PSAT Score Cutoffs and your National Merit Scholarship
The NMSC (National Merit Scholarship Corporation) has its origin in the year 1955. This non-profit organization runs its programs independently without the aid of the United States government. Its functions are to:
- give encouragement to deserving US students for higher education
- provide support to the organizations that sponsor scholarship programs for undergraduate students
- grant the National Merit Scholarship awards to meritorious students who qualify for the PSAT (Preliminary SAT) or NMSQT (National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test)
Through these tests:
- about 1.5 million students are screened out for the first step towards getting the National Merit Scholarship during their college period
- The students who have the highest Selection Index (sum of the scores of the major PSAT test sections: Critical reading, Writing and Mathematics) in the first step of the test are invited for the next step. The high PSAT scorers from every state of the United States are asked to provide names of two colleges of their choice where they want to study after their high school. They are then told whether they have qualified for the commended students’ category or they are the semifinalists. About 50,000 students are selected for this round of the test.
- Out of the 50,000 students, 34,000 are considered as the commended students. They do not participate further in the National Merit Scholarship test rounds. These students have lower Selection Index than those students who have qualified for the semifinal round.
- About one-third (16,000) of the total students (50,000) who qualify for the second round enter the semi-final round. They are the highest scorers of their states and thus, represent their states in the final round of the scholarship test.
- About 15,000 students are invited for the final round.
- Finally, you are chosen for the National Merit Scholarship award based on your abilities and accomplishments. You are also evaluated based on two copies of the PSAT test scores (Two copies of the PSAT score reports are received by the principal of your high school. A copy remains with the principal and the other copy of the score report is handed over to you), your academic performance, extra-curricular activities, recommendation of high school officials etc.
As stated above there is no PSAT cutoff for entry to the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT). Students who score the highest at the national level (United States) are invited for the advanced steps towards achieving the National Merit Scholarship award.
- It is good to take the NMSQT during the junior year of high school. It should not be taken later than the 11th grade (junior year) as then only you can receive the scholarship award (if you qualify) at the end of your senior year (12th grade) so that you can avail the scholarship during your college period.
- You must be a resident of the United States or intend to become a US citizen as early as possible when permitted by the law. Only then, you can apply for the NMSQT.
Note: The PSAT cutoff scores for every state of the United States are not revealed by the NMSC (National Merit Scholarship Corporation) that organizes the NMSQT (National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test). Nevertheless, you can get an idea of the PSAT cutoff that is required for being eligible for the National Merit Scholarship award program. This idea can be obtained by referring to the views of the US PSAT aspirants. According to the PSAT aspirants of the United States a minimum of 67 scores (on an average) are required in each test section (Critical Reading, Mathematics and Writing sections) thus, making a total of 201 scores. Hence, a minimum Selection Index of 201 scores is required for entry to the competition for the award of the scholarship.
The PSAT cutoff scores and the National Merit Scholarship awards are closely related. The National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) plans the PSAT cutoff scores of students to decide whether they are eligible to enter the competition for the scholarship award or not. The NMSC plans several stages of the competition for the students to pass through and finally receive the scholarship award for their higher studies.
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