Standardized testing as reflected on college applications

By Margo Bartch

The current school budget discussions focus on New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) test scores as a way to show performance.  These are non-timed, regional tests (Vermont, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire) that are administered at Shelburne Community School (SCS) and Champlain Valley Union (CVU) to measure academic performance for specific age groups.  According to the recent Chittenden South Supervisory Union 2012-13 Annual Report (, SCS has achieved proficiencies of 81 percent in math and 85 percent in reading; however, these scores do not correlate to the SAT national exam. Out of a possible 800 points, CVU students achieve 564 reading, 559 math, and 550 writing, which is slightly above the national average. Thus, many parents are startled when seeing their child’s first SAT score. Many wonder what to do to positively impact results.

In my nine years of tutoring students on the SAT and ACT written essay, along with working with them on college application essays, I have seen how practice for the exam can develop confidence and boost results. Taking practice exams in a timed environment will build familiarity with the structure and process of testing. Luckily, students can take the exams often and “super-score” their top scores to submit. The stronger the scores, the broader range of colleges, students will be able to add to their list.

The college application process begins with the scores are a primary tool for planning the college road trips and developing a college list of reach, target and safety schools. First, I suggest that most students complete the Common Application (Common App) during the summer before senior year. The Common App is accepted by nearly all colleges including UVM, Saint Michael’s, and Champlain College. The Common App includes two required essays, plus all the “data” on the student, such as test scores, GPA, extra-curricular activities, community service, work experience, and recommendation letters. In addition, many colleges require completing their school’s specific Supplemental Application, which includes additional essays and other information. The essays are the opportunity to highlight the student’s interests, similar to how an interview differentiates each candidate beyond the numbers.

Like upcoming town budget discussions, the numbers (or scores) are a starting point for making big decisions. It is never too early to start preparing for the college road ahead.

Margo Bartsch is the founder of College Essay Coach, a locally-owned business. This is her ninth year of providing one-on-one instruction to prepare students for the SAT and ACT Writing sections and write college application essays.  She is an adjunct professor of marketing at Champlain College. She has partnered with Marie Thayer, founder of College Concierge, to provide planning services. Visit for a complete listing of services and accepted colleges. Contact Margo at or at 985-3770.  



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