PFT Frequently Asked Questions and AnswersOften-asked Physical Fitness Test questions and their answers.
The FITNESSGRAM and Healthy Fitness Zone (HFZ) are registered trademarks of The Cooper Institute.
Why does California have a Physical Fitness Test (PFT)?
By law (California Education Code Section 60800), all public local educational agencies in California are required to administer the Physical Fitness Test (PFT) annually to all students in grades five, seven, and nine. The PFT provides information that can be used by (1) students to assess levels of health-related fitness and to plan personal fitness programs; (2) teachers to design the curriculum for physical education programs; (3) parents and guardians to understand their child’s fitness levels; and (4) by teachers, parents, and guardians to monitor changes in the student's fitness levels.
What is the Physical Fitness Test (PFT)
The State Board of Education designated the FITNESSGRAM as the PFT for students in California public schools. The FITNESSGRAM is a comprehensive, health-related physical fitness battery developed by The Cooper Institute. The primary goal of the FITNESSGRAM is to assist students in establishing lifetime habits of regular physical activity.
What fitness areas are tested? What test options are available for each fitness area?
The FITNESSGRAM is composed of the following five fitness areas, with multiple test options provided for most areas.
- 20-Meter PACER (Progressive Aerobic Cardiovascular Endurance Run)
- One-Mile Run
- One-Mile Walk
Abdominal Strength and Endurance
Trunk Extensor Strength and Flexibility
- Trunk Lift
Upper Body Strength and Endurance
- Modified Pull-Up
- Flexed-Arm Hang
- Back-Saver Sit and Reach
- Shoulder Stretch
What are the criteria for each fitness area?
The FITNESSGRAM uses objective criteria to evaluate performance for each fitness area (e.g., aerobic capacity, abdominal strength and endurance). The Cooper Institute established these criteria using current research and expert opinions. These criteria represent a level of fitness that offers some protection against the diseases associated with physical inactivity. You can find additional information about the criteria and how they were established in the FITNESSGRAM Reference Guide available on The Cooper Institute web page.
Who takes the Physical Fitness Test (PFT)?
All California public school students in grades five, seven, and nine are required to take the PFT, whether or not they are enrolled in a physical education class or participate in a block schedule. These students include those enrolled in elementary, high, and unified school districts, county offices of education, and charter schools. Students in alternate programs, including, but not limited to, continuation schools, independent study, community day schools, and county community schools must also take the PFT. Students who are physically unable to participate in the entire PFT should complete as many of the tests as possible.
When is the Physical Fitness Test (PFT) given?
The designated testing window for administering the PFT to students in grades five, seven, and nine is February 1 through May 31 (California EC Section 60800). The test may not be administered outside of this window. (Note: The PFT window does not apply to students who may be given the FITNESSGRAM in grades ten or higher to determine exemption eligibility.) Local educational agencies seeking flexibility in the statutory time requirements due to block scheduling (e.g., 400 minutes of physical education every 10 school days) may be permitted to administer the PFT outside of this window after obtaining a waiver from the State Board of Education (SBE). Information on this waiver policy is available on the California Department of Education Waivers web page.
Who can administer the Physical Fitness Test (PFT)?
The PFT shall be administered and scored by employees of the LEA (California Code of Regulations, Title 5, Section 1043). For purposes of the PFT, students may not administer the tests to each other, and parents or guardians may not administer or help with the administration of the PFT to students.
How can schools best prepare students for the Physical Fitness Test (PFT)?
Students should be instructed in basic concepts of fitness development and maintenance in the required physical education program. (The required physical education program consists of 200 minutes every 10 school days for grades one through six, and 400 minutes every 10 school days for students in grades seven through twelve [California Education Code sections 51210 and 51222].) Physical fitness instruction should include explanations of each fitness area and its relationship to good health as well as specific physical activities that improve or maintain each of the components of health-related fitness. Further, teachers should provide students opportunities to participate in vigorous physical activity and exercise throughout the school day and in physical education classes. Because conditioning prior to testing is important to the safe administration of the PFT, adequate time should also be allowed for students to learn about how each fitness-area test is administered and to engage in practice sessions.
Can students complete more than one test option for each fitness area?
Multiple test options are provided for most fitness areas so that all students, including those with disabilities, have the maximum opportunity to participate in the tests. The teacher or the student may select the test to be counted for each fitness area. Only one test for each fitness area should be reported. It is not necessary for all students within a school or all schools within a local educational agency to select or use the same test option for a fitness area.
Are make-ups allowed for students who are absent on a particular day of testing?
Yes. Schools should provide make-up opportunities for students who are absent on testing days; however, all make-ups need to take place within the Physical Fitness Test (PFT) administration window (California Code of Regulations, Title 5, Section 1043).
Are students who repeat a grade required to re-take the Physical Fitness Test (PFT)?
Yes. Students repeating grade five, seven, or nine, are required to re-take the PFT.
Can students be excused from the Physical Fitness Test (PFT)?
The general opt-out provision of California Education Code Section 60615 does not apply to the PFT. There are a limited number of allowable reasons for not participating in parts or all of the PFT (e.g., medical excuse, student with disabilities); therefore, most students cannot be excused from the PFT.
May the PFT be administered virtually?
There are no provisions within the law, or the PFT Test Administration Manual, that allows LEAs to administer the PFT virtually. Therefore, it must be completed by the student in person.
What is done to assist students with disabilities on the Physical Fitness Test (PFT)?
Certain variations or accommodations may be provided for students with disabilities who need special assistance on the PFT. Matrix 1. Matrix of Test Variations, Accommodations, and Modifications for Administration of California Statewide Assessments provides a list of the types of variations and accommodations that are available for the PFT. This matrix is available on the California Department of Education Student Testing web page. Teachers of students needing accommodations or modifications for the PFT, which are not listed on this matrix, should contact the Physical Fitness Testing Office by phone at 916-445-2766 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Any accommodations or modifications should be specified in the student’s individualized education program (IEP) or Section 504 plan.
What is the process for making decisions about accommodations for students with disabilities?
The individualized education program (IEP) or Section 504 plan team is responsible for deciding how students with disabilities will participate in the PFT. Students with disabilities should be given as much of the Physical Fitness Test (PFT) as conditions permit, which means they may end up being partially tested.
Does a student need to disclose their gender to the test administrator?
For the purpose of the 2021-22 PFT Administration, gender, height, weight, and age are not to be collected.
Is the California Department of Education (CDE) collecting any PFT data for the 2021-22 Administration?
Only participation percentages for each component, by grade shall be submitted to the School Accountability Report Card (SARC).
Materials and Training
Where can the test administration materials be ordered?
FITNESSGRAM materials are not available from the California Department of Education. The materials needed for the FITNESSGRAM administration may be ordered from US Games by phone at 1-800-327-0484.
What training should local educational agencies (LEAs) provide for staff to administer the Physical Fitness Test (PFT)?
To better understand the requirements of the FITNESSGRAM and to ensure the integrity of the PFT data, LEA and school PFT coordinators should ensure that all personnel involved with the administration of the PFT are thoroughly familiarized with the test materials and administration procedures. PFT coordinators should use the FITNESSGRAM/ACTIVITYGRAM Test Administration Manual (Updated Fifth Edition). The FITNESSGRAM Test Administration Manual, which can be purchased from US Games, includes a CD for the Progressive Aerobic Cardiovascular Endurance Run (PACER), as well as cadences for the Curl-Up and Push-Up. To order the manual and CD, go to FITNESSGRAM Manual or contact US Games by phone at 1-800-327-0484.
It is important to note that this aspect of the manual does not comply with California Code of Regulations, Title 5, Section 1043 requiring the PFT to be administered and scored by employees of the LEA or county office of education.
Video clips using California's testing protocols, and other training materials, which can also be used by district and school PFT coordinators and physical education teachers to conduct PFT training sessions, are available on the PFT Modules, Videos, and Training website.
What is the annual apportionment for the Physical Fitness Test (PFT)?
The administration of the PFT is not directly funded through state apportionments. Most costs associated with the test administration are the responsibility of the LEA. These costs include purchasing equipment and materials, training teachers, and processing and analyzing the PFT data. These costs are no longer recoverable as “state-mandated costs” operated through California’s State Controller’s office. They are now covered under the Mandate Block Grant. Information on this grant, including the timeline and online application process, is available on the CDE Mandate Block Grant web page.
Where should the local educational agencies (LEAs) send the data from the Physical Fitness Test (PFT) administration?
The LEAs are only required to submit participation percentages for each component, by grade, to the School Accountability Report Card (SARC).
What is the timeline for submitting the Physical Fitness Test (PFT) data?
Participation data needs to be submitted to the SARC by February 1 of the following year.
Reporting and Using Results
When can parents and guardians expect to receive their children’s score reports?
Students must be provided with their individual results, either orally or in writing, upon completion of the Physical Fitness Test (PFT) (California Education Code Section 60800). Although not legally required, local educational agencies (LEAs) may choose to send their own PFT participation data to parents and guardians. Parents and guardians should be advised to check with their LEA to determine if and when PFT participation data will be sent home.
When are the Physical Fitness Test (PFT) results available on the California Department of Education website?
The CDE usually posts annual PFT results in the fall on the CDE DataQuest website. Local educational agencies that contract with an outside vendor to process their PFT results may receive a copy of their summary results from the vendor earlier than this date.
Are the Physical Fitness Test (PFT) results included on the School Accountability Report Card (SARC)?
For the 2021-22 PFT Administration, schools are to submit participation rates by component, by grade, to the SARC (California Education Code Section 60800). The SARC Preparation Guide for Public Schools, which is available on the California Department of Education SARC web page, contains a sample table for the physical fitness data.
How can the Physical Fitness Test (PFT) results be used?
The PFT results can be used in several ways. Schools can use them to determine the fitness levels of their students and to provide direction for curricular plans. Students can be encouraged to use the results to develop personal fitness programs of maintenance or improvement. Parents and guardians can use the results to help their child plan fitness activities matched to their individual needs. Since the PFT is given annually, schools and local educational agencies can also use the results to monitor changes in the fitness status of students. PFT results should always be reviewed and used to make decisions in conjunction with other information related to physical performance and physical education curriculum.
What are inappropriate uses of the Physical Fitness Test (PFT) participation test results?
The PFT participation results should not be used as the sole basis to evaluate individual students in physical education (e.g., grading), teacher effectiveness (e.g., teacher evaluations), or the overall quality of a physical education program.
Do the Physical Fitness Test (PFT) participation results appear on student transcripts?
There is no requirement to include PFT participation results on student transcripts.
Is there a requirement to keep the Physical Fitness Test (PFT) participation results in student permanent records?
Yes. Schools should keep the PFT participation results in student cumulative records or files (See California Code of Regulations, Title 5, Section 1044).
Do the requirements outlined in California Ed Code (EC) Section 51241(b)(1) still apply to students in high school?
A local educational agency (LEA) may offer the “EC 51241(b)(1) exemption” if the LEA collects the data and completes the formulas necessary for the Body Composition and Aerobic Compacity components. These additional efforts are not required nor are they supported by the CDE during this physical fitness test (PFT) administration. The CDE encourages LEAs to use the remaining exemptions in EC 51241 and EC 51242 for students seeking to be exempted from high school physical education requirements. Also remember that students in 2018–19 and 2019–20 did not take the PFT because of the [COVID] suspension of the PFT and thus do not have access to the “EC 51241(b)(1) exemption”.
What is the CDE's recommendation to unified and high school districts on how they can best be compliant with this year's PFT testing and still meet the requirements outlined in section 51241(b)(1) of the California Education Code?
The California Department of Education (CDE) does not have a recommendation on how a LEA may best be compliant with EC 51241(b)(1). The CDE recommends that LEAs complete the PFT as prescribed in 2021–22 and advise students that the exemptions in EC 51241 and EC 51242 are still available if that student wants to request an exemption from physical education.
Is there an awards program for the Physical Fitness Test (PFT)?
No. California does not offer an awards program for the PFT.
More information about the PFT and the FITNESSGRAM are available on the CDE-sponsored PFT Training website. Materials offered on that web page include training modules to assist PFT coordinators with submitting and correcting PFT data, and video clips that demonstrate how to administer FITNESSGRAM tests using California's testing protocol (i.e., an employee of the district administering and scoring the tests.)