choose to provide additional awards to National Merit Finalists. These are not technically National Merit Scholarships, but they can be the most important awards for many students. Which colleges offer these awards and how much they offer can change from year to year. In recent years, Florida has had a generous scholarship program for National Merit Finalists, and schools such as UT-Dallas and Texas A&M also provide substantial awards. Compass does not maintain a database of scholarships. The National Merit forum at collegeconfidential.com is a useful resource.

Are scholarships available to Commended Students and Semifinalists?
Technically, these students cannot be National Merit Scholars, but approximately 1,100 of them will receive Special Scholarships from sponsoring corporations. As with other corporate-sponsored awards, these are predominantly for the children of employees, although companies can also identify students in a particular region or field of study.

When will I find out if I receive a scholarship?
You will be notified of scholarship status sometime between March and June of your senior year. In order to receive a college-sponsored scholarship, you must note the college as your first choice on the National Merit application. It can be to your advantage not to immediately choose a first-choice college—you can leave it as “Undecided.” You do not want to miss out on a large scholarship because you have listed the wrong college. There is no reason to list a college that does not provide National Merit Scholarships. List your first-choice among college that do provide scholarships. You can update your choice via the Online Scholarship Application portal.

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.


  • Kathy says:

    When applying for a finalist do you recommend a student use the same essay they are using on the Common Application (Personal Statement) if it slightly pertains to NMSC prompt? Here is the prompt and I believe it is drastically different than before: “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” space alots for around 600 words. How heavily is the essay weighted? Does the college you pick as first choice see the essay submitted on the NMSC finalist application? The student’s SAT score index is 238, w/ 4.0 unweighted GPA right now, and rec letter should be great and student has more Extra Curricular/Volunteering than there are spots on application, what is more important volunteering or an Extra Curricular? How important are honors/awards? Can a “Finalist” student be awarded a Corp Sponsored scholarship from a company they are not affiliated with (parents do not work for), and if yes-can a student turn down the Corp Sponsored scholarship and select a college as their first choice for a NMSC after that Corp Scholarship has been offered, since the college scholarship will be of greater value (well the money supplied by the college is for full or half tuition)? Or is it all about when the child selects first choice college (date wise), so if they select a college of first choice on Feb 25 before NMSC announces first group of students to colleges (on March 1) and the announcement of students awarded Corp Scholarship (March 7), would this guarantee the the student will not be selected for a Corp Scholarship, since the student can only receive one or the other (college or corp)? Note: I realize that not all finalists are guaranteed a scholarship from the college they pick as first choice, and it can be very competitive depending on the college, and only one NMSC award is given per finalist.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      There is no published information or reliable sources on how NMSC weights the various parts of the application. Then again, the same could be said about almost all college applications. In your student’s case, it sounds like two of the biggest factors — GPA and SAT scores — are virtually “maxed out.” I believe that the Finalist prompt is the same as was used last year. It overlaps with many Common App prompts/essays. If you feel that your son’s personal statement only slightly pertains to the NM prompt, I’d recommend he spend some time reworking it, as it is the part of his application currently under his control. You might also consider that “Scholarship recipients are the candidates judged to have
      the greatest potential for success in rigorous college studies and beyond.” Colleges are not involved at the Finalist stage, but they do choose college-sponsored scholarship winners. I would assume that they have access to the Finalist application at that point, but I’m not certain.

      The scholarship dance can get very complicated, but NMSC does its best to ensure that students have every available option. In other words, students are not locked into a corporate-sponsored scholarship if they become eligible for more valuable college-sponsored awards. Nor are students excluded from consideration for corporate or NMSC sponsored scholarships just because they list a sponsoring college as first choice. Yes, there are corporate-sponsored awards that are not exclusively for affiliated students. The more common non-college awards, though, are direct from NMSC. Students can only end up with one kind of scholarship, but the music doesn’t stop right away.

      Most students are best off listing the first choice as Undecided for now. I recommend connecting with the schools on your son’s list that offer NM Scholarships and finding out more about their conditions and deadlines.

  • Sally says:

    Are there any predictions on the PSAT scores for the class of 2019? For Washington State, (222 for class of 2018) will the score be expected go up since it’s already pretty high? Is there any chance of the score lowering?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      We won’t know more until scores come out in December — and even that it will be at the global level. I do think it is highly unlikely that WA moves up for 2019. Yes, there is a decent change that it moves down. Without knowing whether overall scores move up or down, we can say that historically about 1/3 of states go down in any given year.

  • Belkis says:

    Hi I will need help with my son decision about first choice college . He has great chances to become a Finalist but I am concern about collge sponsoship . In florida the Benacquisto Scholarship Program allows student National merit finalist to cover Cost of attendance for 5 colleges if student selected as First choice one of them. My son dream school is Georgia Tech and he selected as first choice but I am afraid Georgia offer something and if at the end he decided based on economics to attend University of Florida he lost the Benacquisto Scholarship Program
    Florida because he did not select first choice one of the Florida school until last minute . When are colleges begins to offered some awards that can cut the opportunity for hem to changes first choice ? Is better to leave it undecided for this case ?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      He should not list GaTech as his first choice school (he can easily change it). From the GaTech website: “Georgia Tech has withdrawn as a sponsor of new National Merit College Sponsored Scholarships beginning with the 2014-2015 academic year.” Unless they have changed this again, he would receive no benefit from listing GaTech (the admission office does not look at this as demonstrated interest). “Undecided” is often the best choice at this point. The worry would not be that GT offers him something — they no longer sponsor scholarships — but that he miss out on another opportunity that requires the college as first choice.

  • Pankaj says:

    My daughter by mistake sent 3 different SAT scores (from her previous SAT attempts), Will National Merit will take the highest one?

  • John says:

    I received my October SAT scores back, but am still waiting for my PSAT scores. Do you how I can calculate what my NM SSI would be based on just my SAT scores?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Just drop the zeros from your ERW and Math scores (200-800). Double the ERW and add the Math. If you got a 1440, for example, with 740 ERW and 700 Math, your SSI would be 74×2 + 70 = 218. Keep in mind that the PSAT will only go up to 760, so the top SIs are lower.

  • Janet F says:

    Hi Art – a friend asked for a resource on the National Merit competition for next year. I recommended your site and am sending her this link. I did notice a typo (“and essay” instead of “an essay”) that I thought you would want to correct. Thanks again for your analysis this year. It made the long wait for my son’s National Merit Semi-Finalist letter much easier.

  • Angela says:

    Hi Art, I am still very confused about the NMF awards, and don’t know what i should recommend my son to put on his application status for college choice. His SAT score is 1560, PSAT 1480, his gpa 4.25 and ranks 4th in his class. He ‘s already got admitted to the university that he wants to go to. My concern now should he leave undecided for college choice so he can get the big scholarship.? And he did finished his application and listed his first choice of the college that accepts him. Can we change the status to undecided, or what is the best thing we can do now, I am hoping he would get full ride tuition. Please explain what all possible scholarships. Thank you very much for your time.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Congratulations on your son’s acceptance! First, whatever he chooses now with NM, he will have an opportunity to change in the coming months.

      If the intention is to attend his top choice school no matter what the result of the NM scholarship, then the answer is simple — go ahead and list that as his first choice. If a scholarship is an essential component to his decision and he might go somewhere else if the money is right, then he needs to consider what school #1 provides to NMFs. The reason why many folks recommend staying with Undecided at first is to avoid any chance of an unintentional match. If school #1 only provides $2,500 and school #2 provides full scholarships to NMFs, then a student may not want to receive a scholarship from school #1 UNLESS he is rejected by school #2, in which case it is better to get $2,500 than nothing. Alternatively, a student doesn’t want to find himself rejected by school #1 and unable to match with school #2 (since it is not listed as first choice). The latter case doesn’t apply given your son’s acceptance. You can imagine how complicated it can become if there are multiple colleges in the mix. Again, there is still plenty of time for this to be worked out. I would recommend contacting his first choice school to see if they have a National Merit Finalist liaison (some of the largest scholarship providers do) and talk to them about what they offer and what deadlines they have. NM scholarships also can’t be looked at in a vacuum, because they typically represent only one part of the financial aid that a student may receive.

  • Wendy says:

    I am a junior who recieved a 1370 and a score of 206 on the PSAT this year. Is there any way I could make the National Merit cutoff? or was my score too low?

  • James says:

    Hi Art,

    For the SAT to verify the PSAT score does it have to be with essay or no?

  • Sumi says:

    My son is a junior and he got 222 in PSAT & 1550 on his SAT this year He will be graduating high school in 2019 from Ilinois.Will he meet the criteria to be in the list of semifinalists?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      I don’t expect the IL cutoff to go above 222, but we won’t know for sure until late August. His 1550 will be sufficient as a confirming score (needed to move from Semifinalist to Finalist status).

  • Albert says:

    Hello Art,
    The entire PSAT process seems very daunting and I do appreciate your individual responses. My daughter received 1440 as the total score and 213 as the NMSC selection index. I still do not completely understand the differences of the total score and the selection index. We are from Illinois- just wondering at her chances for commended or semi-finalist status? And does commended status offer any scholarships?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Thank you.

      National Merit Scholarship Corp has always marched to its own beat. Rather than just use the sum of the SAT scores (total score), NMSC weights the ERW twice that of Math and drops a zero (this dates back to the old PSAT scoring). Working backwards, for instance, I can figure out that your daughter received a 690 ERW, 750 Math as that would give an SI of 213 (69×2 + 75). Your daughter’s score will not be high enough to qualify as a Semifinalist, but she will almost certainly be Commended. Some companies provide awards to employees’ children, and these can go to Commended students. I believe that there are a few colleges that provide scholarships based on Commended status, but it is unusual.

  • Pam says:

    Any chance Texas cutoff will be 220 ?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Yes. We don’t know for sure that the higher number of students in the top score range represent a boost in TX or are from other states. We also don’t know that the boost is throughout the range (maybe we’ll just see more 210-218 students, for example). I think about 20-25% of states will see declines this year. Texas could be one of those states.

  • Thaenraj says:

    Dear Art,
    My son is a junior year and he scored “NMSC Selection Index 219*” in PSAT.Besides his selection index score there was “*” and the remarks
    says ” NMSC uses a Selection Index based on PSAT/NMSQT scores as an initial screen
    of students who enter its scholarship programs”.I am not sure how do I interpret this remarks.
    He will be completing his high school graduation in 2019 from California.Will he meet the criteria to be in the list of semifinalists?
    I appreciate your help in understanding this PSAT SI “*”.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      I believe that the asterisk indicates that he is eligible (based on the requirements). You can verify this by looking at the Entry Requirements on the full report. You want to see High School Student: YES, Class Year: 2019, Total Years to be Spent in Grades 9-12: 4, and U.S. Citizen: YES.

      Nothing on the report indicates whether or not a student’s score is high enough for National Merit honors. Your son’s 219 is high enough to be a Commended Student, but is unlikely to be high enough to be a Semifinalist (and continue on in the competition) in CA.

  • Madi says:

    I’m a junior in MD who got a 221 on the PSAT this year. What do you think are the odds of the cutoff dropping a point for me to make the cut?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Based on the overall national results, I think we will only see about 20-25% of states showing declines (and I reserve the right to be wrong). It’s possible that MD will be among those states.

  • Confused says:

    Hi Art, can you explain how the same score will garner different SIs? For example, both score 1480 but the CA tester’s SI is 223 and a VA tester’s is 221. Thanks!

    • Art Sawyer says:

      National Merit has long double-weighted the “verbal” portion of the PSAT. When the PSAT was 20-80 for Reading, Writing, and Math, this made it easy for everyone. You just added your scores. Now, it’s a little more confusing because College Board makes the total score so prominent. The tester who had an SI of 223 would have scored 750 ERW / 730 Math. The VA tester would have had a 730 ERW / 750 Math. The math is 75×2 + 73 = 223 and 73×2 + 75. You can simply drop the zeros, double the ERW, and add the Math.

  • Brian says:

    Hi Art,
    When will the cutoff score for NMSF be announced for Class of 2019 ?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Schools are notified of student status in late August 2018. Students often don’t learn from their schools until September. Compass will be trying to compile a list as soon as possible in August.

  • Hannah G says:

    I’m a homeschooled high-school Junior, and received a 212 (selection index) on the PSAT. If I was a commended scholar, how would I find out since I’m homeschooled? Would they send it to my local high school (where I took the PSAT) or somehow send it to my family? If the latter, how would we receive it?

    Thanks for your help 🙂

    • Art Sawyer says:

      NMSC treats your parents as the school, so communications are done directly with the family (this is unique to homeschoolers). I know that this is true for Semifinalist communications, and I don’t believe it is any different for Commended. Everything is done the old-fashioned way — the U.S. Postal Service. It will still be months before you hear anything at all. You are welcome!

  • katie says:

    Hi there,
    If there is usually 1.6 million who take the exam, and the top 50,000 are commended. would it be safe to say that the top 2%, meaning if you ranked in the 98th percentile for PSAT, would you be at least commended?
    We live in Mass, my daughter scored 1340, index of 201. It states that she is in the 98th percentile. Can you explain this?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      The percentiles College Board reports are highly misleading for a number of reasons. For one, they do not reflect this year’s class; they reflect the average of the class of 2017 and class of 2018. We also don’t know how many NMSQT entrants there actually are. Second, the percentile your are looking at is, I believe, the “Nationally Representative Percentile.” I hate this figure, and it is made worse by the fact that College Board gives it the most prominence. It is a hypothetical figure based on a pilot study to estimate percentiles as if every student in the country took the exam. It inflates the percentiles, because the people that actually take the test are, on the main, higher performers. About 1.75M juniors took the test, but it’s probably closer to to the 1.6M that you cite as an estimate of eligible students. In the User Percentile (test takers), your daughter’s 1340 is at the 94th percentile. Unfortunately, that will not be high enough to make Commended this year.

  • Junior Mom says:

    We are in FL and my junior student (Class of 2019) just received his PSAT score of 1470 and NMSC Selection Index of 219. Would he make it to the semi-finalist list? Just trying to understand how that works. If they have the “cutoff” score do they automatically qualify? Or is it only a certain number of students that are selected? If they don’t qualify for semi-finalist, do they automatically get “commended”?


    • Art Sawyer says:

      Students at or above the class of 2019 cutoff will qualify as Semifinalists (assuming they meet eligibility requires on class year and citizenship). If they don’t make SF, then they can qualify as Commended as long as the score is above the Commended level. At minimum, your son will be Commended. I think it’s close to a toss-up as to whether or not Florida remains the same or moves up this year.

  • Joanne says:

    Hi Art,
    My sister just received her PSAT scores back but she received a 1460: a 710 in ERW and 750 in Math. Her index is a 217 but we live in Florida. Is there a chance she could become a Semifinalist? Or is 217 too low that there isn’t really a chance the cutoff would move down a couple points?
    Thanks, Joanne

  • thf108 says:

    Thanks for your wonderful website. It has been very informative. My son (a junior) received his PSAT score today and has a score index of 217. We live in Mississippi. He will graduate in 2019. Will he likely qualify as a National Merit Semi-Finalist with this SI score?

  • Tina says:

    Is 1410 for the class of 2019 PSAT with a SSI of 211 bad.Wpuld it qualify for anything? I’m in California

  • Junior says:

    Hi Art,
    We live in Colorado and I got a 1430 on the PSAT with a selection index of 215. Would that be eligible for a commended student?
    I am very confused about the process, so I was wondering if that would make the cut.

  • Alan says:

    If my daughter’s PSAT score qualifies her for commendation (212 for DC) does she also need to take the SAT now to receive the commendation next year? Or can she stick with the ACT as she planned?
    Thank you!

  • Tom says:

    Hi Art,

    My son scored 1500 on the SAT in August 2017 and 1480 on the PSAT in October. His SSI for Florida is 221. Would 1500 on the SAT confirm his PSAT score? Should he retake the SAT? We are currently more concerned about the scholarship than about college acceptance.

    Thank you-

    • Art Sawyer says:

      His 1500 will easily confirm his PSAT score. Tom, I assuming that you are thinking about the Benacquisto Scholarship Program, which is extremely valuable to Florida students. The twist with the BSP is that you not only need to be a Finalist, you also need to be a National Merit Scholarship winner (and then the BSP gets layered on top). For students attending one of Florida’s NM sponsoring institutions, this is pretty much a given. In theory, a higher SAT score might help a student looking to earn a NMSC-sponsored scholarship or corporate scholarship and then receive the BSP at a Florida university that does not sponsor NM scholarships. The latest information can be found here.

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