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.

The Goals of BESTS

The goals of BESTS are:

  • To discover, via above-level testing, students who need further educational challenges to fully realize their talent.
  • To provide parents, educators, and students with an objective measure of a student's readiness for specific academic enrichment and/or accelerative programming.
  • To provide parents, educators, and students a thorough interpretation of that measure.
  • To provide a challenging and fun experience for students.
  • To provide parents, educators, and students information on Belin-Blank Center programs, research, and other information through our online newsletter, VISION.
  • To offer opportunities for participating families to take advantage of programs and services at the University of Iowa and at Stetson University in Florida.

The Benefits of Above-Level Testing

Compared to grade-level tests, which tell us what students already know, above-level testing tells us not only what students know beyond their grade level, but what students are ready to learn. This is critical information for classroom teachers and parents, as curriculum should be presented to match the readiness level of each student. With high-achieving students, it is often difficult to assess their level of readiness. Above-level testing can provide valuable insight in this regard. Also, students benefit from the test-taking experience by building confidence in their test-taking abilities. Achieving success on an above-level test makes regular tests less intimidating. Furthermore, these students are eligible for additional scholarship opportunities.

The Availability of BESTS in Florida

There are currently 12 school districts participating with Stetson University in BESTS throughout the state of Florida: Brevard, Flagler, Hillsborough, Indian River, Lake, Orange, Osceola, Palm Beach, Polk, Putnam, Seminole, and Volusia Counties.

When is the Testing Offered?

  • ACT dates are:
    • December 12, 2015
    • February 6, 2016
    • April 9, 2016
    • June 11, 2016

How to Submit Your Scores

Only the Math and Reading percentile scores from the FCAT need to be entered. If you do not have a copy of your child's current FCAT scores, please see their school guidance counselor. For those registering for the first time, a hard copy of your child's test scores should be mailed to the following address:

Belin-Blank Center
The University of Iowa
600 Blank Honors Center
Iowa City, IA 52242-0454

All registrations are handled online. Visit the Belin-Blank Center Academic Talent Search page to register. Simply choose a testing date and location from the drop-down menu on the registration form. If you have trouble registering, please email the HATS Program at


The EXPLORE for grades four through six and the ACT for grades seven through nine is $65.00. You may pay by credit/debit card when you register online. A limited amount of financial aid is available. Please contact the HATS Program at for details on financial aid.

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.