The Nine Hole Peg Test: Norms & Instructions

Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

What is the nine-hole peg test? And how are its results calculated and used? By the time you're finished with this lesson, you'll know these basic facts about the very inexpensive yet useful nine-hole peg test.

What is the Nine-Hole Peg Test?

Unless you are a physical therapist, occupational therapist or a patient who has needed to take this test, it's unlikely that you have heard of the nine-hole peg test. The nine-hole peg test is used to gauge the fine motor skills of the hand and fingers. Although it can be given to anyone of any age, the most common recipients are people with dexterity problems caused by a variety of factors: accident or stroke victims, children with developmental issues, or those with diseases that affect manual dexterity such as Parkinson's or multiple sclerosis.

Nine-Hole Peg Test Instructions

As its name implies, this test involves pegs and holes. Specifically, it involves putting pegs into holds on a board. However, you can't just use any pegs of any random size or any old board with some holes in it. You see, getting results that are useful requires some standards. Well, a lot of standards actually:

  • A stopwatch is used to measure the length of the test, in seconds. The test starts when the patient touches the first peg and ends when the last peg is returned to the tray.
  • The dominant hand is tested first (this means that if you are left-handed you test your left hand first).
  • Both hands get a practice round and then two timed rounds.
  • The board is square with 9 holes arranged in a 3x3 square.
  • Each hole is spaced 1.25 in apart.
  • Each hole is 0.5 in deep.
  • The nine cylindrical pegs are made of wood, 0.25 in in diameter and 1.25 in long
  • The pegs are contained in a separate shallow dish with dimensions of 5 in x 5 in x 0.5 inches.
  • You must use something to decrease slippage of the peg board (dexterity is being tested, not how slippery the board is against the surface it is resting on).
  • For each test, the pegs should be on the side of the hand being tested.

Whew! Did you get all that? It is a lot of instructions and details, but almost all of that is for the person administering the tests -- not the patient. The patient instructions are comparatively easy. Let's take a look at those next:

  • The instructor tells the patient about each hand getting a practice round, followed by two timed rounds.
  • The patient is instructed to move the pegs one at a time from the dish to the holes until they are all filled, at which point they should remove the pegs, again one at a time, and put them back in the dish.

See, that's a much shorter list.

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