# SAT / ACT Prep Online Guides and Tips

Each year about 1.6 million juniors take the PSAT 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 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 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 7,000 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 is scored.

The PSAT 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 Math, Reading, and Writing and Language sections. These scores fall between 8 and 38. 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 and then multiplies that sum by 2 to create a National Merit Selection Index Score. The resulting Selection Index score determines your National Merit eligibility.

For example, let's say you got a 31 on Math, a 32 on Reading, and a 30 on Writing and Language. The sum of these scores comes out to 93. You would then multiply this by 2 to get your Selection Index Score: 186.

In equation form, it looks like this:

(31 + 32 + 30) * 2 = 186

Unfortunately, a Selection Index of 186 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!

Want to improve your PSAT score by 150 points? We have the industry's leading PSAT prep program. Built by Harvard grads and SAT full scorers, the program learns your strengths and weaknesses through advanced statistics, then customizes your prep program to you so that you get the most effective prep possible.

Check out our 5-day free trial today:

## 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 212 Alaska 210 Arizona 214 Arkansas 210 California 220 Colorado 217 Connecticut 221 Delaware 218 DC s Florida 216 Georgia 218 Hawaii 215 Idaho 215 Illinois 219 Indiana 214 Iowa 212 Kansas 214 Kentucky 212 Louisiana 213 Maine 215 Maryland 222 Massachusetts 220 Michigan 218 Minnesota 216 Mississippi 210 Missouri 213 Montana 207 Nebraska 212 Nevada 210 New Hampshire 213 New Jersey 223 New Mexico 208 New York 219 North Carolina 217 North Dakota 209 Ohio 216 Oklahoma 211 Oregon 216 Pennsylvania 218 Rhode Island 216 South Carolina 213 South Dakota 212 Tennessee 215 Texas 219 Utah 211 Vermont 213 Virginia 221 Washington 220 West Virginia 207 Wisconsin 213 Wyoming 207 Average Score 215

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 three section test scores (each on a scale of 8-38) multiplied by 2. 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 divide Texas' cutoff score by 2:

219 / 2 = 109.5

Next, all you need to do is divide 110 by 3:

109.5 / 3 = 36.5

To get a Selection Index of 220, you'd need a 37 on each of the three sections (Math, Reading, and Writing and Language).

Of course you don't have to set your target scores equally among the three sections. If you have especially strong verbal skills, for example, you could instead aim for a 39 on both Reading and Writing and something lower like a 32 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. 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, 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.

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points? We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:

Dora Seigel