How to Do Well on the PACER Test

boys running on trail

The Progressive Aerobic Cardiovascular Endurance Run test is an assessment that helps measure aerobic fitness. The test is typically given to children, from elementary-school to high-school age, but adults in reasonable aerobic condition can also take the test -- consult your physician if you have any doubts about your fitness. Participants typically run between lines set 20 meters apart, although a 15-meter distance is more appropriate for students of second- and third-grade age. The more times you can run back and forth between the lines, the better you’ll score.

Learn and Practice the Test

To perform the PACER test, begin at one line and, at the sound of a beep, run to the other line to complete one lap. You must reach the opposite line before the next beep sounds. The intervals between beeps become shorter as the test progresses to higher levels. For example, you must run between the lines seven times in the first minute, but eight times in the second. After 12 minutes you must run 13 laps per minute. The PACER test ends when a participant twice fails to reach the opposite line before the next beep sounds. The failures do not have to be consecutive. Practice the test by either downloading an app with the timing pre-programmed, or have a partner signal the times to you. Practice can help you perform at your best on testing day.

Pace Yourself

During the PACER test, run at the slowest possible pace that allows you to complete the 20-meter distance before the next beep. Remember that the test measures endurance, not speed, so there’s no reason to sprint from one line to the next at the low levels. Instead, pace yourself to save energy for subsequent levels when you’ll have to run harder.

Increase Your Aerobic Fitness

Because the PACER test assesses aerobic fitness -- primarily among children -- improving your fitness allows you to perform better during the test. Activities that can help boost aerobic fitness include brisk walking, jogging, running, bike riding and swimming. Other options include aerobic exercise machines, such as elliptical trainers. For younger children, any activity that helps keep them in motion is beneficial, such as playing active games for about an hour each day. Games can range from organized sports such as soccer to activities like games of tag.

Improve Stopping and Starting Technique

As the PACER test progresses, the ability to stop quickly and then sprint in the opposite direction can help you improve your score. One way to practice stopping and starting, while improving aerobic endurance at the same time, is to do a variation of the basketball suicide drill. To perform the drill on a basketball court, begin at the baseline, run to the near free-throw line, stop quickly and then run back to the baseline. Repeat the drill three more times, but run to the half-court line on the second repetition, the far free-throw line on the third and the far baseline on the fourth. Alternatively, mark four lines on a field or a floor with cones.