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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. In the analysis, we need to consider the factors influencing the results.


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

Required Resources

To conduct 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 quickly 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 two 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 select the "Calculate" button to analyse 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


The results are analysed by comparing them with previous tests' results. It is expected that the analysis would indicate an improvement in the athlete's reaction speed with appropriate training between each test.

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 various factors influencing the results and test reliability.


Test validity refers to how the test measures what it claims to measure and the extent to which inferences, conclusions, and decisions made based on test scores are appropriate and meaningful. This test provides a means to monitor 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

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

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