What are the National Merit score requirements? To become National Merit Finalist, both PSAT and SAT scores are required. Students who reach the required PSAT National Merit Scholar cutoff score for their state will be required to have an SAT score that “confirms” their PSAT score to advance to National Merit Finalist. I’ll explain what that means and how to calculate the National Merit Selection Index score for the SAT to get the National Merit confirming SAT score….
National Merit Semifinalist PSAT score predictions
National Merit Semi-Finalist qualifying scores won’t be announced by the National Merit Corporation until the September the year after the October PSAT. The best predictor is often the scores from the previous year, but scores do go up – and sometimes down. A year is a long time to wait! So if your score is close, you can’t help but try to figure out what the National Merit qualifying score for your state might be. This will help you know if you need to prepare for the next step in the competition, like achieving a National Merit confirming SAT score.
Have National Merit PSAT scores gone up or down from 2015-2016?
Since National Merit Semi-finalist cutoffs are higher than the top 99th percentile (more like the 99.5th percentile), you can’t tell if you’re going to qualify on percentile alone. To complicate matters, the College Board publishes a National Representative Sample percentile AND a PSAT/NMSQT and PSAT/10 User National Sample (this means the population of students that age in the entire United States vs. students who actually took the test.)
To complicate it further, they publish this chart for the 1520 scale score, not the National Merit Selection Index score, the 228 score scale….
The response at our school district’s showing of Most Likely to Succeed was overwhelmingly positive. The film did a good job of pointing out all the weaknesses of our current system, but left you with an uplifting feeling. This was a welcome change from all of the other research I’ve done that has confirmed my fears that something is drastically wrong with our current educational system, but with little to offer in the way of change other than patching over some real problems.
I think the positive response was also in part to a growing concern I have seen in our district about the amount of homework and anxiety in our kids. Parents did bring up some valid concerns, some of which were answered by other parents present who work for testing agencies, state education agencies, and universities. The concerns were mainly centered on project based learning.
As I said, the documentary gave the impression that project based learning was the only option. Even though it was acknowledged early on in the discussion in our district that it was just one option, the discussion stayed pretty much on project based learning. The long and the short of it is…
Once I faced up to the reality that an Ivy League school or elite university wasn’t a real possibility for my kids based on the chances of being admitted to an elite college, the price of an elite education (and location – they are all far away for us), and other information I gathered, I still needed to know what was really required to get accepted at a “good” college….
Lots of students (or their parents) will be looking at their 2015 PSAT score and trying to guess if they’ll make the National Merit Scholar Semi-Finalist Qualifying Score, or to see how much they need to study to take the test their junior year. It’s always a guessing game, but this year the change in score scales has made it even more difficult.
The PSAT isn’t just a “practice SAT” or a “preliminary SAT.” The score on the PSAT is used by the National Merit Corporation to select National Merit Scholar Semi-Finalists. Scores vary by state. (Click here to see the list of the National Merit Scholar Semi-Finalist qualifying scores for the 2014 PSAT by state.) Semi-Finalists then submit an application for the second round of competition. Finalists can win scholarships from the National Merit Corporation, but the biggest scholarships are awarded by individual universities and other corporations.
This year, you don’t just need to guess what the new qualifying scores will be; you have to convert your score to the old scale….
For the 2015 PSAT (the 2015 PSAT/NMSQT), College Board didn’t change just the test content, they changed the scale the score is reported on as well. This makes it difficult to figure out if you improved from last year. And while it’s always been difficult to predict the qualifying scores for National Merit Semi-Finalists, not having equivalent scores makes it even harder. To “help,” the College Board has released PSAT/NMSQT Preliminary 2015 Concordance Tables These are only preliminary tables; final tables will be released in May.
From reading the explanation given by the College Board and discussions on the forums on College Confidentional, it looks like you can get the best approximation from using the 3 individual subject scores, instead of your composite score, when you try to approximate your equivalent PSAT/NMSQT to past years.
How to convert your 2015 PSAT score to the equivalent of PSAT scores in past years
The scores for the 2015 new PSAT National Merit Scholar Qualifying Test were released today in a totally different format from past years. There’s a lot of confusion, with people trying to use the College Board PSAT/NMSQT Preliminary 2015 Concordance Tables. And I’ll try to explain why there’s all the confusion as I work through the new scores below. Here is what I’ve been able to piece together from numerous sources.
How to interpret PSAT scores for the new PSAT/NMSQT 2015
National Merit Scholarship Program has released the 2016 PSAT qualifying scores.** (UPDATE: SEE NEW POST DECEMBER 2016 FOR 2018 GRADUATES) The National Merit cutoff score for Texas has gone even higher this year, 220. The race is getting ever tighter and it’s debatable how relevant it is when qualifying scores represent such a small different between abilities. But there are quite a few excellent schools who use National Merit qualifications to give out excellent academic scholarships, so it makes sense to pay attention to the PSAT. In any case, studying for the PSAT won’t be a total waste, since it does help prepare you to take the SAT later. (It’s original purpose, as in “Preliminary” SAT.)
From our son’s experience, here are my tips on preparing for the PSAT and SAT. Our son achieved a score high enough to be a National Merit Semifinalist. We are very proud of all his hard work (and thankful for a little luck.) But also, in case you haven’t heard yet, the PSAT and SAT are changing, with the PSAT taken in fall 2015 already reflecting the changes.
Here are the 2016 National Merit Scholarship Program Semifinalist Selection Index Qualifying Scores by state from the National Merit Scholarship Program Guide September 2015. Students who make this cut-off will need to submit a “confirming” SAT score (see my guide to best study aids) along with their application for the next stage of the competition in October.
** UPDATE 1/7/2016** The scores below are from the 2014 PSAT test. Qualifying scores were released in 2015 for 2016 graduating seniors. The PSAT scores released today for the newly designed 2015 PSAT, the National Merit Qualifying test for graduating Seniors in 2017, are on a different scale than in past years. I’m working on a post on how to interpret 2015 PSAT scores. And I’ve now complete a post about how to predict which 2015 PSAT scores might qualify for National Merit Semifinalist.
The SAT and PSAT are changing. While the College Board has studied and analyzed it, who really knows how it will affect scores. The first change will be this fall, with the PSAT in October 2015 being in the new format. These changes are supposed to reflect changes to the 2016 SAT. My daughter got a chance to try out the new format with the official PSAT Practice Test #1 (Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test) from the College Board….
Is my PSAT score good enough to qualify for National Merit scholarship? What score is needed to qualify for a National Merit Scholarship? That information isn’t easy to find, even on the internet. All the PSAT scores should all be out by now (schools receive the scores and decide when to distribute them) and a lot of students are asking that question. Even if it’s not their Junior year, some kids (or their parents) are looking at their freshman or sophomore scores and wondering if they have a shot at National Merit their Junior year….