What is a Purdue Pegboard Test?

Maggie Worth
Maggie Worth
Doctor taking notes
Doctor taking notes

The Purdue pegboard test is a timed physical test used to measure manual dexterity and brain function. Test subjects are asked to place small pins into holes in the pegboard using a specific hand and following a specific process. The test may be used as a diagnostic tool for learning disabilities, as an occupational recovery tool after brain or hand damage or as a probable-performance indicator for candidates applying for assembly positions.

Test equipment consists of a pegboard, two cups of pins, a set of washers and a set of collars. The board features two parallel lines of holes running vertically down the center of the board. The pegs fit into the holes and the nuts fit over the pegs.

The Purdue pegboard test consists of five scores. In the first portion of the test, participants are given thirty seconds to place as many pins in the right-hand column of holes as possible. Pins may only be picked up and placed with the right hand and must be inserted into the holes in order, beginning with the top hole. In the second portion of the test, this process is repeated using the left hand and the left-hand column of holes.

In the third portion of the test, subjects have another 30 seconds to place pins into both the right and left columns at the same time. They must use the right hand for the right column and the left hand for the left column. They must still begin at the top and work downward. The fourth test score does not require subject participation, but is rather a combination of the first two scores.

In the final portion of the test, usually called the assembly test, the participant must pick up a pin and insert it into a hole with his right hand and then pick up a washer and place it over the pin with his left hand. He must then pick up a collar and place it over the pin, on top of the washer, with his right hand and place a final washer on top of the collar with his left hand. He then moves to the next hole and repeats the process. He has 60 seconds to complete as many assemblies as he can.

The test was developed by Joseph Tiffin, Ph.D., in 1948. It was named the Purdue pegboard test because Dr. Tiffin was an industrial scientist employed by Purdue University. It was originally intended for use by employers evaluating candidates for industrial assembly jobs. While that use continues today, other uses have been developed.

Physical and occupational therapists often use the Purdue pegboard test to rehabilitate patients after an accident. Repetition of the test both encourages use of the injured muscles and also serves as a progress indicator. The test is timed, allowing therapists and patients to evaluate progress in a clear, objective and measurable way.

The Purdue pegboard test is also used to evaluate a subject for developmental or learning disabilities and for brain injury. Performance on the test can show whether the correct neurological signals are being sent from the patient's brain to his fingers. For example, a person with dyslexia may instinctively use the wrong hand to pick up the pin or may insert it into the hole on the wrong side of the board.

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