What Is the Bender-Gestalt Test?

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  • Written By: C. Webb
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 07 November 2018
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The Bender-Gestalt Test, also known as the Bender Visual Motor Gestalt Test, evaluates motor-visual skills and determines maturity. It is also used as a preliminary diagnostic tool for identifying brain damage, mental illness, and other brain dysfunction. The test is typically administered by trained professionals.

Testing consists of asking subjects to copy objects from a three-by-five card to a blank piece of paper. Timing for the test is usually seven to 10 minutes. Results are evaluated using a set standard of measurements regarding the accuracy of the sketches.

First conceived in 1938, the test gained popularity in schools' clinical psychology settings as a preferred diagnostic tool. Its ability to measure perceptual motor development, perceptual motor skills, and neurological normalcy made it one of the top five tests used in conjunction with other tests, such as Intelligence Quotient testing. The Bender-Gestalt Test has also been used to determine personality disorders and to check for emotional issues.

The primary age range for which the Bender-Gestalt Test is used during childhood is four to 11 years old. It is during this target period that definite abilities for each age are easily defined. The test score matrix is divided into age categories to further produce accurate results. Adults are also given the Bender-Gestalt Test as a preliminary check of brain functioning.


A core foundation of the test is to check the brain's ability to recognize visual stimuli, code it in the brain, and transfer what was seen to paper, using visual skills and motor dexterity. Subjects with severe visual deficiencies should not be given the test, as the results may be inaccurate. Subjects with clearly defined motor-skill deficiencies should also be tested using some other method.

Experts caution that the Bender-Gestalt Test is only preliminary and that a true diagnosis of mental issues or brain functioning should also include other diagnostic methods and criteria. Testing should always be administered by a trained professional who understands how to measure the results with accuracy. The test subject's emotional and physical state at the time of testing should also be considered.

Scoring is based on several factors, including how close to the original size the picture is drawn, whether parts of the figures are left out, and whether the figures were broken into pieces or drawn as whole. The test subject's behavior is also observed and used as part of the evaluation, though not part of the actual score. If the test taker spent a long time working on the sketches, or seemed to race through with very little effort, the test administrator should note such behavior for future evaluation. Such behaviors may impact the accuracy of the test results.



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