University of Iowa College of Education The University of Iowa The College of Education
Leaders, Scholars, Innovators
Capital Campaign
Give | Directory
Belin-Blank Center

Contact Us

Belin-Blank Center

600 Blank Honors Center
Iowa City, IA 52242

Map PinMap Us!


Dr. Susan Assouline
Belin-Blank Center



BESTS students in grades 4-6 take Explore®, which is designed for 8th graders. It is recommended that students have at least one score in the 95th percentile or above on a core subject of a grade-level test, such as the Iowa Assessments (read more about this requirement in our FAQ section).

Each of the four sections (English, mathematics, reading, and science) takes 30 minutes to complete. The total testing time is approximately two hours.

Over 50% of the BESTS participants have scored higher than the average 8th grader. In many cases, Explore scores have been used to assist educators in modifying a student’s curriculum.

Three Ways to Take Explore

There are three ways that 4th-6th graders can participate in BESTS; each system has a separate fee.

  1. Traditional Talent Search Model: schools distribute information, and parents register their student. The cost for the Traditional Talent Search Model is $65, which includes both registration for and testing with Explore. This fee is not refundable. What if I missed my test date?
  2. Arranged Testing: similar to the Traditional Talent Search Model, parents register their students, but it is only available if there are no testing locations near you. A certified teacher at the child’s school may set up Arranged Testing, although a parent often contacts the Center first. For 1-3 students, Arranged Testing costs $75 per student, and discounted rates are available for students on free/reduced lunch. For more information about Arranged Testing, please call Talent Search Secretary Melissa Keeling at (319) 335-6148 or 800-336-6463 (toll-free).
  3. In-School Testing: similar to Arranged Testing, but intended for 4 or more students. In-School Testing is organized by the educator and costs $45 per student.

Learn more about the options.

Financial aid is available.

Preparing for the Test

ACT provides sample test questions to help students prepare to take Explore. On test day, you must have a printed copy of your admission ticket or you will not be allowed to test. The ticket must be for the current test date, and you must report to the test center that shows on your ticket. You will receive this admission ticket in the mail prior to your test date.

Testing Dates

Registration is available now.

Test Date Initial Deadline (Late Fee After This Date) Final Deadline Location
Saturday, November 7, 2015 Wednesday, October 7, 2015 Wednesday, October 14, 2015 To view testing locations for your state, please either visit ACT's Explore website or our registration system.
Saturday, January 23, 2016 Wednesday, December 16, 2015 Tuesday, December 29, 2015 To view testing locations for your state, please either visit ACT's Explore website or our registration system.
Saturday, February 20, 2016 Wednesday, January 13, 2016 Wednesday, January 20, 2016 To view testing locations for your state, please either visit ACT's Explore website or our registration system.
Thursday, June 9, 2016 - University of Iowa Location Only Wednesday, May 4, 2016 Wednesday, May 11, 2016 University of Iowa (Iowa City, IA) Only
Test anytime* during the school year with In-School Testing None Three weeks before your test date. Educators can set up test dates for 4 or more students at their schools. Learn more.

*Dates in December and January are restricted around the holidays.

Details about the test, including testing time, will arrive in the mail 2-3 weeks before your testing date.


Please note that ACT does not allow students to take Explore or ACT more than once per school year.