Know Before You Go: Preparing for an Above-Level Test

To participate, students must 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. By definition, an above-level test was designed for older students, so it is best-suited to students who are maxing out grade-level tests in at least one subject.

This video (and a blog post about it) provides a helpful introduction to above-level testing:

Please read the relevant information below before your test date.


For 4th-6th Graders

Will I-Excel Be Too Difficult?

Sometimes even if students meet the 95th percentile guideline on a grade-level test, they or their parents may be nervous about taking such a challenging test (content designed for 8th graders). The guideline is intended to prevent students from being overly stressed or frustrated by the testing experience. Students can try out sample questions for free to gauge the level of the test and whether it is a good fit. Just contact assessment@belinblank.org to request a link to the sample test questions.

Before the Test

We recommend that students take a look at the sample items to get comfortable with the format of the test. Beyond that, we do not recommend that students study for the test; the most useful scores result when students understand the format but do not study for the test. There is a link to the sample test in your confirmation email. If the student is already registered, use the email address associated with the registration to access the sample items; or contact assessment@belinblank.org to receive the link and a temporary access code.

Please note that we are introducing new policies this year.

Test Day

  • If the test is not during a regular school day, please be sure that you know what time to arrive and where to meet.
  • Students may bring a calculator for use during the Mathematics test as long as it does not have one of the prohibited characteristics listed here.
  • We recommend providing a small snack for your child to eat halfway through the test.
  • Students should eat breakfast and have a good night's rest before the test.

After the Test

Your teacher will be able to distribute the scores to you through the reporting system. Scores generally take approximately two weeks to process.

Important for Your Child to Know

  • This is a challenging test that was originally designed for 8th graders!
  • Students should do their best, but it is very common not to finish one or more sections of the test, and it's highly likely they won't know everything on the test. This is expected and okay.
  • The fact that they are taking this test alone is proof that they are doing very well.

For 7th-9th Graders

Will ACT Be Too Difficult?

Sometimes even if students meet the 95th percentile guideline on a grade-level test, they or their parents may be nervous about taking such a challenging test. The guideline is intended to prevent students from being overly stressed or frustrated by the testing experience. Students can try out sample questions for free to gauge the level of the test and whether it is a good fit.

Before the Test

  • Please note that we are introducing new policies this year.
  • The Belin-Blank Center cannot guarantee a test location, as they are subject to changes by ACT and seat limits. Particularly during the spring test dates, testing locations may fill, and ACT will assign students to the next-closest testing location.
  • The Belin-Blank Center sends the information for paid-in-full registrations to ACT (usually weekly). Registrations without full payment will not be sent to ACT.
  • If they are not paid by the early registration deadline, the late registration fee will be added. If they are not paid by the late registration deadline, registrations will be dropped.
  • Once the registration is processed, ACT mails an admission ticket to the mailing address associated with the registration.
  • If your child is 13 or older, we recommend making a copy of the admission ticket to help you received the scores faster. The admission ticket has your ACT ID number, which you can use to view your scores online after the test. Generally, scores are available online well before the paper score report is mailed to you.
  • If you haven't received an admission ticket by the week of the test, please call ACT's customer service line at 319-337-1270 between 8AM-8PM CT. You'll want to let them know that your child registered through a talent search and that you haven't received the admission ticket.
  • We recommend that students take a look at the sample items to get comfortable with the format of the test. We do not recommend that students study for the test.

Applying for Accommodations (Optional)

Students with documented disabilities may be eligible for accommodations through ACT. Students testing through BESTS should complete and pay for their registration, then use this form to request accommodations (disregard instructions to go through the school-based request system).

There are two types of accommodations – this infographic can help you decide which one is the best fit.

Accommodations are also available through ACT for English Language Learners. Students testing through BESTS should complete and pay for their registration, then use this form to request accommodations (disregard instructions to go through the school-based request system).

Please note that you will need to apply for and be approved by ACT for accommodations in order for your child to receive those accommodations.

Test Day

  • More instructions for preparation and the day of the test are available on our ACT Academic Talent Search Instruction Folder.
  • You must bring the admission ticket and acceptable identification to the testing location the day of the test. If the child taking the test does not yet have an ID issued by a city/state/federal government agency or school, they will need to fill out the Talent Search Student Identification and bring it to the testing location in place of an ID. More instructions for preparation and the day of the test are available on our ACT Academic Talent Search Instruction Folder.

After the Test

  • ACT generally sends scores through the mail to parents 2-4 weeks after the test date. If your child is 13 or older (the federal age at which a child can have an online account), they usually send an email with instructions to sign in to an online account to see the scores. That online account requires that you have access to the ACT ID, which is printed on the admission ticket. If you don’t have a copy of it, parents have had success in calling the main ACT customer service line (319-337-1270), explaining that their child tested through a talent search, and asking for help logging in.
  • You will have access to two reports following the test.