PSAT National Merit Scholar Qualifying Scores and SAT Equivalencies, by State

Updated August 31, 2016, with privately reported selection index scores for the NMS class of 2017, reported as final by the website Compassprep. Official scores not posted until mid-September, probably September 16. A score of 222 is a “guaranteed” score regardless of the state in which the student lives. In general, these scores are trending higher than previous estimates. The 2017 Commended score is 209.

Below are the Selection Index semifinalist qualifying scores for the Class of 2017, according to privately reported scores gathered by the Compassprep site. The selection index score is the sum of your three PSAT scores, maximum of 228. We incline toward seeing them as accurate and hope they help to offset some of the intense concern among students and parents. All states are now “confirmed” by Compassprep.

Alabama 215
Alaska 213
Arizona 219
Arkansas 213
California 221
Colorado 218
Connecticut 220
Delaware 218
Dist Columbia 222
Florida 217
Georgia 219
Hawaii 217
Idaho 214
Illinois 219
Indiana 217
Iowa 215
Kansas 217
Kentucky 215
Louisiana 214
Maine 214
Maryland 221
Massachusetts 222
Michigan 216
Minnesota 219
Mississippi 212
Missouri 216
Montana 210
Nebraska 215
Nevada 214
New Hampshire 216
New Jersey 222
New Mexico 213
New York 219
North Carolina 218
North Dakota 209
Ohio 217
Oklahoma 213
Oregon 219
Pennsylvania 218
Rhode Island 217
South Carolina 215
South Dakota 209
Tennessee 218
Texas 220
Utah 215
Vermont 215
Virginia 221
Washington 221
West Virginia 209
Wisconsin 215
Wyoming 209
Commended 209
Territories 209
International 222

To qualify for a National Merit Scholarship, the PSAT must be taken in the student’s junior year of high school.  Many parents may not be aware that there is no single nationwide score on the PSAT that will qualify a student to become a NMS semifinalist, a critical preliminary step on the way to becoming a finalist and then perhaps a merit scholar.

Students are classified according to the state in which they attend high school, not the state of actual residence.

For more information about confirmation scores, please see The National Merit Journey: What You Need to Know, Part One and The National Merit Journey Part Two: The Parent’s Role.

(See also Best Major Universities for National Merit Scholarship Funding and Merit Aid: Publics that Fund at least 50% of Tuition and Fees.)

Semifinalists emerge from the top 3-4% of students (50,000 or so) taking the test, by virtue of the PSAT score alone.  The top 3-4% of students earn “commended” status, and there is a national uniform score for commended students=209 for 2017.  (See below for SAT equivalent.) Semifinalists, on the other hand, account for fewer than 1% of all students, or about 16,000 nationwide.

From these students, the merit scholar foundation, using state allocation levels, selects about 15,000 to become finalists; and from this group, about 9,000 are actually selected as merit scholars, based on both PSAT and SAT scores and a letter of recommendation from the high school principal.  Therefore, many students who meet the semifinalist thresholds listed below do not go on to become finalists or merit scholars (two different things, though for some schools being a finalist is sufficient to earn support).  We speculate that meaningful improvement on the SAT, taken in the spring of the junior year, relative to the PSAT score from the preceding October, may help in identifying students who go beyond finalist status and become merit scholars.

Each state has its own threshold PSAT score, which is the baseline for students to be considered as semifinalists in a given state.  The scores vary widely for the NMS class of 2017, from 209 in West Virginia to 222 in several states.

Converted to SAT (two-part) scores, there was an estimated difference of 155 points between the SAT scores required in West Virginia (class of 2016), and those required in the District of Columbia and New Jersey.

The mean of state minimum semifinalist PSAT for the NMS class of 2016 scores was 212.67, up slightly from 2015 but down from the 2014 average of 214.1.  The 2016 average score converts to an SAT score of ~1425, up from ~1422 in 2015. We do not yet have new SAT equivalents for PSAT total scores or index scores for the class of 2017.


This entry was posted in Merit Aid, Prestigious Scholarships and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.