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What is the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test ?

The National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT) is a highly competitive academic competition in the United States. It is administered by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) and serves as an initial screening for the National Merit Scholarship Program. The NMSQT is typically taken by high school juniors and evaluates their critical reading, mathematics, and writing skills.

The test is designed to identify and honor exceptionally talented students who demonstrate outstanding academic potential. It's important to note that the NMSQT is not just an ordinary standardized test; rather, it's a prestigious examination that recognizes students who exhibit exceptional intellectual promise.

Scoring well on the NMSQT can lead to various accolades, including the highly sought-after National Merit Scholarships. These scholarships are awarded to a select group of high-performing students, providing them with financial assistance to pursue higher education. Achieving recognition as a National Merit Scholar is considered a significant honor and can greatly enhance a student's college application.

NMSQT Format

The format of the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test consists of three main sections: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW), Math, and an optional Essay. Here's a detailed breakdown:

1) Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW):

Reading Section (Multiple Choice):
  • Focuses on reading comprehension and interpreting information from passages.
  • Includes multiple-choice questions based on provided passages.
  • Tests your ability to understand, analyze, and evaluate written material.
Writing and Language Section (Multiple Choice):
  • Focuses on language usage, grammar, and effective expression.
  • Includes multiple-choice questions that assess your ability to improve the clarity, coherence, and effectiveness of writing.

2) Math:

Math Section (Multiple Choice and Grid-In):
  • Tests your mathematical skills, including algebra, problem-solving, data analysis, and advanced math topics.
  • Includes both multiple-choice questions and grid-in questions where you enter numerical answers.

3) Optional Essay (Writing):

Essay Section (Optional):
  • Provides a prompt and asks you to analyze and respond to it.
  • You have 50 minutes to complete this section.
  • Although it's optional, some colleges may require or recommend it for their application process.

Who is Eligible for NMSQT ?

Eligibility for the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT) is based on a set of criteria established by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) in the United States. Here are the general eligibility requirements:

1) Grade Level: Typically, students take the NMSQT in their junior year of high school. This means that students in their sophomore year are usually not eligible.

2) Citizenship: Students must be U.S. citizens or have obtained lawful permanent resident status and intend to become U.S. citizens.

3) Enrollment: Students must be enrolled in a high school that has been approved by the NMSC. This generally means they should attend a participating high school or be homeschooled in accordance with state and local policies.

4) Intent to Enroll in College: Students should intend to enroll in college full-time by the fall following high school graduation.

How is the NMSQT Scored ?

The NMSQT is scored on a scale of 320 to 1520, combining the scores from the two sections: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (ERW) and Math. Each section is scored on a scale of 160 to 760.

How to Calculate NMSQT Index ?

The NMSQT Selection Index is a score used to determine eligibility for the National Merit Scholarship Program. It's derived from the PSAT/NMSQT scores. Here's how you can calculate it:

1) Get Your PSAT Scores: You'll need your scores from the PSAT/NMSQT. These scores are usually available in your College Board account.

2) Identify the Scaled Scores: The PSAT/NMSQT has two main sections: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW) and Math. Each section is scored on a scale from 160 to 760.

3) Double the Math Score: Since the Selection Index is made up of the Math, Writing, and Reading scores, the Math score is given twice as much weight. So, double the Math score.
Example: If your Math score is 620, then double it to get 1240.

4) Add Up the Scores: Add the doubled Math score to the EBRW score.
Example: If your EBRW score is 670, then add it to the doubled Math score (1240 + 670 = 1910).

5) Divide by 10: Finally, divide the total by 10 to get the Selection Index.
Example: For a total of 1910, the Selection Index would be 191.

Remember, this Selection Index is used as an initial screening tool for National Merit Scholarship eligibility. However, the exact cutoff scores for eligibility can vary from year to year and by state.

How Long is the NMSQT ?

The PSAT/NMSQT (National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test) typically takes 2 hours and 45 minutes to complete. It consists of three sections: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW), Math, and an optional Essay. Here's a breakdown of the time allocation for each section:

1) Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW):
  • Time: 60 minutes
  • Number of Questions: 47

2) Math:
  • Time: 70 minutes
  • Number of Questions: 48

3) Optional Essay (Writing):
  • Time: 50 minutes

NMSQT Test Dates

The National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT) is typically administered in October of each year. The testing window for the PSAT/NMSQT is October 2 to October 31, 2023. During the testing window, each student is only permitted to take the assessment once.

However, please note that exact test dates can vary from year to year and may be subject to change. It's important to check the official College Board website or contact your school's guidance office for the most up-to-date information on NMSQT test dates for 2023.


The fee for taking the NMSQT (National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test) in the United States is typically around $18. Keep in mind that some schools may cover part or all of the fee for their students, so it's a good idea to inquire with your school's administration if you're unsure about the cost.

How to Apply for NMSQT ?

To apply for the PSAT/NMSQT (Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test), you generally need to follow these steps:

1) Check Eligibility: The PSAT/NMSQT is typically taken by high school juniors in the United States, but some sophomores may also be eligible. Make sure to confirm your eligibility with your school's guidance counselor or the College Board.

2) Register through Your School: The PSAT/NMSQT is usually administered through high schools. Talk to your school's guidance counselor or testing coordinator to find out about registration deadlines and procedures.

3) Pay the Fee (if required): Your school will inform you if there's a fee for taking the PSAT/NMSQT. Some schools cover the cost for all students, while others may require payment. If you have financial constraints, ask about fee waivers.

4) Prepare for the Test: Familiarize yourself with the format and content of the PSAT/NMSQT. You can find practice materials on the College Board's official website.

5) Take the Test: On the scheduled test date, arrive at your testing location on time, and bring the necessary materials, such as identification, pencils, and a calculator (if allowed).

6) Receive Your Scores: Scores are typically available online through your College Board account. Your school may also provide you with a paper score report.

7) Consider National Merit Scholarship Program (Optional): If you're a junior and you score exceptionally well on the PSAT/NMSQT, you might be eligible for the National Merit Scholarship Program. This program recognizes top-scoring students and offers scholarship opportunities.

Remember, the process may vary slightly based on your specific school or district, so it's always a good idea to consult with your school's guidance counselor or testing coordinator for the most accurate and up-to-date information.


Who can take the NMSQT?
Typically, high school juniors in the United States are eligible to take the NMSQT. Sophomores may also take it for practice, but it is the junior year scores that count for National Merit recognition.

What is the PSAT/NMSQT?
The PSAT/NMSQT, or Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, is the official name of the test. It is a practice version of the SAT and also serves as the qualifying test for the National Merit Scholarship Program.

What is the Selection Index?
The Selection Index is a calculated score used by the NMSC to determine eligibility for recognition in the National Merit Scholarship Program. It is derived from the PSAT/NMSQT scores and ranges from 48 to 228.

How are National Merit Semifinalists determined?
Semifinalists are determined by state, with the highest-scoring students in each state becoming Semifinalists. The cutoff score to become a Semifinalist varies by state and is determined by the NMSC.

What happens after becoming a Semifinalist?
Semifinalists are invited to submit a detailed scholarship application, including an essay and information about their academic achievements and extracurricular activities. From there, about 15,000 students are selected as Finalists.

When are National Merit Scholarship winners announced?
Finalists are notified in February, and scholarship winners are announced in the spring.

Is the NMSQT the same as the SAT?
The NMSQT is very similar to the SAT, but it is a slightly shorter version and is specifically used for National Merit recognition. The content and format of both tests are quite similar.

What is a good score for the PSAT/NMSQT?
A good score for the PSAT/NMSQT is one that places you among the top performers in your state, potentially leading to recognition and scholarship opportunities through the National Merit Scholarship Program.

When does NMSQT come out?
The NMSQT scores are typically released in early December of the year the test was taken.