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Beep Test FAQ

> for more information, see the Beep Test Home

Here are some common questions and answers about the beep test. If you have your own questions which are not answered on this or other beep test pages, please contact me. See also the general fitness testing FAQ.

Where can I purchase a beep test tape/cd?

There are several options, from buying the cd, downloading an mp3, and using a beep test software on your computer. For more details, see Purchasing the Beep Test

bleep or beep test diagramThe test I have is called something else, is it still the same?

The test which involves running up and down between cones 20m apart has been variously described as the beep or bleep test, multi-stage fitness test or MSFT/MST, 20 meter shuttle run test, yo-yo endurance test, PACER, Léger Test and Aero test. In most cases the tests are essentially the same, though if you are unsure this should be checked before you compare results to other data or use specific calculations based on one of these tests. If you are only concerned about comparing results among your group and the changes over time, small differences in the test will not be important. See also the article about test variations, and the poll: What do you call the (bleep) test?

Should I use a tape or cd version?

The cd (or mp3 or other digital format) is the preferred format as the tape is prone to stretching and deteriorate over time, and audiotape players can also vary in the playback speed. It may be hard to find a tape version nowadays anyway.

How do I calibrate the tape?

If you have the audio cassette tape version of the test, there are instructions at the beginning of the tape for calibrating. For further details, see more about the Tape Version. The cd or mp3 version will not need calibrating, though the tape measure you are using to measure out the 20m may need checking from time to time.

Should I warm up before the test?

Although the test starts off slowly, beginning at just over walking pace and gradually increasing in pace, you should still do some warm up prior to the test to stretch out and warm up the muscles. Nothing too hard that will cause fatigue. Often the beep test is performed as part of a larger testing battery, and usually as the final test. If so, warm up would definitely been performed for the sprint or explosive tests, and the tests themselves would serve to warm you up. See more on Warming Up for Testing.

What is the formula for the beep test calculator?

A table with the shuttle run test scores and the corresponding predicted VO2max score is provided with the test CD or tape (well my copy was anyway). The calculator on this site is from a formula derived from this table. Due to each level of the test having variable number of shuttles, it is a complex formula. If you understand javascript, you may be able to look at the code of the calculator page and work it out.

Can I download a mp3 or wav file of the beep test?

You may come across free or cheap mp3 files of the beep test online. Use and interpret the results from such tests with caution. The timings may not be correct. Many of the listing of the beep test on eBay is for an audio file download too. If you want to make sure you have the correct version, and also would like the instructions and other information that comes with it, you can buy the CD or tape yourself - see Purchasing the Beep Test.

Do I begin running after the man has said 'level ... ' or do I start at sound of the beep?

The test starts at the sound of the beep, as does each new shuttle and level. The verbal announcement of the level and stage numbers is just to let you know what each of the beeps was indicating.

Is it OK running ahead of the beeps in the early stages?

Some athletes, particularly those lacking in speed, may find it beneficial to get a little ahead of the recording early on in the test, to put a little distance 'in the bank' for later when the pace gets faster. It may not seem like a big deal to let the athlete get ahead of the tape early on, but it changes the test procedure and may mean that the results are not valid. It is hard to control such actions, so next time the test is performed it may not be done the same way, resulting in poor reliability of the test too. So I would not let an athlete get ahead of the recording (just as you don't let them get behind).

Do you count the two consecutive shuttles that you miss, just before you drop out?

If someone fails to reach the line on say level 4.4 and on 4.5, and therefore drops out; is the score then 4.3 or 4.5? i.e. does the design of the test allow for the two missed targets? The way I interpret the test description is that the number of successfully completed shuttles are counted, so the missed ones are not. However, if you miss one then catch up on the next, they are all counted. It is sometimes hard to count it this way, and depending on who is adjudicating, you may be given a score of either 4.3 or 4.5.

Do you have to get over the line with both feet or is one foot enough?

Placing only one foot over the line is within the rules, and is actually recommended, as you want to minimize the distance run for each shuttle. By making both feet go over the line, and the body too, you will be covering more distance each time.

I stopped as soon as it said level 9/1. Does this mean I got 9/1, 9/0 or 8/11?

This is a good question, as this issue confuses a lot of people. The words on the cd are "start level 9-1", so you have only just 'completed' 8-11, but you will find many people report it as 9-1. The difference is not really anything significant to worry about, just record it the same way each time so that you can accurately monitor improvements in your score.

What is a good score?

What is considered a good score not only depends on your age and sex, but also on which sport you are involved in. In a sport that aerobic fitness is not important, getting a low score could be just as good as getting a high score if you sport is distance running or some other sport in which aerobic fitness is very important. There is a rating table on the beep test description page. To get an idea of what result you should be aiming for, and results of athletes in this test, see the page about Athlete Beep Test Scores and the list of Beep test minimum standards.

I saw some really high scores - can these be from another version?

There are sometimes small variations in the tests used around the world, but essentially they are the same. What differs is how strict the testers are in enforcing the rules about reaching the lines in time, though that would not account for a large difference in scores. It is also important to consider that the 20m distance may not be accurate sometimes. There is a 15m version of the test that is sometimes used, but that is usually only in the US in some school testing situations. Another possibility is that the test performed was a yo-yo test, which has similarities to the beep test and is sometimes incorrectly called that.

My son/daughter scored x on the beep test - what does that mean?

The first thing to consider is the variation of the test that was conducted. While most of the tests that are around will score in a similar range, some such as a 15m test will not (see test variations). If you cannot get a good norm table for the version of the test that was used, a good way to get an idea of how someone performed is to compare to others. If your son/daughter was the best of their school or sporting team group, that is a very good indication of their potential. See also What is a good score?

Is my child too young to be doing a beep test?

The aerobic energy system of those pre-puberty is not well developed, so performing a beep test (or any other aerobic fitness test) may not be appropriate as limited information can be gained from the test. Having said that, I don't think that it is detrimental to the health for someone that young to perform the test. I would be more concerned about the safety of an unhealthy or elderly adult performing the test, who may not be used to maximal exertion exercise. See more on testing children.

Can I convert my result from the 15 meter test to the 20 meter test?

Some groups perform the 15m test rather than the commonly used 20m version (see more about Beep Test Variations). I do not know of any magic formula to convert the results of one to the other. A rough conversion could be done by calculating the distance traveled in one test (e.g. 20 meters x the total number of shuttles), then see what level would have been achieved if the same distance was covered in the other version of the test. FitnessGram have provided a PACER conversion chart to convert scores on the 15m PACER to a 20m score to enter in the FitnessGram software.

How do I improve my beep test score?

The beep test is a physical fitness test of your aerobic fitness. There are three main areas that can be addressed to maximize your beep test score: mental toughness, pacing strategies and physical conditioning. These are discussed on the maximizing your beep test score page. To significantly improve your beep test score you need to do specific and general aerobic type fitness training. The beep test training page has some example training programs. You should also check out the aerobic fitness page. There is also a Beep Test Training Guide available that can guide you to improve your score.

How often should I do the beep test?

The beep test is primarily a test of aerobic endurance fitness, and testing at the most once a month is all that is recommended. In any less time than this it is difficult to see significant changes in fitness. Some people use the test as practice or training, and for this purpose there is no problem performing the test more regularly.

What are the alternatives to the beep test?

The beep test is a test of the aerobic (or cardiovascular endurance) fitness component. There are many other tests that will also measure your aerobic fitness - see my complete list. The beep test is an example of a maximal aerobic test. Other commonly used maximal aerobic tests include the VO2max, Bruce treadmill test and the 12 minutes run. Alternative submaximal tests include such tests as the step test and Astrand cycle test. Things to consider when choosing an appropriate test are the fitness level of the subjects, size of the group, availability of equipment, space required and costs involved. There are also test related factors such as the reliability and validity of the test, and availability of norms.

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