Do you Have a Testing Strategy?

12 Jun

I think sometimes as adult skaters we tend to think of testing as totally different animals from any other tests we’ve taken in life. Probably because this is physical and more importantly the stress or failure of the test might ruin the fun or the joy we have in skating. Even though I hate testing (yes, I really, really do) I see it as a culmination of all my hard work. I also know that if I do not have some type of aim that I will not progress as quickly and more importantly,  I will not be able to compete at the level I want.

Case in point, I took my bronze moves and free test in 2008. While I worked towards my silver test here and there, it wasn’t necessarily a concentrated aim. I’m not saying, I didn’t progress but it was definitely at a much slower rate then over the last 8 months or so when I’ve been solely concentrating on testing. It does push you in a specific direction which makes you focus more than ever before and in turn makes you so much better than you were.

As the time winds down though and I begin to piece all of my silver moves together,  I start to get into what I call test mode. This involves a hefty helping of panic and hyperventilation (with or without a bag) and an equally large dose of repetitive skating and talking to myself while I run through the moves. It’s not pretty, at first. Everything falls apart and then, gradually I start to calm down and I begin to strategically practice for that big test day. For anyone new to skating, it’s no different for any test or competition, skating or otherwise. I practice (a physical form of study) for my skating tests as I did for my masters exam in grad school.

What I have found works best is repetition. I’ve only taken 4 tests and competed a half a dozen times but each time I’ve achieved good results by just repetitively working through the moves. I’m not saying you won’t fail but if you practice the same way every time, your body will know what to do even when you are under pressure and incredibly nervous trying to skate on shaking legs. Repetition, repetition, repetition. That’s your friend.

A practice session 1-2 months before testing for me looks something like this:

Warm up 6 minutes:

This should be as soon as you get on the ice and whatever your coach has you do to warm up those moves or freestyle elements. It should be the same every time no matter what type of session it is. I give myself 6 minutes because that is typically what they give you in a test or competition to warm up. For adults, I think this is the hardest part. We like to take our time and feel the ice (our broken bodies ; ) You must be able to become loose and feel all those edges in that small amount of time. This part normally takes me about 2 weeks to get used to but if you are able to go right into your moves from this warm up you will be so much better off on the test.


Run Through Your Moves in the Order that You Will be Testing 

Start running thought everything according to the order that you will be performing them in front of the judges (see the usfsa guide book or watch the test videos on youtube). The first two weeks, I will probably make a mistake here and there and that’s ok, continue on to the next move. Eventually, I will work everything in order, one after another without deviation or issues.


Once You’ve done the Run Through of your Moves In the Beginning of a Session, Rework the Trouble Areas. 

If I am having trouble on a move or element I will rework it multiple times before trying to run through all the moves again.Eventually you want to become so consistent that you are only tweaking small things. At the end of the session I will run through all the moves one more time on tired legs.


In the Last two weeks before the Test, Practice in a Dress and Without Gloves or KneePads

If you are allowed gloves and knee pads, then ok 😉

I have an unholy obsession about having gloves on and so it takes about 2 weeks to ween myself off of them. Seriously, it’s a mental thing but I tried to break the habit beforehand. God forbid I go off my gloves cold turkey test day! Not a good scene.

This also goes for knee pads. (unless you can somehow cover them very well) Or maybe you’ve taken to wearing black pants with skating skirts, I’ve seen that on youtube for a lot of the Russian skaters. When I was younger I hardly ever wore knee pads. It’s not till this year in fact, that I started wearing them all the time under my skating pants. This is because I now treasure my knees and what little cartilage I have left ; )  Now, I’m dreading having to test without them. Also, skating in a dress never used to be that big of an issue but it is now since I always wear pants (to hide the knee pads people!) so this will be another adjustment. An adjustment that needs to be adjusted way before test day!


Finally, Make Sure You Are Running Through the Moves with Finished Ending and Beginnings. 

I call this presenting. I probably look like an insane person but I try to smile before starting any move and I try to really present to my imaginary crowd of people. Go ahead and laugh, those imaginary judges are super impressed. At least in my head they are!

I always try to have a clear beginning and ending. I think most coaches will show you how the move should be presented and finished. I like to finish with a T stop and I like to take my time (or I try to take my time) finishing the moves since that is what the judges will see last. This really helps cement the moves in your mind and I think it makes things look so much better. Also, keeping your head up, smiling and having nice posture just makes people watching you feel more at ease.


In the last week before the test I run through my moves at least 4 times a session from start to finish. 

If you can get through it four times with only very minor (no foot down!) tweaks then you are probably good to go and muscle memory will take over through the test.

Take the TEST!


My coach says that it takes about 200 times in order to fully do a move or element well. Or at least to really be proficient at it. A woman at the rink says she started writing down every time she did a move until test day. She said it really helped her pass her tests. It took her a month and half before she was able to do every move 200 times for her test and she said on test day she was ready!

Whether you write it down or not… repetition, repetition, repetition. If you practice it enough, it will happen. Oh. And BREATHE. and of course, don’t forget to SMILE!

Till Next time!






One Response to “Do you Have a Testing Strategy?”

  1. Jules at 5:31 am #

    Thanks for this! This is a really good guide. My coach tells me to do the 6-minute warm up as well (test and competitions) for the same reasons you’ve outlined. And funny about the gloves – it’s a real mental switch to skate without them!

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