The Bender Visual-Motor Gestalt (BGT)

Introduction to Bender Gestalt Test

The Bender Gestalt Test, or the Bender Visual Motor Gestalt Test, is a psychological assessment instrument used to evaluate visual-motor functioning and visual perception skills in both children and adults.

It is a visuo-spatial and visuo-motor coordination used to detect brain damage by measuring a person’s ability to copy a set of geometric designs Scores on the test are used to identify possible organic brain damage and the degree maturation of the nervous system.

The Bender Gestalt was developed by psychiatrist Lauretta Bender in the late nineteenth century. The original test consists of nine figures, each on its own 3 × 5 card. The subject is shown each figure and asked to copy it onto a piece of blank paper.


This test is used for both children and adults the age range is from 3 to older. 


The test typically takes 7–10 minutes, after which the results are scored based on accuracy and other characteristics.


The Bender Gestalt Test is used to evaluate visual maturity, visual motor integration skills, style of responding and reaction to frustration, planning and organizational skills, and motivation.

Copying figures requires fine motor skills, the ability to discriminate between visual stimuli, the capacity to integrate visual skills with motor skills, and the ability to shift attention from the original design to what is being drawn.

The Bender-Gestalt is used to evaluate visual-motor maturity and to screen children for developmental delays. The test is also used to assess brain damage and neurological deficits. Individuals who have suffered a traumatic brain injury may be given the Bender-Gestalt as part of a battery of neuropsychological measures, or tests.

The Bender-Gestalt is sometimes used in conjunction with other personality tests to determine the presence of emotional and psychiatric of disturbances such as schizophrenia.

History of Bender Gestalt Test

Bender first described her Visual Motor Gestalt Test in a 1938 monograph entitled.  A Visual Motor Gestalt Test and Its Clinical Use is the figures were derived from the work of the famous Gestalt psychologist Wertheimer. The Bender-Gestalt test as it is now often called, was typically among the top five tests used by school and clinical psychologists for decades.  It measures perceptual motor skills, perceptual motor development, and gives an indication of neurological intactness. It has been used as a personality test and a test of emotional problems.

The impetus for the clinical use of the Bender Gestalt came in the late 1930s when Hutt, an Instructor at the Educational Clinic of City College of New York became interested in developing a non-verbal projective personality test. The advantages of such an instrument would eliminate problems with language as well as prevent the test subjects from consciously screening their responses and the reproduction of the nine Bender Test Figures by test subjects could be accomplished in as little as ten minutes.

Administration of Bender Gestalt Test

Administration of the Bender-Gestalt II involves two phases: the Copy phase and the Recall phase.

The examinee is shown stimulus cards with different designs.

In the Copy phase, the examinee is asked to copy each of the designs on a blank sheet of paper.

In the Recall phase, the examinee is asked to redraw the designs from memory.

In addition to the two phases, examiners are asked to record examinee behavior on an Observation Form.

The Observation Form contains areas for recording times and different types of test-taking behavior.

Scoring and Interpretation

The Bender-Gestalt II Global Scoring System (GSS) is based on a simplified adaptation of the Qualitative Scoring System.

Examiners use the GSS to evaluate the overall representation of each design the examinee produces during the Copy and Recall phases of administration.

The GSS consists of a 5-point rating scale that is designed to yield individual scores for each item and a total score for each test. The essence of the scoring system emphasizes the examination of discrepancy between the actual design on the stimulus card and the examinee’s drawing.


A scoring system does not have to be used to interpret performance on the Bender Gestalt Test; however, there are several reliable and valid scoring systems available. Many of the available scoring systems focus on specific difficulties experienced by the test taker. These difficulties may indicate poor visual-motor abilities that include: 

Difficulties scored in BGT (Bender Gestalt Test)

  • Angular difficulty: This includes increasing, decreasing, distorting, or omitting an angle in a figure. 
  • Bizarre doodling: This involves adding peculiar components to the drawing that have no relationship to the original Bender Gestalt figure. 
  • Closure difficulty: This occurs when the examinee has difficulty closing open spaces on a figure, or connecting various parts of the figure. This results in a gap in the copied figure. 
  • Cohesion: This involves drawing a part of a figure larger or smaller than shown on the original figure and out of proportion with the rest of the figure. This error may also include drawing a figure or part of a figure significantly out of proportion with other figures that have been drawn. 
  • Collision: This involves crowding the designs or allowing the end of one design to overlap or touch a part of another design. 
  • Contamination: This occurs when a previous figure, or part of a figure, influences the examinee in adequate completion of the current figure. For example, an examinee may combine two different Bender Gestalt figures. 
  • Fragmentation: This involves destroying part of the figure by not completing or breaking up the figures in ways that entirely lose the original design. 
  • Impotence: This occurs when the examinee draws a figure inaccurately and seems to recognize the error, then, he or she makes several unsuccessful attempts to improve the drawing. 
  • Irregular line quality or lack of motor coordination: This involves drawing rough lines, particularly when the examinee shows a tremor motion, during the drawing of the figure. 
  • Line extension: This involves adding or extending a part of the copied figure that was not on the original figure. 
  • Omission: This involves failing to adequately connect the parts of a figure or reproducing only parts of a figure. 
  • Overlapping difficulty: This includes problems in drawing portions of the figures that overlap, simplifying the drawing at the point that it overlaps, sketching or redrawing the overlapping portions, or otherwise distorting the figure at the point at which it overlaps. 
  • Perseveration: This includes increasing, prolonging, or continuing the number of units in a figure. For example, an examinee may draw significantly more dots or circles than shown on the original figure. 
  • Retrogression: This involves substituting more primitive figures for the original design for example, substituting solid lines or loops for circles, dashes for dots, dots for circles, circles for dots, or filling in circles. There must be evidence that the examinee is capable of drawing more mature figures. 
  • Rotation: This involves rotating a figure or part of a figure by 45° or more. This error is also scored when the examinee rotates the stimulus card that is being copied. 
  • Scribbling: This involves drawing primitive lines that have no relationship to the original Bender Gestalt figure. 
  • Simplification: This involves replacing a part of the figure with a more simplified figure. This error is not due to maturation. Drawings that are primitive in terms of maturation would be categorized under “Retrogression.” 
  • Superimposition of design: This involves drawing one or more of the figures on top of each other. 
  • Work over: This involves reinforcing, increased pressure, or overworking a line or lines in a whole or part of a figure. 

What is the cut off score for Bender Gestalt Test?

The cut-off score for this test is 5, meaning that less than 5 errors are acceptable and the child has passed the test. If the score is higher than 5, the child has failed the test.

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