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National Merit Semifinalist Qualifying Scores
The NMSC uses its own Selection Index to determine which students qualify as Commended Students and Semifinalists. In general, students who score in the top 3-4% are named Commended Scholars, while students who score in the top 1% are deemed Semifinalists.
Students are compared on a state-by-state basis. The NMSC’s Selection Index ranges from 48 to 228 and is based on PSAT section scores. There are three PSAT section scores (one each for Math, Reading, and Writing and Language). Each section score ranges from 8 to 38.
To calculate your Selection Index, you simply add your three PSAT section scores together and then multiply the sum by 2.
Let’s say you got 28 on Reading, 32 on Writing and Language, and 34 on Math. To find your Selection Index score, first add your section scores together: 28 + 32 + 34 = 94. Then, multiply the sum by 2 (94 * 2 = 188). This gives you a Selection Index score of 188.
As you’ll see in the chart below, a 188 Selection Index score isn’t high enough to qualify for National Merit Semifinalist status. Instead, you’ll need a Selection Index of 212 or higher, depending on where you take the test.
Based on reports from individuals around the country, we’ve put together a comprehensive list of qualifying PSAT Selection Index scores. Check out the most recent state cutoffs for National Merit Semifinalist in the chart below. These were used to pick out Semifinalists from the October 2017 administration of the PSAT.
As you can see, scores vary depending on where you take the test. Cutoffs regularly vary a few points between years, so if you haven’t taken the PSAT yet and are aiming for National Merit, set your target Selection Index about 2-5 points higher than the predicted cutoff for your state.
After you take the PSAT, there’s nothing more you can do to be named Semifinalist until the results are announced. The NMSC notifies eligible students in September the following school year.