Welcome to Belin-Blank Exceptional Student Talent Search (BESTS)

Learn more about your students’ academic abilities. Watch a video, learn why BESTS can be helpful, or click on a button below to find the testing services that fit your high-ability student(s).

I'm a parent
I'm an educator

Why take another test?

  • This video (and a blog post about it) provides a helpful introduction to above-level testing:
  • High-ability students tend to score very highly on grade-level tests like the Iowa Assessments.
  • If they’re scoring at the 95th percentile or higher on any subject, they have reached the ceiling of that test.
  • They have mastered the items on the achievement test, but we don’t know how much more challenge they need.
  • Above-level testing can inform parents and educators about readiness for advanced curriculum. Learn more.

4th-6th Grade - Options for Iowa Students

4th-6th Grade - BESTS In-School

  • We're introducing new policies this year.
  • An educator may set up a test date with as few as four students (for individuals or smaller groups, see Individual Testing). Available to any school throughout the school year (prices listed are per student):
    • Above-level testing: I-Excel (online only), $45 (free for Iowa 5th graders for the 2017-2018 academic year)
    • Psychosocial assessment: ACT Engage® (online only), free for a limited time
    • Math-specific assessment (Iowa Algebra Aptitude Test, available for $50 through IDEAL Solutions® for STEM Acceleration)
  • Iowa educators can easily create a list of qualifying students using Iowa Testing Programs' handy online tool.
  • Download a sample letter to invite students to participate (assumes you have already set a test date).
  • What students (and parents) should know before they test.
  • Testing dates are arranged with the Belin-Blank Center and, for 2017-18, occur between October 1st and June 10th. Other blackout dates apply.
  • Students who score highly on an above-level test may be eligible to take courses online through the Iowa Online AP Academy (IOAPA), which provides above-level coursework online without a course fee (currently available in Iowa only). Only educators may register students for IOAPA. Learn more.
  • We recommend planning six weeks or more out from your intended test date.
  • Get started.

4th-6th Grade - Individual Testing

  • We're introducing new policies this year.
  • High-ability 4th-6th graders take I-Excel, an online above-level test. Learn more about I-Excel.
  • For this option, a licensed educator must agree to proctor a test (roughly a two-and-a-half-hour time commitment).
    • The proctor cannot be a relative.
    • Acceptable proctors include full-time teachers, tutors, and college professors.
  • In most cases, we plan three weeks or more ahead of the test date.
  • The cost is $85 per child for up to three children. For groups of four or more, please see BESTS In-School.
  • What students (and parents) should know before they test.
  • To set up the testing, email assessment@belinblank.org with the proctor's information (first name, last name, and email address), as well as when you would like to test.
  • Testing dates for 2017-18 occur between October 1st and June 10th. Other blackout dates apply.

I would like to test...

1-3 students
4 or more students

7th-9th Grade: The ACT

ACT, a secure test, is primarily used in the college admissions process and is available only through national testing dates established by ACT. Locations are available across the United States. Designed for college-bound high school students, the ACT takes approximately three hours to complete.

Parents can register their child individually (you can download a sample letter to send to parents) OR educators can register a group of students at the same testing location (final testing location placement not guaranteed) and, as an option, can arrange for the school to pay for this testing at a discounted rate ($55 per student). Email assessment@belinblank.org to learn more about registering a group of 7th-9th graders for the ACT.

  • We're introducing new policies this year.
  • The cost for ACT is $70. Financial aid is available.
  • Iowa educators can easily create a list of qualifying students using Iowa Testing Programs' handy online tool.
  • What students (and parents) should know before they test.
  • To view testing locations for your state, please either visit ACT's website or our registration system.
  • Registration is available now.

    TestDateInitial Deadline (Late Fee After This Date)Final Deadline
    Saturday, October 28, 2017Wednesday, September 20, 2017Wednesday, October 4, 2017
    Saturday, December 9, 2017Wednesday, November 1, 2017Wednesday, November 15, 2017
    Saturday, February 10, 2018Wednesday, January 10, 2018Wednesday, January 17, 2018
    Saturday, April 14, 2018Wednesday, March 7, 2018Wednesday, March 21, 2018
    Saturday, June 9, 2018Wednesday, May 2, 2018Wednesday, May 16, 2018

    Payment is required before the final deadline, or the registration will be dropped.

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

7th-9th Graders: The ACT

ACT, a secure test, is primarily used in the college admissions process and is available only through national testing dates established by ACT. Locations are available across the United States. Designed for college-bound high school students, the ACT takes approximately three hours to complete.

  • We're introducing new policies this year.
  • The cost for ACT is $70. Financial aid is available.
  • What students (and parents) should know before they test.
  • To view testing locations for your state, please either visit ACT's website or our registration system.
  • Registration is available now.

    TestDateInitial Deadline (Late Fee After This Date)Final Deadline
    Saturday, October 28, 2017Wednesday, September 20, 2017Wednesday, October 4, 2017
    Saturday, December 9, 2017Wednesday, November 1, 2017Wednesday, November 15, 2017
    Saturday, February 10, 2018Wednesday, January 10, 2018Wednesday, January 17, 2018
    Saturday, April 14, 2018Wednesday, March 7, 2018Wednesday, March 21, 2018
    Saturday, June 9, 2018Wednesday, May 2, 2018Wednesday, May 16, 2018

    Payment is required before the final deadline, or the registration will be dropped.

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

Opportunities for Students

BESTS testing is only available for students in grades 4-9, but there are a variety of other options:

  • Join the BESTS Mailing List for free.
  • The Belin-Blank Center offers a variety of other opportunities for students.
  • The Henry B. and Jocelyn Wallace Assessment and Counseling Clinic at the Belin-Blank Center offers individual evaluations conducted by licensed psychologists. These evaluations yield detailed results that are helpful in making decisions about readiness for advanced curriculum. The Clinic also specializes in counseling, therapy, and evaluations related to learning disorders, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and other psychological conditions among high-ability students. Learn more.
  • A Nation Empowered, the recent publication about academic acceleration, can be a helpful resource for parents and educators who would like to advocate for their high-ability students.
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