Updated January 14, 2016, with revised ESTIMATED semifinalist qualifying scores for the NMS class of 2017, using the new selection score index, and a new link to concordance tables comparing old PSAT scores to new. These estimates are for students who took the new PSAT in October 2015. We also list National Merit semifinalist cutoff scores by state, NMS class of 2016, but THOSE SCORES REFLECT THE OLD SELECTION SCORING SYSTEM.
The NMS 2016 scores will apply to high school juniors who took the PSAT in October 2014. These students should have been notified in April 2015 if they were among the 50,000 students who were eligible for commended or semifinalist recognition. In September 2015, they were notified if they had been selected as national merit semifinalists, and they should learn in February 2016 if they are finalists. Since final notification for them comes in 2016, the spring term of their senior year, they are referred to as the 2016 class. The cutoff scores for them are listed below, along with SAT equivalents….
Students who took the new PSAT in October 2015 are the “Class of 2017” with initial online score reporting possibly as early as January 7, 2016. The total score between 320 and 1520 is NOT the same as the new Selection Index semifinalist qualifying score (see below). The maximum total score on the “old” PSAT was 240. The revised PSAT will report total scores from 320 to 1520, and the College Board has issued new concordance tables that show the relation of the old total scores (max 240) to the new total scores (max 1520). The maximum Selection Index qualifying score on the new PSAT is 228. The best way to find your individual score is to have a College Board account.
One example on the concordance tables: an old total score of 202, which was the “commended” score on the old test, now equates to a new total score of 1380 on the revised PSAT. But please note, again, that the new test also has a separate Selection Index score that will be used for NMS semifinalist cutoff scores in each state. The estimates below show that the commended SI score for the class of 2017 will be ~210. The redesign of the Selection Index (228 vs 240 for the old total score) will result in some higher SI scores needed for the Class of 2017 to qualify as semifinalists.
Below are the ESTIMATED Selection Index semifinalist qualifying cores for the Class of 2017, according to the Collegecompass site. Update: the site changed its overall estimates January 8, and changed the estimate for Texas on February 9. We do not know the confidence level of these estimates, but we incline toward seeing them as reasonable estimates and hope they help to offset some of the intense concern among students and parents. Compassprep has developed estimates that, in general, are a bit higher than those below. This site has the advantage of listing likely ranges, along with scores from previous years that used the old scoring format.
Please bear in mind that your actual PSAT score is different from your selection score. We do not know at this time exactly when the formal announcement of actual semifinalist qualifying scores will be made, but probably in September 2016. The estimated cutoff scores for the class of 2017, by state, are immediately below. A table showing the actual qualifying scores for the class of 2016 is farther down, along with SAT equivalents for that class.
Dist Columbia 220
New Hamp 214
New Jersey 220
New Mexico 212
New York 217
Rhode Is 214
Texas 219 (formerly 217)
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.
(Note: The average 2014 National Merit Scholars’ SAT critical reading score was 751, and the average mathematics score was 746; the average writing skills score was 737. All were up slightly over 2013 scores.) Please note that ACT scores are not used to “confirm” PSAT scores. 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.
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=202 for 2016. (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 varied widely for the NMS class of 2016, from 202 in West Virginia to 225 in the District of Columbia and New Jersey (see below). Converted to SAT (two-part) scores, there is an estimated difference of 155 points between the SAT scores required in West Virginia, 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 is 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.
PSAT Minimum Semifinalist Scores, and SAT Equivalencies, NMS class of 2016, by State. These are not applicable to students in the NMS class of 2017, who took the new PSAT in October 2015.
|District of Columbia||225||1507.5|
|Outside United States||225||1507.5|