What is the Beep Test?

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The Beep Test is a multi-stage fitness test developed, by Professor Luc A. Leger from the University of Montreal in Canada in the 1970s, as a way to determine a person’s aerobic capacity (VO2max).

The beep test is also known by other names, such as:

  • Multi Stage Fitness Test
  • Bleep Test
  • Pacer Test
  • Shuttle Run Test
  • 20 Metre Shuttle Run

How does the test work?

The Beep Test requires participants to run back and forth between two points positioned 20 metres apart. The participants must maintain a running speed determined by a pre-set audio tone, that sounds like a “beep”, throughout the duration of the test. The required running speed or pace increases as the test progresses.

The Beep Test begins with a “triple beep” audio tone. This indicates to the participants that the test has started, at which point the participants will run to the opposing 20 metre end point and arrive there no later than when the tone sounds again. The tone sounding again indicates that the participants need to return to the opposite end point.

The speed participants need to maintain remains constant throughout the “level”. The duration of each level is approximately one minute. At the end of a level a triple beep will sound to indicate that a new level is commencing. At the commencement of a new level, the required running speed increases.

How is the beep test scored?

The Beep Test can be broken down into levels and shuttles. There are 21 levels in total. Each level contains shuttles. Shuttles can be measured by the number of times the participant must run back and forth between the endpoints within a given level.

The number of shuttles required per level increases as the beep test progresses. Given there is approximately one minute per level, and the required running distance remains constant (20 metres) throughout the beep test, the time between audible beeps reduces each level requiring the participant to run faster in order to maintain the required pace set by the audio tone.

The longer the participant stays in the test, the faster they must run, the further the cumulative distance they cover, and, the higher the level (score) they reach.

The objective of the beep test is for participants to remain in the test for as long as possible until they are unable to reach the end line on two consecutive beeps or they stop the test voluntarily, usually due to exhaustion!

Breakdown of levels, shuttles per level, distances and times.

LevelShuttlesSpeed (km/h)Shuttle Time (s)Total level time (s)Distance (m)Cumulative Distance (m)Cumulative Time (min and seconds)
178.09.0063.001401401:03
289.08.0064.001603002:07
389.57.5860.631604603:08
4910.07.2064.801806404:12
5910.56.8661.711808205:14
61011.06.5565.5020010206:20
71011.56.2662.6120012207:22
81112.06.0066.0022014408:28
91112.55.7663.3622016609:31
101113.05.5460.92220188010:32
111213.55.3364.00240212011:36
121214.05.1461.71240236012:38
131314.54.9764.55260262013:43
141315.04.8062.40260288014:45
151315.54.6560.39260314015:46
161416.04.5063.00280342016:49
171416.54.3661.09280370017:50
181517.04.2463.53300400018:54
191517.54.1161.71300430019:56
201618.04.0064.00320462021:00
211618.53.8962.27320494022:03

What do you need to conduct a beep test?

One of the advantages of the beep test as a fitness testing method is its ease of set up.

In order to conduct a beep test you’ll need:

  • The beep test audio file (free copy here)
  • A device to play the audio tone, taking into consideration the location and number of participants. For example, a personal audio player for one participant indoors or a loud speaker for many participants outdoors
  • Some type of markers to indicate the end points, such as traffic cones
  • A 20 metre tape measure for accuracy
  • A flat, safe, 20 metre area

The number of participants can be few or many, depending on the space available to conduct the Beep Test. The area or space can be indoor or outdoor, but should be flat and ideally on firm ground.

What are the beep test protocols (rules)?

The beep test protocols, or rules, may vary a little from one organisation to another, but generally speaking, they should be pretty similar across the board. Here are the generally accepted protocols for the beep test:

  • Participants line up at one end of the beep test course (all participants at the same end).
  • Participants must place at least one foot on, or beyond, the end line.
  • The audio tone will begin with a warning count down announcement, “The beep test will start in 5 seconds, ready”. This is followed, 5 seconds later, by a triple beep signalling the start of the test.
  • The participants must run the 20 metre distance (shuttle) to the end line and arrive in time with the next single beep, or, remain there until the next single beep sounds.
  • At least one foot must be placed on or beyond the end line.
  • After approximately one minute a triple beep will sound indicating the next level of the test is commencing.
  • The running speed required to maintain a level remains constant for the entire level. When the next level commences, the required running speed increases (see chart for details).
  • Each time a new level is reached the time between the beeps decreases, therefore the participant’s running speed will need to increase in order to maintain the required pace.
  • Participants continue back and forth over the 20 metre course until they do not reach the end line before the sound of a beep. Arriving at the end line after the beep sounds results in a warning.
  • Participants who receive a warning must complete that shuttle then increase their pace to arrive at the opposite end line before or in time with the next beep.
  • If a participant who has received a warning is not able to “catch up” and subsequently misses two consecutive beeps, the test is stopped for that participant.
  • If a participant who has received a warning is able to reach the opposing end line in time with, or before, the next beep sounds, their test is still active. There are no limits to the number of times this scenario can occur within the beep test.

What is Vo2max and how does it relate to the beep test?

VO2 max is the maximum rate of oxygen your body is able to use whilst you’re exercising. The greater your VO2 max the more oxygen your body can put to use.

More technically, your VO2 max measures how many millilitres of oxygen is being used by each kilogram of your body weight.

In simple terms, the greater your VO2 max the more capacity you have to function during aerobic activities like the beep test.

For most beep test participants, VO2 max measurements are not important, what is usually important to them is reaching the highest beep test score than can. However, for interest sake, the chart below shows the VO2 max estimated at the end of each level of the beep test.

Completed LevelDistance RunVO2max
114018.9
230022.1
346025.9
464029.6
582032.8
6102036.5
7122039.8
8144043.5
9166046.8
10188050.1
11212053.7
12236057.1
13262060.7
14288064.0
15314067.4
16342071.0
17370074.3
18400077.9
19430081.3
20462084.9
21494088.3

 

The formula used to convert your Beep Test score to your VO2max is as follows:
VO2Max = 3.46 * (L + S / (L * 0.4325 + 7.0048)) + 12.2

L = Level and S = Shuttle

Why do the beep test?

The beep test is broadly accepted as a reliable, standardised cardiovascular endurance test. For these reasons, many organisations use the test for their specific purpose. It might be used to assess candidates for certain career paths.  Sporting groups may use the beep test for training purposes or to assess players for certain grade or level qualifications.

The beep test is used by many fitness groups and trainers to assess a player or client’s cardiovascular fitness progress or Vo2max.

Casual or recreational athletes may use the beep test as a way to set themselves a simple and effective measurement method of their progress, particularly given its simplicity and lack of specialised equipment needed to run the test.

Here are some of the organisations that use the beep test to assess the fitness standard of applicants for carer recruitment purposes.

  • Western Australia Police
  • Australian Army
  • South Australia Police
  • Royal Australian Air Force
  • Royal Australian Navy
  • Metropolitan Fire Brigade
  • New South Wales Fire Brigades
  • New South Wales Police Force
  • Queensland Police Service
  • Victoria Police
  • British Army
  • Ontario Provincial Police
  • Royal Air Force
  • Royal Navy
  • Royal Marines
  • Royal New Zealand Navy
  • Scottish Police
  • English and Welsh Police
  • Canadian Forces

Here are some of the sports that use the beep test to assess the fitness standard of players or athletes.

  • AFL Football
  • NFL Football
  • Soccer
  • Basketball
  • Rugby
  • Hockey
  • Netball
  • Handball
  • Tennis

How to improve your beep test score

To improve your beep test score, your training program must address more than just increasing your cardiovascular endurance. A properly structured training program will address:

  1. Strategy
  2. Technique
  3. Fitness
  4. Mindset

Like any test, whether fitness related or not, you must have a clear strategy about how you’re going to approach your preparation and the test, the beep test is no different.

Make sure you understand the beep test rules thoroughly. You need to be very clear about the expectations of participants and what you can and can not do during the test.

Be as efficient and economical with your technique and energy consumption during the test as possible. Correct running technique, timing, foot placement and turning technique are all elements that will improve your performance

Once you’re clear about your strategy, and your technique is refined and efficient, you can focus on building specifically related fitness to help improve your performance.

A base of solid cardiovascular fitness should be your starting point. Longer, low to moderate intensity, runs will help build up your cardiovascular base. It will also give you the opportunity to focus on a smooth and efficient running rhythm, which is important during the beep test.

Short interval training sessions at a much higher intensity won’t be much fun, but, is required to really push your cardiovascular systems to higher levels.

Specific interval drills that address the movement patterns of the beep test are far more beneficial than general interval training drills. Touch and turn drills, tube sprints and beep test relays can be very effective. Of course, doing the beep test is also a good idea!

Another important element of your beep test training program is your mental approach to both your training and the test. Visualising a successful outcome from both your training and beep test practice is important to help you develop the right mindset. Visualise yourself reaching your goal beep test score. If you do it regularly you’re on your way to achieving your goal!

About the Author

Russell Kempster

Russell Kempster

Russ spent 12 years as a police officer with Victoria Police. The last four years of that time was spent at the Victoria Police Academy as an instructor, where he taught everything from fitness to firearms. He has trained police applicants, as well as recruits undergoing their initial training, experienced serving police officers and was even called on by Victoria Police to help train other would-be police academy instructors.

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