Wondering about the National Merit Scholarship?

Class of 2018 National Merit PSAT Cutoff Scores and what will that mean for your student in Arizona?


Class of 2020 National Merit Prep Enrolling Now

If you are a sophomore, you have 6 months year to prepare for the fall administration of the PSAT.

Many parents and students don’t take the PSAT that seriously because they think of it as a “Practice” SAT. However, the PSAT is very important because it is also the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT). This means that if you score high enough on the PSAT, you can qualify to become a National Merit Finalist! Becoming a National Merit Finalist is valuable for 3 reasons:

(1) National Merit looks really impressive on your college application

(2) The National Merit Scholarship is worth $2,500 to any college of your choice

(3) Many universities automatically give National Merit semifinalists half-tuition or full-tuition scholarships


Essentially, you can get $100,000 – $200,000 in scholarships for scoring high on this one test that is 2 hours and 45 minutes long! So how high do you need to score on the PSAT in order to qualify to become a National Merit Semifinalist? Well, the cutoff score changes every year for each state depending on how well students in that state do on the PSAT that year. Typically, more academically competitive states will have higher PSAT cutoffs in order to qualify for National Merit. However, cutoff scores are typically around the same for each state from year to year.

But since the PSAT is now out of 1520 points (rather than 240 points previously), no one can say for sure what the National Merit PSAT Cutoff Scores will be for the Class of 2017 until the College Board releases them in April. However, below is a rough estimate for the Class of 2018 that I have come up with based on previous PSAT cutoff scores for each state:

The PSAT only counts toward National Merit when you take it in October of your junior year. You cannot take it again like the SAT and ACT. And the SAT and ACT cannot qualify you for National Merit, only the PSAT can. So hopefully you’re now convinced of the importance of the PSAT! Of course, if you didn’t score very high on the PSAT, you can always score high on the SAT or ACT in order to qualify for other scholarships.

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​© The Dougherty Group, 2015