BSA Swim Test

Pack your swimsuit on top.

Those are always the instructions when packing for summer camp, because one of the first things we will have to do when we get there is the swim test. The BSA swim test is used to determine ability level so that participants can swim in an area which is appropriate for them.

Scouts and adults must pass the BSA swim test to take part in most aquatics activities. At camp, there is always a buddy board where you check in according to your ability level. The swim test is also used as a requirement for some advancement. Almost any rank advancement involving swimming or boating will require a swim test.

Sometimes Scouts will be very disappointed in themselves if they don’t get the Swimmer level right away. I just tell them to take pride in doing the best they can. Camp staff will often let them try again later in the week and I have seen several Scouts pass on a second try.

BSA Swim Test Summary


  • Jump feet first into water over the head, level off, and begin swimming.
  • Swim 75 yards in a strong manner using one or more of the following strokes: side, breast, trudgen, or crawl. Swim 25 yards using an easy, resting backstroke.
  • The 100 yards must be completed without stops and must include at least one sharp turn.
  • Rest by floating…Long enough to demonstrate ability to rest when exhausted.


  • Jump feet first into water over the head, level off, and begin swimming.
  • Swim 25 feet on the surface.
  • Stop, turn, and resume swimming back to the starting place.


  • Did not complete either of the swimming tests.

Safe Swim Defense

The BSA Swim Test is part of Safe Swim Defense, a series of requirements for all BSA swimming activities.

BSA Aquatics Safety

Learn more details about the requirements for aquatics activities under the auspices of the BSA.

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22 responses to “BSA Swim Test”

  1. Nathan Avatar

    I did not pass my first try and here’s why: I jumped in at 12 feet came to the surface and began swimming. I swam 75 yards using the American crawl. I was more focused on just getting it done, which was a mistake.
    BIG TIP: Take your time.

    I swam 75 yards and began the resting back stroke for 25 yards. I was so exhausted I couldn’t stay afloat because I was breathing to hard. Just take your time, and all will be well.

    ( If you are afraid of jumping in deep waters, jump in a pool 4 feet, then 6 feet, then 8 feet, then 12 feet. I jumped in at 6 feet and came to the surface without any movement from my arms or legs. Then I got out and jumped in at 8 feet and noticed something. No matter how deep it is, it still takes the same amount of time coming out of the water. This seemed to help me, and I hope it helps you! Believe in yourself! )
    * I went to a scout camp and started instructional swim. In less than a week I was a swimmer. The very next year I got my swimming merit badge, life saving merit badge, and was certified life guard. I also did the mile swim. I did this all in a week of scour camp. It is possible and I believe in you all *

  2. Jonathan Avatar

    Good point Nathan. I am a Red Cross guard and have given many precertification tests for troops. Take it slow and switch strokes if you start getting tired. I am still trying to figure out what other resting backstrokes there are other than the elementary backstroke. I would not consider the back crawl to be a resting stroke.

    1. Dayna Avatar

      One other “back stroke” that I am aware of that might count is called “fin and flutter.” It’s pretty old-school. It’s essentially a back float with a light flutter kick and you “fin” your arms back and forth at your side. It wouldn’t get you anywhere fast, but it is resting.

  3. Mortryman Avatar

    is there any rule that says the scout can r cannot wear goggles while completingt he BSA swimmers Test?

    1. Scouter Mom Avatar
      Scouter Mom

      I’ve never seen it listed in any of the BSA documentation, although I have been at camps where the aquatics director required that it be done without goggles. If you need an official ruling, you should check with your local council.

      1. Scoutmaster John Avatar
        Scoutmaster John

        There is no requirement either way. When I conduct swim tests I allow scouts to wear goggles. I wear goggles when I take the test myself.

  4. Laura Avatar

    My son is a brand new scout and wants to go to camp but would be a non swimmer because he won’t want to jump in. Will he still be allowed to play in the shallow water? I don’t want him to feel excluded during free time when the other boys are playing.

    1. Scouter Mom Avatar
      Scouter Mom

      Every camp I’ve been to has a shallow non-swimmer area. You can check with the council where you are camping if you are not sure that is the case.

    2. Scoutmaster John Avatar
      Scoutmaster John

      Non-swimmer areas are established at most scout camps. There may be swimming areas at a camp where a non-swimmer or beginner area is not practical to designate.
      If at all possible I designate non-swimmer and beginner areas on troop outings.

  5. Christian Moran Avatar
    Christian Moran

    Hi, my name is Christian and i am a second class boy scout at the age of 14. If i am not able to complete the swimmer test but i complete the beginner test, will i be allowed to swim in water deeper than i can stand?

  6. Gwendolyn Flynn Avatar
    Gwendolyn Flynn

    I was wondering if you have to take the BSA swim test at camp, or can you take it at regular olympic size pool and do you need a Bsa lifeguard to take it can you use a regular lifeguard.

    1. Scouter Mom Avatar
      Scouter Mom

      We have done them under the supervision of a Red Cross certified lifeguard in a pool, but that was before a weekend activity, not for activities at a summer camp. If you are taking the test for a specific camp, you should check with them to find out if they will accept a certification done beforehand and what their requirements are.

  7. CHRISTINA Avatar

    If done at the pool does it have to be done in all deep if they do 4 laps but touch the end when the get to the shallow area. My son hates doing the swim test at camp and doesn’i mind bypassing water activities at camp but wants it to count for his rank up.. He did it with an aquatics director but it isn’t clear if this would count if he touched the end of the pool and pushed off in the shallow area..

    1. Scoutmaster John Avatar
      Scoutmaster John

      Touching the end of the pool and a light push off is permitted. Standing or pushing off the bottom is not. Holding on to the end is also not permitted.

  8. Suzanne Avatar

    Does anyone know what a “sharp turn” means in the requirement that the 100 yards “must include at least one sharp turn”?

    1. Scoutmaster John Avatar
      Scoutmaster John

      Most swim tests are conducted on a 25 or 50 yard course. The sharp turn is required to go back the other way. Unless someone has a 100 yard pool this should never be an issue.

  9. Patti Avatar

    Is a sharp turn the same as a flip turn

    1. Scouter Mom Avatar
      Scouter Mom

      I always do a two hand touch turn. I’d say talk to the person monitoring the test.

    2. James Coudeyras Avatar
      James Coudeyras

      No, you cannot use a flip-turn as a sharp turn, because you are not allowed to push off (although a slight push from touching is usually not an issue).

  10. Jen Avatar

    It was described to me that everyone takes the test. But if you have a non-swimmer, or a beginner swimmer, how does it make sense to make them jump in water deeper than they can handle, and make them swim a distance that they can’t yet swim, just to prove that they can’t? At what point will the people supervising realize that the child can’t swim and rescue them before they reach distress? My son has special needs and I’m not feeling comfortable with this. They said, “someone’s out there to hook them back in, he’ll be fine.” I’m not reassured.

    1. Jen W Avatar
      Jen W

      At our resident and twilight camps, the lifeguards are in the water with their rescue tubes directly in front of the Scout at the deep end. They encourage (and pretty much always persuade) the Scout to jump in- where they go in under their heads. They are immediately pulled up. This counts as an attempt, and usually breaks the ice- where the Scout trusts the aquatics staff and works on new skills in the non-swimmer area without issue. That rapport also increases the chances of the Scout completing the exercise where they jump into the deep end with a life jacket on- to mimic falling out of a boat. It teaches them to trust their equipment and themselves.

  11. Jennifer Avatar

    Is there a modified swim test for special needs kids?

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