Ian has been involved in the figure skating world for almost a decade as a parent to a USFSA gold medalist and as a volunteer at events.
A Skater's First Test Session
Your child has gone through all the basic skills courses, they've been taking lessons with a private coach, and now comes an important milestone: the first moves in the field test.
Before going any further, make sure your skater is a member of US Figure Skating. This is required before signing up for a test.
You can find more details about joining up at the USFSA website. Most skaters sign up through their local club, but it's also possible to sign up as an individual member.
How to Find a Test Session
Your local rink is the first place to start. Most rinks with a skating program will host several test sessions throughout the year. They may advertise them on the website, or email a note to the rink’s mailing list. Apart from that (and you’ll hear this next piece of advice a lot on this website), the best way to find out about upcoming test sessions (or just about anything else) is by talking to the coaches at your rink. You aren’t restricted to testing at your rink; other nearby facilities are also likely to host test sessions if your home rink’s calendar doesn’t have one coming up on a convenient date. Again, check their websites or call the office.
Can a Skater Test at Any Session?
Yes! As long as their test is being offered, a skater can test at any rink. The first few moves tests are always offered at test sessions as any attending judge can be assigned.
Test sessions will usually be restricted based on which judges are going to be there. The good news is that the restrictions will be on the higher level moves tests; the beginning test levels, like pre-preliminary and preliminary, are usually wide open. Check with the skating school director or head coach to make sure. Remember also that if your skater already tested and was given a retry, they have to wait 27 days before they can take that particular test again.
If you choose to test at another rink, the test chair at that rink will need a "letter of good standing" from your rink's test chair. This is simply a very brief note that confirms your skater is a member of the US Figure Skating Association and she is in good standing to test.
Finally, you should expect to pay a non-member fee to test at another rink. This is usually between $25 and $35.
How Much Does A Test Cost?
Pre-Preliminary Test Fee
(If testing at another rink) Non-member fee
(Some rinks) USFS test fee *
How to Sign Up
The rink where you’re testing will have a form you need to fill out. Usually it’s a paper form, but some rinks have online sign-up. The forms usually list every possible type of test—moves, dance, freestyle, and so on. Make sure you check off the appropriate test!
Keep in mind that test sessions are limited in size, and especially over summer they can fill up quickly. If you're registering for a test session at a popular rink, aim to get in early to avoid disappointment.
- Usually held on a weekday
- Skaters need to be there as early as an hour ahead of their scheduled time
Some rinks have test sessions on the weekends, but it’s probably more common to be testing during a weekday. That’s one of the reasons why sessions can get filled up so quickly during summer; skaters need to take at least a half day off from classes if they’re testing during the school year. When the session comes out, your skater will be given a specific time slot. However, they have to be ready to test as early as an hour ahead of their listed time. Test sessions can run ahead of schedule, or an earlier skater might withdraw at the last minute. Get to the rink with plenty of time to spare (and make sure to allow time to get those skates on without rushing).
What Else Do I Need?
- Coach: You’ll need to get your skater’s coach to sign off. The coach also has to be present at the test session.
- Fees: The test fees vary by test. Expect to pay between $15 and $35 for pre-preliminary. If your skater is testing at a different rink, there’ll also be non-member fees—expect to pay another $25-$35. Finally, your skater’s coach needs to be there, so make sure you know how much they’ll charge.
- Dress: This is a whole topic in itself, and we’ll cover this in another article. But don’t get caught out by this: skaters wear special outfits for testing. Practice attire or warmup gear won’t cut it.
While your skater should have a proper dress to test in, a lot of times the judges will tell them it's okay to wear a jacket while testing, especially if it's a particularly cold rink.
The Day of the Test
There’s a lot going on at the rink on a test session day, and it can be a little overwhelming walking in and being surrounded by a lot of skaters and parents and coaches all moving in their own direction. Test sessions frequently take place on a school day, so everyone is hurrying to get back to school and not have to miss too much. Knowing what to expect can really help.
Find out if the session is running to schedule
You should already know your skater’s assigned time. Sessions can be running behind or (occasionally) ahead of schedule, so when you arrive you should ask someone how the session is going. If your skater is in the first session of the day, then it’s probably safe to assume that time won’t change too much! Otherwise, find out if they’re 20 minutes behind or 10 minutes ahead of schedule.
Look at which group comes BEFORE your skater’s group
As you are sitting and waiting, keep track of which group is currently on the ice. Your skater might be warming up on another ice surface, or talking with friends, or reading a book. When your skater’s group is next to go, make sure you know where they are. The test session director or their coach will be coming up to find them shortly.
Watching (or not)
As a spectator, you won’t be at the rink side; instead, you’ll have to watch from the spectator lounge or other nearby area. This is one of the hardest parts; it’s all down to your skater and their coach now. You probably have a good idea of what your skater finds helpful and what is a stressor for them. I see three types of test takers at the rink:
- The skater who wants to look up and see their family at the window. They find it reassuring.
- The skater who DOESN’T want to see their family at the window. They’re already anxious enough and feeling someone is watching them will make them even more nervous.
- The skater who doesn’t even notice who’s watching (this is my skater). They like knowing that you’re there, but once they get on the ice the focus is solely on what they have to do for the test and they will never, ever look up at you.
As a supportive family member (or friend), you’ll figure out what works best for your skater.
There's a lot happening on test day, and knowing what to expect can help make it go a lot more smoothly for everyone. Look for an upcoming article where I'll step you through exactly what to expect during the actual test session.