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.
Why do National Merit Semi-Finalists need a confirming SAT score?
As a part of their application to become a National Merit Finalist, National Merit Semi-finalists will be required to submit a National Merit confirming SAT score as a part of their application. In other words, the National Merit Corporation wants to make sure that the student can store high consistently on standardized tests.
The good news is that a National Merit confirming SAT score doesn’t have to be as high as the National Merit Selection PSAT score. Basically, they don’t expect students to have to reach an extraordinarily high score to prove they were capable of doing it once before. (But when you think about what that means, it’s a bit discouraging. It means that the National Merit Corporation itself knows that National Merit PSAT performance is so high that it’s difficult or impossible to consistently achieve that high of a score, especially in states with high National Merit PSAT cutoff scores. I’ve compared that level of National Merit PSAT performance to the difficulty of getting a gold medal in the Olympics, even for world title holders.)
What is the National Merit Scholarship SAT Score Requirement?
What SAT score is needed to confirm the PSAT score? Like the PSAT score required for National Merit, it changes from year to year.
The good news is, like the National Merit Commended score, there is one score nationwide for the National Merit confirming SAT score. It doesn’t vary from state to state like the National Merit Semi-finalists scores.
The bad news is, like the National Merit Semi-Finalist scores, it won’t be official until September. (But even then I don’t think it’s formally announced. You have to call the National Merit Corporation to get it.)
I could only find the information about the National Merit confirming SAT score for the newly designed SAT on user forums, so I called the National Merit Corporation.
SAT scores are reported on a 1600 score scale. But this is not the scale used by the National Merit Corporation. They use a National Merit Selection Index Score on a 228 score scale.
You will not find your National Merit Selection Index Score for your SAT on your SAT score reports from the College Board, or online. Here’s how to compute it.
How to find your SAT scores to compute the National Merit Selection Index Score for the SAT
To find these scores on-line go to College Board View Scores.
Click on View Details to go to the SAT score details page.
Your total score at the top will be on the 1600 scale.
Look below this to find the individual test scores, Reading, Writing, and Math, on a scale of 10-40. These are the scores you will use to calculate you National merit SAT confirming score.
How to calculate the National Merit Selection Index Score for the SAT
According to directions given by the National Merit Corporation over the phone, here’s how you calculate the National Merit Selection Index for the SAT.
- Add up the individual test scores for Reading Writing, and Math.
- Multiply that number by two.
- That number is your National Merit Selection Index Score.
However, for perfect scores in Reading, Writing and Math on the SAT.
- 40 +40 + 40 = 120
- 120 x 2 = 240
- But the PSAT selection index score is on a scale of 228, not 240.
Here’s why I think that happens.
The PSAT is on a 1520 score scale.
The SAT is on a 1600 score scale.
So, it makes sense that a higher National Merit Selection Index Score is possible on the SAT than the PSAT. (This difference in maximum scores makes sense if you know the history of the PSAT traditionally being taken by high school juniors. The SAT was taken by high school seniors. This isn’t true anymore because college applications are earlier.)
So now we finally get to….
What is the National Merit confirming SAT score for the new SAT test format?
In case you missed it, the SAT was completely redesigned in 2016. Last year, 2015 PSAT for this year’s 2017 gradates, also on the new test format, the National Merit confirming SAT score was 207. That year the National Merit Scholar Commended PSAT score was 209. (Confirmed with National Merit Corporation over the phone.)
This year, the National Merit Commended Score is 211 (nationwide). So a good guess is that the National Merit SAT confirming score for the 2016 PSAT, for 2018 graduates, is likely to be around 209. (Confirmed with National Merit Corporation over the phone.)
Colleges to consider if you’re a National Merit Scholar
Ivy League and Elite Universities
National Merit status may or may not help you get into the most elite and Ivy League schools. I personally know plenty of National Merit students who have not. So if you start down this path, please try to keep things in perspective to avoid devastating disappointment. Remember, the college search is a journey, as well as a destination.
For more on admission statistics to the most elite schools, see What are your chances of getting into an elite university. Also consider what you really want out of your university and college experience. Check out my review and thoughts after reading Excellent Sheep, the Miseducation of the American Elite & The Way to a Meaningful Life.
Elite universities do not give merit aid, so be sure you consider the cost of the most elite schools. But their need based aid, for the lowest income students, can be excellent.
To start looking beyond the Ivies and highly elite schools that are well known, here are 5 Books To Help You Find Your Way on your college search.
National Merit Scholarships at Highly selective schools
There are many universities, many of them highly selective, who give National Merit Finalists excellent scholarships. They are often full tuition or full ride, and renewable for every year. A good place to start looking for National Merit Scholarships is DIY College Lists’ 114 Colleges for National Merit Scholars.
More Information for National Merit Scholars
If you want more information about advancing in the National Merit Scholar Competition, check out the resources below:
The National Merit Journey: What You Need to Know, Part One (note that while the steps are the same, this was written for the old version of the test and scores)
PSAT National Merit FAQ (again, old scores)