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Belin-Blank Exceptional Student Talent Search (BESTS)

What is BESTS?

The Belin-Blank Center at the University of Iowa conducts an academic talent search each year using an above-level assessment for eligible students in grades seven through nine. An academic talent search identifies high-achieving students (those who have scored at or above the 95th percentile on a standardized test) and provides an above-level assessment to better determine students' specific academic strengths. Above-level testing is an educational procedure in which a test developed for older students is administered to younger students. Students in grades seven through nine are invited to take the twelfth grade-level ACT. Students register in the fall to take the test.

Stetson HATS Program Now Offers Testing On Campus!

Through a collaboration with the Belin-Blank Center, HATS is proud to offer testing for high-ability 4th-6th graders on the Stetson University campus. If your child has scored at the 95th percentile or higher on any section of a nationally standardized test (such as the Iowa Assessments, Terra Nova, or Stanford Achievement Tests) or the Florida Standards Assessments and will enter 4th, 5th, or 6th grade in the fall, he or she qualifies to take I-Excel, an online assessment created by the Belin-Blank Center.

Why Test?

When children score at the 95th percentile or higher on a standardized test, it tells us that they understand all or nearly all of the material on the test, but it doesn’t tell the extent of their knowledge or what they are ready to learn next. An above-level test (or a test intended for older students) is a good way to give students more space to show what they know. Above-level test results can be used to help make decisions about educational placement, such as more challenging classes in a particular subject.

What Test Can Students Take?

I-Excel licenses content developed by the testing company, ACT, which was designed to measure the academic progress of junior high students. From that content, the Belin-Blank Center has been identifying the academic talents of bright fourth to sixth grade students for over 20 years. I-Excel is a multiple-choice test including Mathematics, Science, English, and Reading. The test is taken on a computer, and each section takes 30 minutes to complete. Total testing time is 2 ½ hours (including breaks).

What Do the Results Tell Us?

Families of students who take I-Excel automatically receive a comprehensive interpretation of their test results through IDEAL Solutions® for STEM Acceleration. This interpretation is an excellent starting point for talking to your child’s school about what kinds of curricular interventions might be appropriate. Additionally, the test results can be used to qualify students for Stetson HATS summer and weekend programs.

Registration Information

Registration is completed online. Testing costs $65.00.

The following test dates are available:

I-Excel dates for grades 4-6 are

  • February 10, 2018
  • April 14, 2018

When is the ACT Testing Offered?

  • ACT dates for grades 7-9 are
    • February 10, 2018
    • April 14, 2018
    • June 9, 2018

What to Expect on the Day of the Test

The test will be held on Saturday morning and your admission ticket will have the exact information on when and where to report. However, you can expect to arrive around 8:00 am to check in. The testing usually ends around noon. We suggest bringing a sweater or jacket in case it is chilly in the testing center. Of course, you will want to bring plenty of sharpened, number two pencils with good erasers. Calculators are allowed for the math portion of the test. The registration materials that come with your admission ticket will guide you on the permitted models for each test. You may also want to pack a healthy snack and bottled water.

After a Student Tests

  • The Belin-Blank Center provides a comprehensive interpretation of scores with a customized report for each student.
  • Parents are not required to share the scores with their school, but they are strongly encouraged to do so.
  • Students are eligible to attend weekend and summer courses at the Belin-Blank Center and at Stetson University.

About the ACT®

The ACT® is a multiple choice assessment which measures academic development in English, Mathematics, Reading and Science Reasoning. The ACT Assessment is an assessment for college-bound high school students and takes approximately three hours to complete.

» More information about the ACT

To Inquire About Offering BESTS

If you would like to inquire about offering BESTS in your district, please contact the program director, Lynn Albinson, at or at 386-822-7091. Even if there is not a test center in your district, eligible students may participate in testing at any of the Florida test centers. We would be happy to work with you to establish test sites in your district.