Cerritos’ NMSQT semi-finalists


The National Merit Scholar test, better known as the NMSQT, is a standardized test taken by tenth and eleventh graders that is administered by the College Board. Approximately 3.5 million students take it annually. It is an academic competition used to earn scholarships and recognition by attaining certain high scores. The PSAT is used to determine  one’s eligibility and qualification for the National Merit Scholarship Program, which is how the “NMSQT” got its name.

To participate in taking the test, you must be a resident or citizen in the U.S. and be enrolled as an high school student, and take it within high school. About 50,000 students qualify for the National Merit Scholarship program and eventually some go on to be semi-finalists, finalists, or become commended finalists (which doesn’t allow them to go further in the competition, but gives recognition). Semi-finalists are the highest scoring entrants in each state and the winners from the finalists are chosen by their abilities, skills, and accomplishments.

Three Cerritos High students earned the prestigious honor of qualifying for the national merit scholarship: Irisa Chang, Peter Chea, and Angelina Suh received outstanding scores on their test and made semi-finals. How did they do it?

“I was prepping for the real SAT and that prepared me for the PSAT. I felt amazed and excited because I didn’t expect to get a really high score. I felt honored to be part of an intelligent community. This scholarship is a good opportunity for people that aren’t really in need of financial aid, which is what most substantial scholarships are,” said Peter Chea.

Senior Irisa Chang said, “I didn’t really prep for the PSAT, but I prepped for the SAT which helped me. Even though I was hoping I would get it, I was overjoyed when I did receive it. It made me happy because I knew it would help me with my college application process. I am anxiously waiting to see if I made it to finals.”

Angelina Suh said, “It felt unreal to win. I honestly walked in not expecting it at all. I didn’t really do any kind of prep but once in awhile I would try to study for the SAT. I was surprised when I found out that I won but I didn’t have even the slightest feeling that I would get it.”

Preparing for the real SAT itself is good enough to help some achieve a high PSAT score. The national merit scholarship is a great way to receive financial aid and boost your resume when it’s time to apply to colleges. Even if you don’t think you would receive it, it’s still a great way to practice for the real SAT and see where you’re at. It never hurts to try because your score may end up surprising you.



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