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BSA Swim Test

Pack your swimsuit on top.

Packing for summer camp often comes with the reminder to keep swimsuits easily accessible, as one of the initial activities upon arrival can be the BSA swim test. This assessment is designed to gauge swimming capabilities, ensuring that participants engage in aquatic activities suited to their skill levels.

Both scouts and adults are required to pass the BSA swim test to partake in the majority of water-based activities at camp. The camp’s buddy board system operates based on the results of this test, grouping individuals by their swimming proficiency to enhance safety and enjoyment during aquatic sessions.

Additionally, the BSA swim test plays a pivotal role in the advancement process, with many ranks and merits involving swimming or boating necessitating a passed swim test as a prerequisite.

It’s not uncommon for scouts to experience disappointment if they don’t achieve the Swimmer level initially. However, the emphasis is always on doing one’s best, and camp staff frequently offer opportunities for retaking the test later in the week. This persistence and encouragement often lead to many scouts successfully passing the swim test on subsequent attempts, highlighting the supportive and growth-oriented environment of scout camps.

BSA Swim Test Summary

The BSA Swim Test ensures that everyone participating in water activities can do so safely. It helps leaders know who can handle deep water and who should stay in shallow areas. Safety is the top priority, so taking this test seriously is key for all Scouts.


  • 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.

Tips for Taking the BSA Swim Test

Taking the BSA Swim Test at summer camp is an important step for participating in water activities. Here are some tips to help you prepare and succeed:

Practice Swimming Before Camp: Spend time swimming at a local pool or lake. Focus on the strokes mentioned in the Swimmer level of the test, especially your weakest strokes.

Build Your Stamina: The test requires swimming 100 yards without stopping. Practice swimming longer distances to build up your endurance.

Learn to Float: Being able to rest by floating is a part of the test. Practice floating on your back and staying relaxed in the water.

Stay Calm: Nervousness can affect your performance. Practice deep breathing and calming techniques before the test.

Follow Instructions: Listen carefully to the instructions given before the test. Knowing exactly what’s expected can help you complete each part successfully.

Warm Up: Before the test, do some light stretching. This can help prevent cramps and improve your performance.

Pace Yourself: Start at a comfortable pace that you can maintain. It’s not a race, so focus on completing the test without exhausting yourself too quickly.

Use Proper Technique: Using the correct stroke techniques can make swimming easier and more efficient. Consider taking swimming lessons if you’re not confident in your strokes.

Don’t Panic if You Struggle: If you find a part of the test challenging, try to stay calm. You can always take the test again, so see it as a learning experience.

Eat and Hydrate Well: Make sure you’re well-hydrated and have eaten a light meal a few hours before the test. Avoid heavy meals right before swimming.

Remember, the BSA Swim Test is about ensuring safety in water activities. With preparation and practice, you can improve your swimming skills and enjoy a safer, more enjoyable summer camp experience.

Safe Swim Defense

Safe Swim Defense

The BSA Swim Test is integral to the Safe Swim Defense program, ensuring that scouts are grouped by swimming ability for safety. Before any BSA swimming activity, an adult leader with Safe Swim Defense training oversees the implementation of the eight defense points, including qualified supervision, physical fitness verification, ensuring a safe swimming area, and having a lifeguard. Scouts are divided into nonswimmers, beginners, and swimmers, promoting the buddy system for constant companionship and safety. This organization and discipline create a secure environment for enjoyable and educational aquatic experiences.

BSA Aquatics Safety

The BSA Swim Test is a crucial part of ensuring safety in scout aquatic activities, aligning with the BSA’s focus on Aquatics Safety. For any aquatic event, Aquatics Supervision guidelines and the National Camp Accreditation Program (NCAP) standards are followed. Training programs like Safe Swim Defense and Safety Afloat, available online or through local council-approved instructors, support these efforts. Additionally, specialized training for lifeguards and aquatics instructors ensures that those supervising water activities are skilled and understand the risks. These measures, including the swim test, help ensure that scouts enjoy water activities safely under the guidance of qualified supervisors.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the purpose of the BSA Swim Test?

It is designed to assess swimming ability and ensure the safety of participants in water-based activities. It helps leaders identify the swimming skill levels of members for appropriate activity planning and supervision.

Who needs to take the BSA Swim Test?

All individuals participating in Boy Scouts of America water activities should take the BSA Swim Test. This includes Cub Scouts, Scouts BSA, Venturing participants, and adults, ensuring they engage in water activities suited to their swimming capabilities.

How often is the BSA Swim Test required?

The BSA Swim Test is required annually. Scouts should complete it each year to confirm their swimming abilities for participating in aquatic activities safely.

Can I practice for the BSA Swim Test?

Yes, practicing for the BSA Swim Test is encouraged. Focusing on the strokes required for the Swimmer level, as well as comfortable floating and resting techniques, can help improve your performance on the test.

What if I don’t pass the BSA Swim Test at the Swimmer level?

If you don’t pass the Swimmer level, you can be classified as a Beginner or Non-Swimmer, depending on how much of the test you complete. This classification will determine the water activities in which you can safely participate.

Where is the BSA Swim Test conducted?

The BSA Swim Test is usually conducted in a pool, lake, or similar body of water that meets the safety standards of the Boy Scouts of America.

Is there any special equipment required for the BSA Swim Test?

No special equipment is required for the BSA Swim Test beyond standard swimwear. Life jackets are not used during the test, as the goal is to assess each participant’s swimming ability without aid.

Should adults participate in the BSA Swim Test?

Yes, adults participating in Boy Scouts of America water activities are also required to take the BSA Swim Test. This helps ensure the safety of both adults and youths during aquatic activities.

What happens after I pass the BSA Swim Test?

After passing the BSA Swim Test, you’ll be classified according to your demonstrated ability level. This classification determines the types of water activities you can safely engage in during Scouting events.

Who evaluates the BSA Swim Test?

Individuals approved by the local council may evaluate the BSA Swim Test. These might be certified as Aquatics Instructors, BSA,BSA Lifeguards, or BSA Swimming & Water Rescuers, other lifeguards, or other swim instructors. These evaluators ensure that the test is conducted fairly and according to Boy Scouts of America standards.

Swim Strong

The BSA swim test stands as a basic element of safety and skill assessment in the Boy Scouts of America’s aquatic programs. By categorizing participants into Swimmer, Beginner, or Non-Swimmer levels, the test ensures that everyone enjoys water activities within their comfort and capability zones, resulting in an environment where safety is paramount. Beyond its role in safeguarding members, the swim test embodies the spirit of challenge and personal achievement, encouraging scouts and adults alike to improve their swimming skills and strive for advancement.

Moreover, the test’s significance extends to fostering resilience and determination among scouts. The opportunity to retake the test exemplifies the scouting principle of perseverance, teaching scouts that setbacks can be overcome with effort and persistence. Whether a scout aims to achieve the Swimmer level or simply improve upon their initial classification, the journey is ripe with lessons in patience, practice, and personal growth.

The BSA swim test is a measure of readiness for the challenges that lie ahead, and a testament to the scouting commitment to preparedness and safety. So, as scouts and leaders pack their swimsuits and head to camp, they do so knowing that the swim test awaits, ready to set the stage for a summer filled with learning, growth, and aquatic fun.


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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