Belin-Blank Exceptional Student Talent Search (BESTS)

What is BESTS?

The Belin-Blank Center at the University of Iowa conducts an annual academic talent search using an above-level assessment for eligible students in grades 4-9. The academic talent search is offered to students who have scored at or above the 95th percentile in any subject area on a standardized test, such as Florida Standards Assessment (FSA). Identified students take an above-level assessment to better determine their specific academic strengths.

What tests are administered?

Above-level testing is an educational procedure in which a test developed for older students is administered to younger students. In this case, students in grades 4-6 are invited to take the 8th grade-level I-Excel, and students in grades 7-9 are invited to take the 12th grade-level ACT®.

Can HATS students participate?

Through a longtime collaboration with the Belin-Blank Center, HATS offers above-level testing for high-ability 4th–9th grade students on the Stetson University campus. If your 4th–9th-grade student has scored at the 95th percentile or higher on any section of a nationally standardized test (such as the Iowa Assessments, Terra Nova, Stanford Achievement Tests, or the Florida Standards Assessments), he or she qualifies to take an above-level test.

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 pursuing more challenging classes in a particular subject. Think of it this way: a grade-level test tells us what they know; an above-level test tells us what else they know.

Further, the HATS Program at Stetson University has established the Belin-Blank/HATS Endowment to support high achieving Florida students who participate in BESTS and/or the HATS Program. BESTS and/or HATS participants will receive an annual $2,500 scholarship ($10,000 total) should they apply to and be accepted at Stetson University as part of our Stetson Young Scholars initiative.

What are the tests like?

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).

The ACT® is a standardized multiple-choice test designed for 12th-grade students that includes English, Math, Reading, Science, and an option for Writing. Total testing time is 2 hours and 55 minutes, or 3 hours and 35 minutes if students take the ACT® Plus Writing (including breaks).

How can students register?

Registration is completed online. Testing costs for the I-Excel is $65.00. Testing costs for the ACT is $70.00. 

I-Excel testing for students in fourth to sixth grade will be held November 3, 2018, on the DeLand campus of Stetson University. Registration for the I-Excel will remain open until October 22, 2018. 

ACT testing for students in seventh to ninth grade will be held in the 2019 spring semester on February 9, April 13 and June 8.

What happens on the day of the test?

The test will be held on Saturday morning. 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.

What happens 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.

Can BESTS be offered in other school districts?

If you would like to inquire about offering BESTS in your district, please contact Lynn Albinson, HATS Program Director, at or 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.