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Absolutely brutal PSAT curve; best guess for Commended Cutoff for Class of 2021?

OceanIsleOceanIsle 168 replies9 threads Junior Member
A lot of kids are out of luck this year for National Merit contention. Last year’s Commended Cutoff was 212. Thoughts on next year’s?
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Replies to: Absolutely brutal PSAT curve; best guess for Commended Cutoff for Class of 2021?

  • bluebayoubluebayou 26935 replies175 threads Senior Member
    'brutal' curve just means an easier test. The alternative is also true.
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  • RichInPittRichInPitt 1259 replies17 threads Senior Member
    Yes, the same percentage of students will reach whatever the cutoff is - it’s somewhat irrelevant.


    The top 50,000-ish will be Commended and the top 15,000-ish will be semifinalists, whether they cutoff is 203 or 223. No one will be “out of luck”

    How do you know the scaled scoring numbers - have they been published? My understanding is that these aren’t calculated until next Spring.

    (The 203 is what I remember the number being back when I took it. We weren’t dumber back then - in fact, per SAT concordances, we performed better. The tests were just harder. It was still the top 4% or so)
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  • OceanIsleOceanIsle 168 replies9 threads Junior Member
    edited December 3
    @bluebayou and @RichInPitt

    I disagree entirely that the harsh cutoff is irrelevant, specifically at the highest levels. As I said in a different post, a normal curve allows for a few simple human errors; a harsh curve eliminates you for them.

    Yes, the official curve has been released and in our state if you got more than one wrong in each section, you drop below a 220 Selection Index. Normally a student can safely have 6-7 questions wrong and still make it in our state. My oldest was NMF a few years ago but on this curve her Selection Index would have been ten points lower.

    https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/pdf/psat-nmsqt-understanding-scores.pdf

    Last year one of the test administrations had a 50 point drop for one wrong math question. To me, any kids taking a test with a harsh curve are at a distinct disadvantage.
    edited December 3
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  • AlwaysMovingAlwaysMoving 213 replies2 threads Junior Member
    I understand that a tough curve can penalize kids that are prone to dumb mistakes, but if the same number of test takers will be NMSF, so how is it more harsh across all test takers?
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  • amsunshineamsunshine 204 replies3 threads Junior Member
    edited December 4
    The curve doesn't look so harsh to me. If you missed one in each section, you would get a SI of 226. Last year, my dd missed one question on the whole test and got an SI of 226. This year's curve looks better to me than last year.

    eta: ah, I see how if you missed one in each section, you would get a 220. Nm. It's the same curve as last year. My dd missed one in either the Reading or the writing section for a 226, which seems consistent with last year.
    edited December 4
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  • OceanIsleOceanIsle 168 replies9 threads Junior Member
    edited December 4
    @amsunshine , that’s the curve for the later test date. For Oct 16th if you missed one in each section you have a 220.

    @AlwaysMoving , not all kids take the test on the same day, so if you took it on the 16th and made a dumb mistake, you were likely eliminated from NMSF contention. If you took it on the 30th (for example) you could still have a high score with a dumb mistake or two.

    The same number of kids are NMF in their respective states but some had to be a lot more flawless than their instate peers.
    edited December 4
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  • amsunshineamsunshine 204 replies3 threads Junior Member
    @OceanIsle my apologies -- I updated my post, above. Still, the curve seems consistent with the one from last year. No worse, but no better.
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  • OceanIsleOceanIsle 168 replies9 threads Junior Member
    edited December 4
    From what I understand even the analysts who do this for a living called it “frustrating that the College Board continues to do this,” in response to the news of this past Oct 16th curve (see the Compass Prep website).

    If all kids took the same test, this is a whole different story. But they don’t.

    @amsunshine , again I saw a different curve than you for last year, as the one I saw allowed a good 7 questions wrong for a 220 SI (as did the curve the year before), but the Oct 24th curve last year (not positive on the date) had an awful drop in score for one wrong in the math section.

    This is all mostly relevant at the tippy top end of the scores.
    edited December 4
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  • amsunshineamsunshine 204 replies3 threads Junior Member
    @OceanIsle I suppose I can't comment on what the curve was for missing more than one question last year vs this year, so you could be right about the curve dropping more steeply this year after that threshold. I can only compare the results to our own experience from last year. However, as others have mentioned, the same number of people are going to qualify this year, despite the curve. Keep in mind that many states' cutoff scores went down this year, and the curve for last year's PSAT was pretty harsh. A harsher curve this year may mean that SI cutoffs go down again or at least remain static next year.

    Also, I know what it's like to live in a state with a high cutoff -- we live in CA. It's unfortunate our students have to deal with a higher cutoff than others, but it is what it is. I have another dd, who is class of 21 for what it's worth, who is also waiting for her PSAT scores this year....with fingers crossed. She got a great SAT score, so we are hoping for the best. But we are well aware the PSAT is pretty tough, especially for kids more gifted in math than language arts, given that language arts count for 2/3 of the SI score. As a result, we are keeping our expectations in check.
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  • OceanIsleOceanIsle 168 replies9 threads Junior Member
    edited December 4
    @amsunshine

    “However, as others have mentioned, the same number of people are going to qualify this year, despite the curve.”

    Yes, but my whole point is that the College Board seems to struggle with making even curves. When there are only a set amount of slots for NMSF in each state, and certain test administrations have more extreme curves than others, then the kids who take the test on the date with a traditional scale are much more likely to fill those slots than the kids who weren’t allowed a simple human error.

    Let’s take last year’s Oct 24th test for example. Two students take the PSAT (each on a different date) and they both get one wrong in Reading and they both make a computational error for one wrong in Math. The kid who sat for that Oct 24th exam is eliminated bc she loses 50 points for that one computational error. The other kid is named NMSF.

    And in the end, if all kids had been administered the same test, there is no doubt those NMSF slots would be filled with different names.

    All things are not created equal in this “contest” and I think it’s unfortunate for all of the students. Good luck to your D21! Sounds like she has an excellent shot. :smile:
    edited December 4
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  • amsunshineamsunshine 204 replies3 threads Junior Member
    edited December 4
    @OceanIsle No doubt, the CB is far from perfect at this. With both of my kids being better at math than language arts, we grumble a lot about how they calculate the selection index in our house! I think I'm personally going to just remain hopeful for the SI cutoffs dropping for this year's test administration, as they did last year. :-) Good luck if you had any kids this year who took the exam, as well.
    edited December 4
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  • socaldad2002socaldad2002 1602 replies30 threads Senior Member
    edited December 4
    Maybe the test should be rewarding the kids that don't make "stupid mistakes"? These tests are not an exact science but shouldn't kids with less wrong answers be rewarded?
    edited December 4
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  • evergreen5evergreen5 1547 replies32 threads Senior Member
    I looked closely at the scales for the Oct 24, 2018 and the Oct 16, 2019 tests. (My kids took both, sigh.) The scales are very, very close for reading and writing between these two particular test forms, almost exactly the same, depending on the number wrong. However, last year's Oct 24 math scale (-2 = 33.5, i.e. -90 pts) was significantly harsher than this year's Oct 16 (-2 = 36.5, i.e. -30 pts).
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  • bgbg4usbgbg4us 1365 replies43 threads Senior Member
    ^^ that was my kid last year on the 10/24 test with missing 2 in math. We're over it now, but it was harsh. I hope this year's wasn't as bad.
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  • OceanIsleOceanIsle 168 replies9 threads Junior Member
    @socaldad2002 , nobody is rewarding “stupid mistakes.” 😆 But some tests allow for a few slip ups and others eliminate you for *one.*

    This year’s test dropped you four points on your Selection Index for one wrong Reading question (and perfect Writing). Last year’s Oct 10th form allowed you to get four wrong before you dropped four points. Very similar with the Writing section of this year versus last year.

    Maybe what I’m mostly saying is that if the goal is to force some lower scores, then I would rather see it done with a harder test than with a harsher penalty. It doesn’t seem right to essentially give a cushion to some test administrations and a hard fall for a single question wrong on others.

    My two cents.
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  • OceanIsleOceanIsle 168 replies9 threads Junior Member
    edited December 4
    @evergreen5 , good luck to your kiddos! I just looked at the scales again and whichever one of your kids took the 10/16 exam could only get two wrong in Reading whereas your 10/30 kid could get four wrong in Reading before dropping to a 35. That’s not necessarily close in my opinion.

    My D21 had what I consider a fair curve. I stand by my opinion that some kids will unfortunately catch a tough break so long as the College Board continues to penalize kids with a harsh drop for one question wrong on only *some* tests and not others. I think there is room for improvement on the part of the College Board.
    edited December 4
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  • evergreen5evergreen5 1547 replies32 threads Senior Member
    @OceanIsle Sorry, just to clarify, I was comparing this year's Oct 16, 2019 scale with last year's Oct 24, 2018 scale, not the one from this year on the 30th.
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  • OceanIsleOceanIsle 168 replies9 threads Junior Member
    @evergreen5 , ohhhh - I thought you had twins in different schools or something. 😊 My bad. Ugh, sorry you all had to endure that infamous Oct 24th test. That was crazy!
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  • bluebayoubluebayou 26935 replies175 threads Senior Member
    I get your frustration OP, as my son missed the first math problem every time he took the SAT. (And the first problem was the easiest.)

    That being said, your concern is unfounded. For NM, the PSAT is designed to cull out the best xx test takers per state on one single day. Your kid could be perfect three days in a row but miss two tomorrow just due to a brain 'burp'.

    But the NM component of the test is a minor piece (despite its focus on cc), as the test is really practice for the masses who are just trying to get to 500-600 on the real thing. So for them an extra hard or easy problem is not relevant.










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  • OceanIsleOceanIsle 168 replies9 threads Junior Member
    @bluebayou , your point is true if all test takers did take the same test on the same day, but they don’t. There are 2-3 test administrations from Oct of each year, each with different curves. That is the problem. It’s a work in progress for the College Board, but as it stands some test dates are just more favorable for test takers.

    And I agree that the PSAT is meant to be a practice for the masses. National Merit Scholarship Corp is separate from the College Board. Hopefully the kids who fall short of the cutoffs (most don’t have their scores yet) will be able to keep it all in perspective in the grand scheme, and I’m sure they will. :smile:
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