National Merit Scholarship PSAT Score

Top 1% Required For The Best Opportunities:

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PSAT/NMSQT Online Course

If you want the best chance for scoring high then the Smart Edition PSAT/NMSQT course will provide all the material and resources you need to succeed on the test so you can go on to crush the SAT.

PSAT Score Needed for National Merit Scholarship

To be eligible for the National Merit Scholarship, you must score in the top 1% of all test takers in your specific state. The percentile of each test taker is determined by what is called an “index score” and each state has a different criteria for what makes up the top 1% in relation to index scores.

The state index scores change each year, most recently, the minimum was 215 while some states are as high as 224. To ensure you have a competitive score you should work towards getting an index score above the minimum score required by your state.

NMSQT Commended Students, Finalists, and Semifinalists

Commended Students

If you attain a high score on the NMSQT you may be named a commended student, which is a big accomplishment. Each year roughly 35,000 students are named commended students, the average percentile for commended students is the top 3-4% of all test takers.

While not becoming a semi-finalist may be disappointing, that is far from reality. The good news is that being a commended student will help you tremendously to qualify for private scholarships.


Semifinalists are students who score in the top 1% for their state based on their states index score. Once you become a semifinalist you can move to the next step which is to submit an application to become a National Merit Finalist.

The application process includes:

  • Sending your high school transcripts
  • Submitting a letter of recommendation
  • Submitting an essay which is usually about a significant personal experience you have had or an obstacle you have had to overcome and how you overcame that obstacle.


In February of a students senior year they will be notified that they were selected as a finalist for the National Merit Scholarship award. Only the strongest applicants are awarded the prestigious scholarship.

Why should you take the PSAT?

PSAT is good practice for the real SAT and can help you become familiar with the types of questions that will be asked. It can also give you an idea of how well you might do on the SAT if you had to take it on the same day.


Another reason to take the PSAT is to help identify subjects that you might want to focus your studying on going forward as you continue to study for the SAT. Taking the PSAT can also help you qualify for scholarships, if you score high enough on the PSAT you can earn a National Merit Scholarship as well as other private scholarships.

Entry requirements for National Merit Program

The National Merit Program is a prestigious academic competition that began in 1955. High school students enter the program by taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT®), which serves as an initial screening of approximately 150,000 students.

To be considered for a National Merit Scholarship, semifinalists must fulfill several requirements. First and foremost, they must maintain excellent academic standing throughout high school and advance to their senior year.

They must also submit an official application that includes information about their extracurricular activities, volunteer work, leadership roles, and employment.

In addition, semifinalists must submit a personal essay and an official high school transcript. Letters of recommendation from their principal and a teacher are also required. Once all materials have been submitted, the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) selects approximately 15,000 finalists from among the semifinalists.

National Merit Semifinalist Cutoffs

The National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) has announced the Semifinalist cutoffs for the current school year. 

To be considered a Semifinalist, students must take the PSAT/NMSQT in their junior year and earn a score that falls roughly within the top 16,000 of all test-takers. The specific cutoff score varies from state to state, and is based on the number of test-takers in each state.

Students who are named Semifinalists will have the opportunity to compete for one of approximately 15,000 Merit Scholarship awards, worth a total of more than $35 million.

The National Merit Scholarship Program is one of the most prestigious academic competitions in the United States. Semifinalists represent less than one percent of all high school seniors, so receiving this honor is a significant achievement.

Does the PSAT Impact My College Chances?

PSAT scores do not impact your college chances and are not considered by any college or university. However, colleges can review them if available.

PSAT scores are more helpful for students who are looking to apply for scholarships and looking to boost their confidence before taking the ACT and SAT.

The PSAT is a good way for students to get an idea of how they would do on the ACT or SAT and can be used to create study plans to do better on the real tests.

Colleges review ACT and SAT scores and weigh them as a consideration for admission. In addition, colleges review transcripts, letters of references, GPA, written essays, and extracurricular activities or experiences.

PSAT Online Tips​

Here are some tips for making sure you’re studying effectively using PSAT online resources.

    1. Make sure you’re studying from a credible online source. Do not rely on user generated content such as Quizlet or “pdfs/notes” made by students. You want to make sure the source of the study material is a professional publication such as Smart Edition, Khan Academy, or College Board.
    2. Study where you scroll! Preparing for any test that is important like the PSAT can be overwhelming! There are tons of great online communities on TikTok, Facebook, & Youtube where students can access additional study materials and get their questions answered. (link to our accounts)
    3. Take all of the practice tests! Online practice tests are better than paper practice tests for a few reasons. Online practice tests are timed, provide diagnostic and automatic graded results, and they include extended answer explanations.

Many paper practice tests summarize why an answer is correct or incorrect within 1-2 sentences. Online practice tests or practice question banks provide 1-2 paragraphs worth of rationale to study from.