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Ruler Drop Test

Testing and measurement are the means of collecting information upon which subsequent performance evaluations and decisions are made but, in the analysis, we need to bear in mind the factors that may influence the results.


The objective of this test is to monitor the athlete's reaction time.

Required Resources

To undertake this test, you will require:

  • Metre ruler
  • Assistant

How to conduct the test

  • The ruler is held by the assistant between the outstretched index finger and thumb of the athlete's dominant hand so that the top of the athlete's thumb is level with the zero-centimetre line on the ruler
  • The assistant instructs the athlete to catch the ruler as soon as possible after it has been released
  • The assistant releases the ruler and the athlete catches the ruler between their index finger and thumb as quick as possible
  • The assistant is to record the distance between the bottom of the ruler and the top of the athlete's thumb where the ruler has been caught.
  • The test is repeated 2 more times and the average value used in the assessment


The following normative data is available for this test.

The following are national norms, adapted from Davis (2000)[1] for 16 to 19-year-olds.

Excellent Above Average Average Below Average Poor
<7.5cm 7.5 - 15.9cm 15.9 - 20.4cm 20.4 - 28cm >28cm

Enter the Distance (cm) and then select the "Calculate" button for an analysis of the results.

Distance cm     Reaction time seconds Assessment

Calculations are based on the normative data table

The algorithm to calculate the reaction speed is d = vt + ½at² where

  • d = distance in metres
  • v = initial velocity = 0
  • a = acceleration due to gravity = 9.81m/s²
  • t = time in seconds

We need to manipulate d = vt + ½at² to give us an algorithm for t

As v = 0 then vt = 0 therefore the algorithm is t = Sqrt(2d/a)


  • d = 9cm
  • t = sqrt(2 × 0.09 ÷ 9.81)
  • t = sqrt(0.01835)
  • t = 0.135 seconds


Analysis of the results is by comparing it with the results of previous tests. It is expected that, with appropriate training between each test, the analysis would indicate an improvement in the athlete's reaction speed.

Target Group

This test is suitable for all athletes but not for individuals where the test would be contraindicated.


Test reliability refers to the degree to which a test is consistent and stable in measuring what it is intended to measure. Reliability will depend upon how strict the test is conducted and the individual's level of motivation to perform the test. The following link provides a variety of factors that may influence the results and therefore the test reliability.


Test validity refers to the degree to which the test actually measures what it claims to measure and the extent to which inferences, conclusions, and decisions made on the basis of test scores are appropriate and meaningful. This test provides a means to monitor the effect of training on the athlete's physical development.


  • Minimal equipment required
  • Simple to set up and conduct
  • Can be conducted almost anywhere


  • Assistant required to administer the test

Free Calculator


  1. DAVIS, B. et al. (2000) Physical Education and the study of sport. 4th ed. London: Harcourt Publishers. p. 130

Related References

The following references provide additional information on this topic:

  • BROWN, T et al. (2012) Exploration of Reaction Time: Ideas for an Inquiry Investigation in Physics Education. Science Activities: Classroom Projects and Curriculum Ideas, 49 (3), p. 82-87
  • FONG, S. S. et al. (2013) Health through martial arts training: Physical fitness and reaction time in adolescent Taekwondo practitioners

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • MACKENZIE, B. (2004) Ruler Drop Test [WWW] Available from: [Accessed

Related Pages

The following Sports Coach pages provide additional information on this topic: