2005 NMS Qualifying Indices for all States

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Discus: Parents Forum: 2004 Archive - Part 2: 2005 NMS Qualifying Indices for all States
By Simba (Simba) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 04:29 pm: Edit

Following are the qualifying indices for 2005 National Merit Program (Juniors who took PSAT in 2003). The cutoff index for commended students was 200. About 1.33 million students took the test in 2005 and 2005.

2005 Cutoff index, #of semi. finalist, # commended::::2004 cutoff index, # semi, # Commended













Outside US,222,49,337::::222,45,344,

Total semifinalist:
2005: 16,146, Total commended: 35,985
2004: 16,326. Total commended: 35,489.

By Cheers (Cheers) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 04:48 pm: Edit

Holy Toledo! Look at the outside the US stats!

By Simba (Simba) on Friday, September 03, 2004 - 09:24 am: Edit

One more effort, before this one dies in oblivion.

By Pokey318 (Pokey318) on Friday, September 03, 2004 - 03:00 pm: Edit

Can someone explain to me how Georgia with the next to the lowest SAT score average in the USA has a cutoff of 217? I would think that GA would have a lower cutoff score.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Friday, September 03, 2004 - 03:12 pm: Edit

Georgia is a state with a lot of low socio-economic and rural areas offset by a few very high socio-economic areas.

The high socio-economic areas determine the top of the curve. The low soci-economic areas bring the average down.

By Garland (Garland) on Friday, September 03, 2004 - 03:19 pm: Edit

This is why state cut-offs for a "national" award are so unfair. If you don't attend an affluent school in one of the high cutoff states, you're penalized for other people's advantages.

By Simba (Simba) on Friday, September 03, 2004 - 04:01 pm: Edit

Garland, forgive me but I am lost in your reasoning.

By Meganc123 (Meganc123) on Friday, September 03, 2004 - 04:06 pm: Edit

Garland- definitely agree w/ you!

By Fosselover (Fosselover) on Friday, September 03, 2004 - 06:08 pm: Edit

It really does seem unfair. Depending on what state you live in makes the difference between commended and semi-finalist. My D is 1 point below the cut-off in our state, but in 32 other states she would be above the cut-off. So you could be at the 99% in one state and not make it, but at a lower % in another state and make the cut. Truly bizarre.

By Marite (Marite) on Friday, September 03, 2004 - 06:17 pm: Edit


Some states have higher cutoffs than others, reflecting the better general performance of the students who take the SAT in that state. As we know, the SAT is closely correlated with SES. If a student is from a poor family, living in an area with poor schools in a a state with higher cutoffs, that student is at a disadvantage vis a vis students from different states. Take for example, NY and MA. NY has a cutoff of 218 (reflecting the fact that NY includes some large pockets of poverty and academic underperformance), MA has a cutoff of 222 (the highest, together with MD, DC and SAT takers overseas). A student from a low performing district in MA would have to score 222 to be a semi-finalist, but a student from affluent Scarsdale, NY needs only to score 218.
That, I believe, is what Garland was driving at.

By Simba (Simba) on Friday, September 03, 2004 - 06:32 pm: Edit

There are two factors (IMO) (1) Larger the state---> more students ---> more slots----> bit lower index. (2) There is bit of Scocial Engineering going on. There is a implicit assumption that top 1% of population is the same or has the same potential given the same opportunities, i.e. if the semifinalist from WV is given the same schooling opportunites as the one from CT or MA the performance would be the similar.

I am neither a sociologist or an educator. So I won't argue any dissenting views.

By Marite (Marite) on Friday, September 03, 2004 - 06:45 pm: Edit


The size of the state population is not the determinant factor. CA 216; WY 203 for example.
I find it hard to argue that a 203 is equivalent to a 216 or a 222. We can argue about the predictive value of SAT, but to the extent that it represents something measurable, then the gap is rather wide.

There is definitely a bit social engineering going on. If state cut offs were uniformly high, many states might not have any semi-finalists. Again, looking at WY, with a cutoff of 203, it had 37 semi-finalists and 10 commended. In 2003, with a cut off of 200, it had 37 semi-finalists and no commended scholars. MA is a rather diverse state with some pockets of excellence (including some selective private schools) and some pockets of poverty and large immigrant populations. But the juniors at Andover and the juniors at Chelsea high all have to score 222 in order to become semi-finalists, just as the juniors at Scarsdale High and the juniors in a Bronx high school are held to the same standards-216. Yet, the juniors in Chelsea, MA have more in common with the students in the Bronx than with students at Andover or Scarsdale.

By Simba (Simba) on Friday, September 03, 2004 - 06:53 pm: Edit

Marite: Boarding schools are excluded - in all they had 174 semis and 96 commended. This from the the official definition.

U.S. Boarding schools that enroll a substantial portion of students from outside the state in which the school is located are grouped in geographic regions; regional qualifying scores for semifinalist standing vary from 216 to 222.

By Garland (Garland) on Friday, September 03, 2004 - 07:53 pm: Edit

Fine, boarding schools are excluded. My S would have been a semifinalist in all but four states. He attended a high school with an average SAT of 920ish. He got no advantage from living in NJ. Why should he be held to the same standard as kids in the *public* schools of towns like Millburn, Glen Ridge, Ridgwood, etc, in NJ, who have an entirely different school advantage than he had, not to mention the extremely elite non-boarding private schools of NJ, which are included? Why are kids going to good private schools or excellent public schools in 45 other states allowed to be semmi-finalists with lower schools than his?

By Fosselover (Fosselover) on Friday, September 03, 2004 - 07:56 pm: Edit

Garland: I thought my D had it rough. The system really isn't fair, but how can it be changed.

By Marite (Marite) on Friday, September 03, 2004 - 08:34 pm: Edit


Thanks for the correction. MA has a large number of non-boarding private schools and a few exam public schools (such as Boston Latin). Garland is making my point. CA is an even more extreme case. It has large pockets of underperforming schools as well as some very high performing ones such as Harvard-Westlake which was profiled in The Gatekeepers, or Gunn in Palo Alto, which regularly sends students to USAMO, etc.. The kids who attend school in LA are held to the same standards as those of Harvard-Westlake. Put another way, the Harvard-Westlake students benefit from the underperformance of other CA high schools since they only need to score 216 to qualify. But the kids from Chelsea, MA (under state receivership several years ago) still need the 222.

Personally, I would prefer a single cut-off point on a competition that calls itself National. This year, MS has a cutoff of 203. Last year, it was 200, the same as for commended. I don't see how one can justify a gap of 22 points between one state and others (MA, MD, DC)

By Frenchfries (Frenchfries) on Friday, September 03, 2004 - 09:35 pm: Edit

Garland, I guess your son and I are in the same boat. I'm from NJ, my school's SAT average is below 1000, and from what you've said I'm assuming we got the same score: 220. I wish the competition was truly "national" too, or maybe that I'd gotten one more measly point.

By Simba (Simba) on Friday, September 03, 2004 - 10:28 pm: Edit

Marite and Garland: I don't have answers to the points you have raised. However, there has to be some mechanism to equalize the playing field. On a per capita basis MA, CT, NJ spend much more for education than many other state (I think TX is 37th). So in theory, a kid in MA has better opportunity than a kid in Arkansas or West Virginia or Missisippi. In a micro sense aren't you also saying the same thing when you refer to shcools in Milburn, Glen Ridge or Boston Latin versus other schools?

By Celebrian23 (Celebrian23) on Friday, September 03, 2004 - 10:45 pm: Edit

well northeastern states tend to spend more money on public education than most other states, my state, ohio, is largely rural, or else i think our cutoff would be higher,

By Marite (Marite) on Friday, September 03, 2004 - 10:50 pm: Edit


It does not make sense to me that a kid from Chelsea, MA or an inner city school in Baltimore, MD ( both 222) is held to higher standards than a kid from Scarsdale, NY (218) or Plano, TX (216). The per capita spending comparison at the state level does not take into account huge differences between districts--whcih is where education occurs. I somehow doubt very much that Scarsdale spends less than Chelsea, MA.

What I am saying is that the presence of private high schools in some but by no means all parts of the state makes it harder for students in poorer districts to achieve NMS status in some states, while the presence of immigrant, low SES students in other states makes it very easy for high SES status students to reach the cutoff. Chelsea, MA or Baltimore, MD students get penalized for being located in states with lots of high scoring students while Scarsdale of Harvard-Westlake or Plano, TX students reap the benefits of statewide mediocrity.

A lot of this unfairness in evaluating PSAT scores would disappear and real comparability would be achieved if NMS status were truly determined on a national basis with a single cut-off score.

By Simba (Simba) on Friday, September 03, 2004 - 11:14 pm: Edit

Marite: In that case the entire states like Arkansas, Missisippi or West Virginia would complain that because of local economy, they can't compete with states who spend lot more.

I guess it is called National not because it is a National competition, but because every one from the nation is represented. You essentially compete within your own state.

I don't mean to argue. I am not even in a position to explain the rational or logic of the current system.

By Marite (Marite) on Friday, September 03, 2004 - 11:30 pm: Edit


I don't think there is a really tenable logic to the current system. A kid from Newark, NJ has a lot more in common with a kid from MI or AK in terms of opportunities than with a kid from Princeton, NJ.

NMS is an individual status based on individual performance on a nationally administered test. Individual circumstances vary enormously from very poor (Newark) to well-off (Princeton). The presumption, however, is that everyone from a state has the same opportunities. Emphatically not true.

BTW, my S is well over the MA cutoff and will be applying to schools that do not give merit aid; but I can see that NMS status can make a real difference to many students. I would not be concerned if NMS did not come with real advantages for some students, not just the $2,500 scholarship, but full-ride from certain schools.

By Simba (Simba) on Friday, September 03, 2004 - 11:38 pm: Edit

Same here. S is also well above MA in TX.

By Monydad (Monydad) on Saturday, September 04, 2004 - 11:31 am: Edit

IF I I recall correctly, the cutoff score is supposed to be set to award roughly the top 1/2 of 1% of PSAT scores in each state.

If there are proportionally more high scorers in, eg, MA than MO, this will be reflected in the cutoff scores.

As to why each state should have the same proportion of awardees, despite the fact that their top scorers are, on balance, less brilliant than another state's top scorers -

Just guessing, but perhaps this is political. The funding money is probably federal money, and proportionate awards by state was maybe needed to get the votes. Or something like that.

By Simba (Simba) on Saturday, September 04, 2004 - 11:50 am: Edit

I think it is still a state contest. It is called National because the every state is represented. No different than Presidential scholars or Robert C Byrd Scholarship.

By Garland (Garland) on Saturday, September 04, 2004 - 12:01 pm: Edit

True, but those are awarded after admissions are over; being a semi-finalist or not can have a bearing on admissions. I don't see schools bragging about how many Commended scholars they get. Also, NMS is a private program, not administered by our national government. Plus, as Marite stated, there is a lot more potential money attached to MNS.

By Simba (Simba) on Saturday, September 04, 2004 - 12:41 pm: Edit

I see three issues at play here. (1) Fairness, (2) Edge and (3) Potential $$.

(1) I think it is fair to all students in all states. It is fair because the rules have been there - they did not change the rules after the fact. A single cut-off would be unfair to more than 40% of the states (assuming that a single cut off would be around 213).

(2) Edge: No where in the college applications they ask if you are a National Merit Scholar or not. In some of the applications I have seen ask the Counselors to write the PSAT scores as well as the state cut-offs. May be they are trying to determine if the candidate is a National Merit Scholar or not or may be they are trying to determine how does a 215 and not Merit Scholar versus 203 and a Merit Scholar.

(3) Potential $$ - I really don't know what effect it plays and how much money the colleges give. I think there may be half a dozen or so Universities that give full rides to NM scholars. But there are 4,000 Universities. The money from NMSC is not that much.

By Anxiousmom (Anxiousmom) on Saturday, September 04, 2004 - 12:57 pm: Edit

Simba, the money may not be much, but the "preferential packaging" of a financial aid award may be. My DD received a FA package with all loans replaced by grant - which I think, (though I'm not sure) was due to NMS. I never saw this benefit mentioned in any of the school information we received, but when we got her FA package - there it was. No loans, no workstudy, and good for all 4 years. I think other schools may have similar deals, but just don't advertise it heavily. (Bowdoin is one.)

By Marite (Marite) on Saturday, September 04, 2004 - 01:03 pm: Edit


Just because rules have been there for a long time and have not been changed does not make them fair.

Edge: I don't know if the question is asked, but lots of students put the information on their apps. It's way more prestigious than NHS. I've seen resumes of college graduates where the NMS info is provided.

Potential $$: I don't know how many schools give full rides to NMS winners. NMSC scholarship is $2,500. But quite a few schools have their own NMS scholarships that amount to $2,500 per year. If a student is an NMS from Scarsdale, NY (cutoff 216), it may not matter much. But if a student is an NMS from Newark, NJ (cutoff 221), $10,000 is not to be dismissed easily.

Monydad has it right. The reason for the different cutoffs is not fairness, it's politics. NMSC depends on private corporations to fund most of its scholarships, to the tune of $50 millions a year. Some large corporations are headquartered in very low performing states (Wal-Mart and Arkansas, for example). Having cutoffs so high that few AK students would qualify is not politically very wise.

By Garland (Garland) on Saturday, September 04, 2004 - 02:23 pm: Edit

If this way is continued, then please, truth in advertising: don't call it a national award. Everyone knows that one test decides all winners (unlike presidential scholarships, byrd, etc.) The implication is that the "winners" did better on that one test than the non-winners. Tain't so, so let's relabel, in the interests of "fairness".

By Marite (Marite) on Saturday, September 04, 2004 - 02:49 pm: Edit


I totally agree.

By Sarasote (Sarasote) on Saturday, September 04, 2004 - 03:32 pm: Edit

Simba is right, like many other standardized tests scholarships, national merit is also based on state scores. why? just like he said, money allotted to education in each specific state. Marite, Garland, I do not know where you live, Im assuming NJ or new england coast, but states with much lower national merit indexes have a much WORSE education system. i live in arizona and though we do not have the lowest national merit cut off, we still have a pretty low cut off. why? because our local governments give our schools almost no money. we have a 45 to 1 student teacher ratio. most classes have more than 45 students some have 50. our curriculum is algebra 1 freshmen year. most students dont even take precalculus or trignometry in high school. I lived in new york in the past and the education system is MUCH different. so by living in NY, NJ, CT, or another state with a high cutoff index, your education systems help students achieve much higher scores, thus, your NMSQT cutoff index reflects this.

also i attend the best school district in arizona, and living here since 7th grade, i have never had a lesson in school about grammar. Grammar is not in our curriculum and we are not required to learn it, as a result, most people fail the writing section. Education on the east coast is much more rigorous than out here in the southwest.

By Marite (Marite) on Saturday, September 04, 2004 - 04:12 pm: Edit


In fact, as monydad pointed out, this does not have to do with federal funding but with the score of the top 1/2% of PSAT takers. In other words, PSAT takers are held to the highest standards achieved by students in their own state no matter what the funding picture may be.
To be sure, some states provide more funding to education than others. But within each state, funding levels and educational opportunities are far from homogeneous. In my own state, spending per capita ranges from $4k to $18k. Access to good education similarly varies enormously within the same state.
Is the education available to students in Harlem or the Bronx comparable to that in Westchester? or East LA to Beverly Hills? In PA, are Phlly schools as good as those on the Main Line?

Aside from this, how can it be fair that a student with a 220 from NJ or MA be deemed less worthy of NMS recognition than a student with a 203 from Mississipi? Yet, that is the case. NMS from states with cutoffs below 210 will deemed the equal of NMS from states with cutoffs over 220. Yet the latter include plenty of students who scored over 210 but are not recognized as NMS.

Sorry, I seem to be repeating the same argument. I'm done with this discussion.

By Simba (Simba) on Saturday, September 04, 2004 - 05:25 pm: Edit

Marite wrote,"
What I am saying is that the presence of private high schools in some but by no means all parts of the state makes it harder for students in poorer districts to achieve NMS status in some states, while the presence of immigrant, low SES students in other states makes it very easy for high SES status students to reach the cutoff.

So if I extend the logic and we were to make it a single cut-off wouldn't the low performing students from poor states make it easy for students with better state funding to achieve the status? As I mentioned above kids from 40% or 20 states would be at a disadvantage if a single cut-off is instituted. Will that be fair?

Again, I come back to the same logic - it is not meant to be a National standard. The word national means representation of the whole nation. The test only identifies top 1/2% or 1% students from each state.

Byrd scholarship in my state is dsitributed per congressional district. So a person from weaker district also has the same shot as a person living in affluent district. Is that fair? (in my mind yes). I can give a list of private scholarship that specify that only one or two from each state.

I guess this may be the reason, they are reluctant to publish such data !

By Emptynester (Emptynester) on Saturday, September 04, 2004 - 08:22 pm: Edit

"My DD received a FA package with all loans replaced by grant - which I think, (though I'm not sure) was due to NMS."

One of mine, a mere commended student, also got this... at more than one school. Imho it means they really want your kid.

By Robyrm (Robyrm) on Saturday, September 04, 2004 - 08:28 pm: Edit

I have long thought that it is really not all that impressive for a school or school district to take affluent kids from homes where parents are well educated and very supportive and turn out students who are stellar. What's so great about that? Is that what merit is about?

In the conundrum described above, the greatest injustice is done, IMHO, to kids in places like DC public schools or Trenton Public schools who do not all come from affluent, well-educated households but happen to be in Districts or States where the cut-offs are high, because of compounding factors like lots of kids in private schools or very affluent suburban areas.

Maybe school spending/student or some proxy like %kids getting free lunch or family income should be reported and factored in before merit is truly proclaimed, and rewarded. In the absence of this, the use of state by state standards seems to be an alternative- but flawed as above.

Just a thought. No real axe to grind for my kid. Missed the cut off for international kids by a smidgeon, would have made the cut off in plenty of places, but- he has had every advantage..and I have no trouble with a leveled playing field.

Congrats to all those who made it, everywhere (including son's best friend!!).

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