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

Updated Fall 2014, with National Merit cutoff scores by state, 2015.   Please see 2015 cutoff scores and SAT equivalents below….

The latest information on national merit scholarships and other merit aid offered specifically to honors students can be found in the lengthy program descriptions in our recent book.  (Yes, We Have a Book….).  The recent edition is mostly a rating of honors programs across eight categories–curriculum, class size, classes by subject, grad rates, honors dorms, etc.,  and it is for purchase only.  Please see university-wide data below….

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.

(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=201 for 2015.  (See below for SAT equivalent.) Semifinalists, on the other hand, account for only a bit more 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, from 201 in West Virginia to 224 in the District of Columbia and New Jersey (see below).  Converted to SAT (two-part) scores, there is an estimated difference of 154 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 2015 scores is 212.2, down slightly from the 2014 average of 214.1.  The 2015 average score converts to an SAT score of ~1422.

Estimated PSAT Minimum Semifinalist Scores, and estimated SAT Equivalencies, 2015, by State:

Alabama 207 1387
Alaska 210 1407
Arizona 213 1427
Arkansas 206 1380
California 222 1487
Colorado 213 1427
Connecticut 220 1474
Delaware 215 1441
District of Columbia 224 1501
Florida 211 1414
Georgia 215 1441
Hawaii 214 1434
Idaho 211 1414
Illinois 215 1441
Indiana 212 1420
Iowa 207 1387
Kansas 213 1427
Kentucky 210 1407
Louisiana 208 1394
Maine 212 1420
Maryland 221 1481
Massachusetts 223 1494
Michigan 210 1407
Minnesota 215 1441
Mississippi 207 1387
Missouri 209 1400
Montana 206 1380
Nebraska 209 1400
Nevada 208 1394
New Hampshire 212 1420
New Jersey 224 1501
New Mexico 210 1407
New York 218 1461
North Carolina 212 1420
North Dakota 201 1347
Ohio 213 1427
Oklahoma 206 1380
Oregon 217 1454
Pennsylvania 216 1447
Rhode Island 212 1420
South Carolina 209 1400
South Dakota 203 1360
Tennessee 212 1420
Texas 218 1461
Utah 208 1394
Vermont 213 1427
Virginia 219 1467
Washington 219 1467
West Virginia 201 1347
Wisconsin 208 1394
Wyoming 204 1367
Commended  201  (National Cutoff) 201 1347
Outside United States  224 224 1501
U.S. Territories  201 201 1347

 

 


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