Jul 5, 2012

Do I have to test, aGAIN?

I never skated as a child.  In highschool, we used to "skate" on the cornfield across the street from our house, but this was less skating than it was picking your way between the corn stalks.

I skated in college through about Freestyle 3 or 4 (we didn't call it that then but I was working on loops and backspins, so I guess that's what it was).

And then I didn't skate for 17 years.

As have many of the people who write to me about returning to skating, I got back most of the old skills, and then some. (I'll never try a loop again. Lost my nerve.) When I started skating again I had weird deficits-- back crossovers were as strong as ever, but I couldn't do the forward ones to save my life. Those I had to relearn.

When I skated as a young woman, I never knew about USFSA (as it was then), there literally was no ISI, and I had no clue about tests whatsoever, because no one ever mentioned them to us. We just moved from skill to skill. So I started testing from scratch, as an adult.

Many skaters, however, come back to skating having racked up the tests, and want to know if those tests still "count."

Short answer-- yes.  It's like your college degree. Doesn't matter if you got a degree in art and are now a salesperson. You still get to brag about the art degree. But first you have to prove you have the credential.

If you have an old ISI test, and can prove it (i.e. you have the paperwork), you're good to go at that level. However, until a few years ago when they went digital, ISI was farily notorious for its poor record-keeping, and it was hard to get proof of older credentials. I know several people who had to retest because ISI did not have their records (or the rink had never processed it).

If you want to compete now at a lower level than what you tested as a child or teen, you're in luck with ISI. Adult skaters over 21 years old can fill out an "Affidavit for Test Level" review and once approved, their test level can be lowered for what they can now accomplish.  The skater or coach can request the form from the ISI office.

For USFS you always compete at your tested level, but they are Kind To Adults. There are several permutations that equal various levels of testing, and they divide by age where they have enough enrollment, as well as doing mixed levels. USFS is also less stringent on required elements than ISI for many events. See this post to learn more about adult competition levels.

Are you a returning adult skater? How close to your childhood level are you skating?


  1. This sounds like one of my students, except mine took 35 years off between! With respect to ISI, you can pick up where you left off, including testing open freestyle levels. With open freestyle, you'd have to actually test through to the appropriate level, though you can certainly "sandbag" and skate down a level as you get up to the appropriate level just to get used to competing.

    With USFS, you have to start at the beginning and do both MIF and Free Skate tests.

    1. This is not true- with USFS you don't have to start over again at the beginning if you are a returning skater. Depending on when you tested there are equivalencies for old tests. They are outlined clearly in the rulebook.

      Also a note to Xan's comment "with USFS you always compete at your tested level" - this isn't always true. Non-qualifying competitions, you can skate up one level.

    2. Thanks for the clarification on non-qualifying levels--the little exceptions to all the rules would make a grown man cry. As far as "starting at the beginning" Jessim is right--your test level is your test level in USFS. However, required elements are much more flexible in USFS than in ISI free skate programs, (oddly).

  2. I take it this is a reader question, since I don't think Xan skated as a child and I'm pretty sure she knows the answers.

    ISI has a process through which you can have your test level reduced, but I don't know the details.

    It does not matter if you are starting at a low level because at most clubs you can take as many tests as you want in a day. Of course you have to pay the fee for each one.

    1. Wow I commented from the past!

  3. I returned to figure skating as an adult after 16 years off. Except for the pesky Lutz, which I remember being effortless and is now awkward at best, I think that after two years of consistent skating I am now better than I was as a child. I am attempting spin variations, turns, and field moves that I never tried as a child, and I'm even working on Axel exercises. And I've passed three tests in the new Skate Canada "Skills" category. I have found skating can be a very rewarding activity as an adult!

  4. I can echo physics girl, I was off for almost ten years. I found that when I came back everything was pretty much still there...even the bad habits. I find the level of coaching skill has gone up incredibly since I was a child and the new generation of coaches are better trained to problem solve when you have a problematic skill. I have gone way beyond what I ever thought possible as an adult skater thanks to my coaching team.