Psat For National Merit Scholarship

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Psat And National Merit Scholarship Scoring Explained

The National Merit Scholarship Competition

The PSAT is often a high schoolers first interaction with the world of SAT/ACT standardized testing. While that should mean the PSAT is straightforward and easy to understand, unfortunately it does not. In fact, the PSAT has one of the strangest scoring systems of any major test, especially when you add in the layer of complexity that is the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test . So, were here to set the record straight and give the definitive explanation of what the PSAT/NMSQT scoring actually means.


The PSAT is nearly identical to the SAT, but instead of having a maximum score of 1600 like the SAT, the PSATs maximum is 1520 . The PSAT is structured exactly like the SAT: the order of the sections, difficulty level, and timing constraints are all the same. So why the 80 point difference in scoring? No one really knows.

National Merit Scholarship:

The National Merit Scholarship is open to all high school juniors who take the PSAT in the fall . Its extremely selective, but if you are able to qualify as a National Merit Semifinalist or Finalist, you will have a significant advantage over other students when you apply to colleges. The actual scholarship amount given by National Merit varies by state, but many colleges will give additional, generous scholarships to students who are semifinalists or finalists.

PSAT and National Merit Scholarship Scoring:

PSAT Reading/Grammar Maximum: 760

Do I Need To Take The Psat

Even if you do not ultimately qualify for a scholarship, taking the PSAT has several benefits.

  • The PSAT is great practice for the SAT. Both require you to use your critical thinking skills to answer multiplechoice questions within a fixed amount of time. The more comfortable you are with this format, the better your SAT scores will be.
  • Your PSAT results can give you a general idea of how well you’ll do on the SAT. This will help you identify test skills and knowledge areas where you need extra practice.
  • You can prep efficiently for the PSAT. We offer a customized 1-on-1 private tutoring program that is as unique as each of our students. Learn more today.
  • Is It Worth Applying For The National Merit Scholarship

    Applying for the National Merit Scholarship may feel like a headache because of the one-and-a-half-year gap between taking the PSAT/NMSQT and receiving the scholarship. The high scores required for eligibility make it even more frustrating.

    However, there are a few big reasons why students should consider applying for the National Merit Scholarship. A student should take the PSAT/NMSQT to prepare for the SAT they should take in the spring. They can receive a very prestigious honor to use on their resume, and they can save quite a bit of money for college with a scholarship that is available for everyone in the United States.

    Hoping to earn money from your PSAT?

    Check out our self-study YouTube-style Strategy Accelerator Courses for the PSAT.

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    National Merit Scholarship: Psat/nmsqt

    Paying for college can be a daunting task, so many seek out scholarships to help cover the cost of tuition. For high school seniors looking to get into college, there are two types of scholarships. There are need-based financial aid and award-based financial aid. The National Merit Scholarship is offered by taking the PSAT/NMSQT and falls into the latter type of financial aid. In this blog post, youll learn how to earn a National Merit Scholarship and what you need to consider while applying.

    More Students Can Take The Psat Vs The Sat

    PSAT National Merit FAQ

    PSATs are also easier because a wider range of students can take them. Freshmen can sit for the same test as juniors, but the actual SAT contains content meant only for students who have completed three years of high school.

    If you take the PSAT and find yourself having a challenging time, use the extra time before your SAT to get tutoring. Tutors train specifically to prepare high schoolers for their SAT because the test-taking strategies and questions have different formatting than standard exams.

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    Taking The Psat And Qualifying For The National Merit Scholarship Program

    Source: Flickr user symic

    Every October, over 1.5 million students are taking the PSAT/NMSQT. The Preliminary SAT is also the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.

    Some key things to know about this test:

    • The PSAT/NMSQT tests critical reading, math and writing skills and has a maximum score of 240.
    • Students who score high enough could qualify for the National Merit Scholarship Competition and receive money for college.
    • Students sign up to take the test at their high school.
    • Home-schooled students should contact local schools well in advance to make arrangements to take the test.

    Qualifying For National Merit Scholar Commended

    The Selection Index Score needed to qualify for recognition on the Commended level varies from year to year. NMSC takes the top 50,000 scorers from that year, and designates 2/3 of them as Commended Students. This is out of approximately 1.5 million juniors who take the PSAT every year.

    In 2020, students needed approximately a 207 index score to be recognized as a Commended Student.

    Students who reach the Commended level typically have lower scores than the 16,000 students who are designated as Semifinalists. Commended Students do not continue in the competition for National Merit Scholarships.

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    Who May Be A Merit Scholar

    There are three requirements for entering the National Merit Scholarship Program:

    • You must take the PSAT/NMSQT no later than the third year in grades 9-12, and match or exceed the cutoff score.
    • You must be enrolled as a high school student, either traditional or home-schooled.
    • You must be a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident who plans to become a citizen as soon as possible.

    What Is The Difference Between Commended Semifinalist And Finalist Students

    National Merit Scholarship Competition Requirements

    Commended students must have a Selection Index Score that exceeds the NMSCs determined cut-off. This cut-off can change from year-to-year. For the class of 2020, the cut-off was 212. Approximately 35,000 students receive recognition at this level each year.

    Semifinalists must achieve a Selection Index Score that exceeds a cut-off determined by each state. A states cut off score represents a score in the 99th percentile for that state. Cut off scores vary from state to state. For example, the cut off score in Idaho for the Class of 2020 was 215 whereas in New Jersey, the cut off score was 223. For the class of 2020, the cut-off scores for Maryland, DC, and Virginia were 222, 223, and 222, respectively. The number of Semifinalists recognized by beach state is proportional to its percentage of US high school graduates produced each year. In September, approximately 16,000 students across the United States receive Semifinalist recognition. A student who takes the PSAT in October of her junior year, therefore, will learn she is a semifinalist almost a year after taking the test.

    Approximately 15,000 students are named Finalists, and, up to half of those Finalists, may receive an NMSC scholarship.

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    Take Official Practice Tests

    Finally, you’ll want to take official practice tests to help you prepare for test day. The College Board offers two PSAT/NMSQT practice tests, along with online practice questions for each section on the PSAT.

    Two tests isn’t that many, though, so I also suggest taking official SAT practice tests or using Khan Academy’s SAT prep program. Since the PSAT and SAT are such similar tests, you’ll get a ton of extra help by taking SAT practice tests .

    In addition, you can use old PSAT practice tests, as long as you focus on relevant question types and ignore the ones no longer on the test, such as sentence completions. A lot of the fundamental skills and knowledge on the PSAT didn’t change much during the 2015 revision, so you can still use older practice tests and materials to practice effectively if you familiarize yourself with the changes and adapt your approach accordingly.

    National Merit might be hard to get but the distinction is well worth it and could lead you to some handy scholarship money. Plus, it communicates a lot about your academic commitment on your college applications!

    How To Become A National Merit Scholarship Finalist

    During your senior year of high school, youll be notified if you are a Semifinalist. Lets say that you make it to Semifinalist status. How do you advance to the next level of the competition?

    To become a National Merit Scholarship Finalist, you need to submit an amazing application. As a matter of fact, the process is pretty similar to applying for college! Youll need to fill out a NMSC application and submit the following:

    • Your high school transcript

    Related: What Is a Good SAT Score?

    Finalists are chosen based on their abilities, skills, and accomplishments. To have the greatest shot at being chosen, focus on boosting your GPA, taking accelerated courses, and developing your extracurricular activities. Not only will you increase your chances of advancing in the competition, youll make your college applications more impressive!

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    How Well Do You Need To Score On The Psat

    That figure changes annually and is released later in the year, but for Californians the minimum score to qualify is usually about 220.

    Your NMSC Selection Index score is calculated by adding together the Reading score, the Writing and Language score, and the Math score, and then multiplying the total by two.

    A Reading score of 33, a Writing and Language score of 35, and a Math score of 30 would yield an NMSC selection index of 196.

    But this is just the beginning: qualifying students have a long path to get to the coveted National Merit Scholarship Finalist round. Check out the National Merit site for full details on what to expect.

    In the meantime, its never a bad idea to begin prepping for the SAT or ACT.

    The National Merit Scholarship Program

    PSAT National Merit FAQ  Compass Education Group

    This yearly competition is famous for rewarding the highest PSAT/NMSQT scorers. Its a multi-tiered competition. Of the 1.6 million students, around 50,000 students will be notified that they qualify for recognition. The organization Commends two-thirds of the students. That means they acknowledge the students hard work, but students dont move forward in the competition. But, that doesnt mean all your work was for nothing. Commended students qualify for special scholarships.

    There are nearly 16,000 Semifinalists at this point, nominated on a state level. The organization elevates 15,000 students to Finalist and notifies their high school. Additionally, the competition presents students with a certificate.

    From 1.6 million entrants to 7,500 winners. The scholarship has three award typesNational Merit $2500, Corporate-Sponsored Merit Scholarship awards, and College-Sponsored Merit awards.

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    With Psats Out Of The Way Are Your Sights Set On The Ivy League

    Dive into our comprehensive, data-backed guides to learn what it takes to get into the Ivy Leagues, including:

    • what your high school GPA should be
    • what your target SAT or ACT test scores need to be
    • what kind of extra-cirriculars to focus on

    Plus, other actionable tips you can use to gain an ethical edge when applying to your dream school.

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    Other Merit Scholarship Awards

    There are two other types of National Merit Scholarships:

    • An additional 1,500 students that meet eligibility criteria established by corporate sponsors can earn special scholarships. Such recipients do not need to be finalists, but in essence, are sponsored by corporations who put money into the National Merit Scholarship.
    • Another type of special scholarship is college-sponsored, meaning that winners who have chosen to go to a sponsor college as their first choice will be given money as an incentive and reward for choosing a college that supports the NMSC.

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    The Difference Between The Different Psats

    The difference between all the new and different PSATs is simple.

    • The PSAT 8/9 is a shorter and easier version of the PSAT 10, and it is intended to give you an idea of how prepared you are for the PSAT 10.
    • The PSAT 10 is a slightly easier version of the PSAT/NMSQT.
    • PSAT/NMSQT is an easier version of the SAT.

    The key difference between the PSAT 10 and the PSAT/NMSQT is only the PSAT/NMSQT score can qualify you for a National Merit Scholarship. This makes sense, considering that the acronym PSAT/NMSQT stands for The Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.

    If you are interested in a more thorough breakdown of how all these tests are different, you can refer to the chart below:

    Now that you know what the difference is between all these tests, lets take a look at what the PSAT/NMSQT scores actually mean.

    Prepping For The Psat/nmsqt

    National Merit Scholarship Competition Levels of Recognition

    Acing the PSAT/NMSQT bodes well for your encounter with the SAT and your admissions and scholarship hunts.

    Fortunately, PSAT test prep advice is an internet genre. Consider strategies presented by PrepScholar, CollegeXpress, and College Board.

    Helpful blogs and practice tests are among the online offerings.

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    Can Students Apply For Alternate Entry If They Already Took The Psat In October Or January

    No. Alternate Entry is only available to students who did not take the test in October or January. It is intended to allow students who could not test at school the opportunity to compete for this prestigious scholarship.

    Learn more about the National Merit Scholarship here. For tips on preparing for the SAT, check out these great resources:

    Relationship Of The Psat And National Merit Scholarship Explained

    In mid-October, high school sophomores and juniors across the country will sit down to take the preliminary SAT , a test that assesses students math, reading, and grammar capabilities. The PSAT offers students a preview of the SATs format and content and serves as a low-stakes introduction to standardized testing. It gives students a starting test score which allows them to see where they need to brush up on content before taking the official SAT or ACT.

    For high scoring juniors, the PSAT is linked to the National Merit Scholarship Program. The PSAT is graded on a scale of 320-1520. The top score for both the Evidence Based Reading and Writing Section and the Math Section is 760 each. The scale for the PSAT is slightly different to that of the regular SAT because the SAT assumes students will have had an additional year of school and therefore includes more challenging content, particularly on the math section. The SAT is scored on a scale of 400-1600.

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    Does Your Psat Score Qualify For National Merit

    Are you gearing up to rock the PSAT this fall and wondering what score you need to qualify for National Merit? This guide will give you 51 different answers to that question.

    Don’t worry, it’s not a complicated response. It’s just that the National Merit Scholarship Corporation compares test takers on a state-by-state basis. To become a National Merit Semifinalist, you have to score in the top 1% of students in your state.

    This guide will fill you in on all qualifying cutoff scores from coast to coast for the PSAT. But first, let’s review exactly who qualifies for National Merit.

    Take More Practice Tests

    PSAT National Merit FAQ

    Once you felt youve made improvement in the particular subject or area you were struggling with, its time to take another practice test. Did you improve where you wanted to? How did you perform in other areas of the exam? This will help you pinpoint weak spots in your study sessions and give you direction on what needs more attention going forward.

    You may also learn that you need to adjust how you study. If youre not sure how you can improve, you will want to talk to a teacher, counselor, or another adult in your life who is familiar with the PSAT.

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    How Much Money Do You Get From The National Merit Scholarship

    From a purely monetary standpoint, some may consider the most commonly awarded scholarship amounts to be a bit disappointing. They are as follows:

    National Merit Scholarships: $2,500 toward freshman year only.

    Corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards: These are four-year renewable awards that range from $500 to $2,000 per year.

    College-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards: The best deal of the three, college-sponsored scholarships typically range from $500 to $10,000 per year, and are renewable for all four years of college.

    However, it is important to realize that being a National Merit Finalist/Semifinalist can also lead to a greatly reduced or even FREE tuition at some universities. Being a National Merit Finalist or Semifinalist is one component of some of the most generous merit aid scholarships at premier universities including:

    Fordham University: Those who were National Merit Finalists or Semifinalists AND possess a solid A average and are in the top 2-3% of all admitted students receive free tuition, renewable for all four years.

    New Jersey Institute of Technology: National Merit Finalists are eligible to receive all tuition and fees covered, renewable for four years, contingent on maintaining a 3.0 GPA.

    Texas Tech University: National Merit Finalists who designate Texas Tech as their top choice are eligible to receive a full free ride, including room & board.

    National Merit Cutoff Scores And How To Qualify

    So, how does the National Merit Scholarship work? Every year, after all PSAT/NMSQT have been taken and scored, the National Merit Scholarship Corporation calculates the annual Selection Index Scores. About 50,000 entrants with the highest Selection Index Scores qualify for recognition and the National Merit Scholarship Program those students are then broken down further into Commended Students or Semifinalists, depending on their PSAT scores.

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