Each year about 1.6 million juniors take the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT) in the hopes of qualifying for the National Merit Scholarship Program.

But what score do you actually need to earn Semifinalist distinction? In this guide, we'll tell you what PSAT/NMSQT score you need in order to qualify for Semifinalist status in your state and potentially move on to win a National Merit scholarship.

## What's a Good Score for the National Merit Scholarship?

The exact PSAT/NMSQT score for National Merit consideration varies from year to year and by state, but it's always the top 1% of students (about 16,000 juniors) who qualify as Semifinalists. Around 15,000 students in this group then move on to become National Merit Finalists, and about 7,500 of these students eventually win scholarship money.

To be named a Semifinalist, you need to score in the top 1% of your state—not the whole country. So what scores do you need to qualify?

To answer this question, you must first understand how the PSAT/NMSQT is scored.

The PSAT/NMSQT is scored on a scale of 320-1520. In addition to that composite score, your score report will tell you your individual test scores for the two sections: Math and Reading and Writing. These scores fall between 160 and 760. For National Merit eligibility, these section test scores are the most important score types.

The National Merit Scholarship Corporation adds each section test score together, multiplies that sum by 2, and then divides by 10 to create a National Merit Selection Index Score, which will range from 48 to 228. The resulting Selection Index score determines your National Merit eligibility.

For example, let's say you got a 530 on Math and a 500 on Reading and Writing. The sum of these scores comes out to 1030. You would then multiply this by 2 and divide the result by 10 to get your Selection Index Score: 206.

In equation form, it looks like this:

((530+500) * 2)/10 = 206

Unfortunately, a Selection Index of 206 would not qualify you for National Merit Semifinalist status. What score do you need, then, to achieve this recognition? Read on for the full list of National Merit cutoffs in each state!

## Qualifying Score for National Merit Semifinalist by State

We've compiled a list of the qualifying Selection Index scores for National Merit Semifinalist by state. These cutoffs applied to students who took the PSAT in the fall of 2021.

 State Selection Index Alabama 210 Alaska 209 Arizona 216 Arkansas 210 California 221 Colorado 216 Connecticut 221 Delaware 219 DC 223 Florida 216 Georgia 217 Hawaii 217 Idaho 211 Illinois 219 Indiana 216 Iowa 210 Kansas 214 Kentucky 211 Louisiana 214 Maine 213 Maryland 221 Massachusetts 222 Michigan 217 Minnesota 216 Mississippi 209 Missouri 214 Montana 209 Nebraska 210 Nevada 211 New Hampshire 215 New Jersey 223 New Mexico 207 New York 220 North Carolina 217 North Dakota 207 Ohio 216 Oklahoma 208 Oregon 216 Pennsylvania 219 Rhode Island 215 South Carolina 209 South Dakota 209 Tennessee 217 Texas 219 Utah 209 Vermont 212 Virginia 219 Washington 220 West Virginia 207 Wisconsin 213 Wyoming 207 Average Score 214

As you can see, qualifying scores vary depending on where you take the test. National Merit Index Selection Cutoffs regularly vary a few points between years, so aim to achieve a score at least 2-5 points higher than the predicted cutoff for your state.

## What Should Your Target PSAT Score Be?

If you haven't taken the PSAT yet, then you can use the above chart to set target PSAT scores.

Let's say you live in Texas. To be named a Semifinalist, you'll need a Selection Index score of 219. What score do you need on each section of the PSAT to achieve this score?

As you read above, your Selection Index equals the sum of your two section test scores (each on a scale of 160 and 760) multiplied by 2 and divided by 10. To figure out what section test scores you will need based on your state's cutoff, simply work backwards.

Since you're a Texas resident, your first step will be to multiply Texas' cutoff score by 10:

219 * 10 = 2190

Next, all you need to do is divide 2190 by 2:

2190 / 2 = 1095

Finally, divide 1095 by 2 again (representing the two sections of the test):

1095 / 2 = 547.5

To get a Selection Index of 219, you'd need a 548 on each of the two sections (Math and Reading and Writing).

Of course you don't have to set your target scores equally among the two sections. If you have especially strong verbal skills, for example, you could instead aim for a 600 on Reading and Writing and a 500 on Math.

Once you have a sense of what scores you'll need to meet your state's cutoff score, distribute them however you like based on your own academic strengths and weaknesses.

As mentioned above, the state cutoffs vary slightly from year to year depending on how students do on the PSAT/NMSQT. If you're really serious about getting named National Merit Semifinalist, then you should aim to score a little higher than the most recent year's cutoff.

By setting a goal for each section and devoting some time each week to prepping for the PSAT/NMSQT, you can achieve your goals and put yourself in the best position to earn a National Merit distinction.

## What’s Next?

Are you taking the PSAT this year or next year? Learn all about the structure of the test.

Hoping to become a National Merit Scholar? Get expert tips on how to become a Semifinalist and how to win the scholarship.

Are you interested in applying to other college scholarships? Read about how to get merit scholarships at state schools, how to win a Walmart Scholarship, and how to win these unusual scholarships.