National Merit PSAT Cutoff Scores: Class of 2018

Last year, we accurately predicted National Merit Scholarship PSAT cutoff scores within a couple of points in every state. This year, we think we’ve got what it takes to do even better!

The National Merit Scholarship Program is run by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, boasting a mission “to promote a wider and deeper respect for learning in general and for exceptionally talented individuals in particular.” As such, ever since the Scholarship Program was brought to life in 1955, it has continuously shined the spotlight on incredibly gifted students as a result of their success on the PSAT taken during their junior year of high school.

Working at Prep Expert, we know the importance of testing. Not just for college admissions and future success, but also for scholarships, accolades, and general achievement. Standardized tests are a major component of getting into college and pursuing your dreams.

Success on the PSAT is also a great indicator of success on the SAT. If you don’t think you performed well on the PSAT, we highly recommend checking out more of our tutorials and resources, or signing up for one of our SAT prep courses!

Commended Students, Semifinalists & Finalists

Commended Students

The difference between commended students and semifinalists is straightforward enough: commended students are recognized on their academic performance, but do not advance in the formal competition for National Merit Scholarships — that is, scholarships officially given out by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC).

Semifinalist Students

Semifinalists, on the other hand constitute a smaller group than Commended Students (about 15,000 students instead of 35,000), resulting in the highest-scoring test-takers in each state. These Semifinalist Students are then qualified to become Finalists by completing their application to the NMSC by showing that they meet all academic standards required by the organization. This required information is provided by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation at the same time students are notified of their Semifinalist status. Most of it is fairly straightforward; a full, completed application, an extremely solid academic record, a letter of recommendation, an essay, and taking SAT with a similarly strong score thus confirming PSAT performance.

Finalist Students

Typically, about 95% of students who are National Merit Semifinalists go on to become Finalists, so making that Semifinalist list is really the biggest achievement that very often predicts Finalist success. While Commended and Semifinalist Students may still receive “Special Scholarships” sponsored by external businesses and organizations, only Finalists receive official NMSC scholarships.

Scholarship Awards

Of the roughly 15,000 Finalists, around 8,000 will receive Merit Scholarships and various awards. These Finalists are chosen statewide based on a combination of skills, potential for success, and above all, academic achievement.

The NMSC is very poignant about this as well, stating that: “All winners of Merit Scholarship awards (Merit Scholar designees) are chosen from the Finalist group based on their abilities, skills, and accomplishments—without regard to gender, race, ethnic origin, or religious preference.” This is an important note for those of you competing for these awards; it’s something I paid a lot of close attention to when I was preparing for my PSAT!

The scholarship opportunities that the winning group of students receive is substantial. The total number of scholarships is just shy of $35,000,000, which is around $4,500 per student selected, and comprise less than 1% of the total group of students who took the PSAT.

Class of 2018 NMSC Semifinalist Predictions

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The chart below highlights our predictions for 2018 National Merit Semifinalists in each state. These predictions are made based on a variety of Prep Expert metrics and analysis.

These Semifinalist scores are important because they offer the best prediction of success for an NMSC Scholarship. Roughly 50% of students who are National Merit Finalists go on to achieve a significant scholarship from the Corporation.

Please note that we have included both PSAT scores (out of 1520) as well all corresponding National Merit scores (out of 228) in our 2018 ranking analysis.

For a complete list of final results, we’ll update this when the actual scores are released in a few months!

State PSAT Score NMSQT Equivalent
Alabama 1390 210
Alaska 1400 211
Arizona 1430 216
Arkansas 1380 208
California 1470 222
Colorado 1420 214
Connecticut 1450 219
Delaware 1430 215
Washington DC 1470 221
Florida 1420 213
Georgia 1450 219
Hawaii 1430 215
Idaho 1390 209
Illinois 1430 216
Indiana 1430 215
Iowa 1390 210
Kansas 1390 210
Kentucky 1410 212
Louisiana 1390 209
Maine 1420 214
Maryland 1470 222
Massachusetts 1480 223
Michigan 1420 214
Minnesota 1410 212
Mississippi 1390 210
Missouri 1400 211
Montana 1350 205
Nebraska 1390 209
Nevada 1390 210
New Hampshire 1430 215
New Jersey 1460 220
New Mexico 1430 215
New York 1450 218
North Carolina 1450 218
North Dakota 1350 205
Ohio 1420 214
Oklahoma 1390 210
Oregon 1450 218
Pennsylvania 1440 217
Rhode Island 1430 215
South Carolina 1390 210
South Dakota 1350 204
Tennessee 1430 215
Texas 1450 218
Utah 1410 212
Vermont 1410 213
Virginia 1460 220
Washington 1450 219
West Virginia 1350 205
Wisconsin 1410 212
Wyoming 1340 204

Additional Program Information

If you’ve yet to take the PSAT and want to qualify for a National Merit Scholarship, remember that in order to do so, you must:

  1. Take the official PSAT no later than in your junior year of high school.
  2. Be fully enrolled in high school with no issues and a normal path towards graduation (keep in mind this can involve being homeschooled).
  3. Be a citizen of the United States or have an application for residence in America with the intention towards attaining permanent citizenship.

There are also ways for students who are not citizens of the US to start the application process. For these students, please visit the NMSC’s website and browse the qualifications for the Scholarship Program.

Are you interested in improving your SAT or ACT test-taking abilities? Check out some of our other articles for additional assistance or give us a call at (877) 345-7737 and speak with one of our customer service representatives about our courses and tutoring packages! We’re working around the clock to make sure you receive the help you need to succeed on standardized tests.



Shaan Patel

Shaan Patel is the founder of Prep Expert Test Preparation, a #1 bestselling SAT & ACT prep author, an MD/MBA student at Yale and USC, and winner of an investment deal with billionaire Mark Cuban on ABC’s Shark Tank. He raised his own SAT score from average to perfect using 100 strategies that we teach in our Prep Expert SAT and ACT courses.