Berg Balance Scale

The Berg balance scale — or Berg balance test — is a widely used, standardized assessment to determine your balance abilities. The test contains 14 specific tasks you’ll perform while you’re standing, sitting or making simple movements. The entire test takes about 20 minutes to complete.


What is the Berg balance scale (Berg balance test)?

The Berg balance scale helps determine your ability to balance safely. The scale consists of 14 tasks that a healthcare provider scores on a scale from 0 to 4. The higher the score, the better your balance.

It’s a straightforward, reliable test providers use to assess functional balance (your ability to balance so you’re moving safely and effectively in everyday life). “Reliability” means you can trust the test results because they remain consistent. Studies show that even when different providers administer the test for the same person, the results remain the same.

When is the Berg balance test performed?

Originally, the Berg balance scale was designed to assess people over the age of 65 or those who had a stroke. People in these groups are more likely to experience balance issues that can make it hard to move around safely.

Today, healthcare providers — including occupational therapists, clinical exercise physiologists and physical therapists — use the test to measure balance ability in several different populations.

This includes people with:

When the Berg balance scale was created in 1989, it was intended to assess both balance and fall risk. But research throughout the years shows that the test alone isn’t a reliable predictor of falls.

Today, providers generally use the scale to assess static balance (the ability to keep your body in a fixed posture). The Berg balance scale doesn’t assess your gait (how you hold your body while walking). If your provider’s goal is to determine your fall risk, they may perform the test in combination with other assessments.


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Test Details

How does the Berg Balance test work?

Your healthcare provider will ask you to perform a series of tasks that involve sitting, standing or making simple movements. They’ll score your ability to perform each task on a scale from 0 to 4 and then add the numbers together. The highest possible score is 56.

The Berg balance scale test takes about 15 to 20 minutes to complete.

What should I expect before the test?

You don’t need to do anything to prepare. Your healthcare provider will explain how the test works when you arrive for your appointment.

What should I expect during the test?

Your healthcare provider will ask you to perform 14 specific movements in a Berg balance test:

  1. Move from a sitting to a standing position.
  2. Stand up unsupported.
  3. Sit unsupported.
  4. Move from a standing to a sitting position.
  5. Transfer from one chair to another.
  6. Stand up with your eyes closed.
  7. Stand with your feet together.
  8. Reach forward with an outstretched arm.
  9. Pick an object up off the floor.
  10. Turn and look behind you.
  11. Turn around in a complete circle.
  12. Place each foot alternately on a stool in front of you.
  13. Stand unsupported with one foot directly in front of the other.
  14. Stand on one leg for as long as you can.

What should I expect after the test?

After you’ve completed all the tasks on the Berg balance scale, your provider will tally your scores and discuss your results with you. They may use your test results to determine next steps in diagnosis or treatment.

Results and Follow-Up

What do Berg balance scale scores mean?

Berg balance scale scores range from 0 to 56. The lower your score, the more at risk you are for losing your balance. The higher your score, the better your functional mobility (ability to move effectively and safely).

Depending on the task, higher scores depend on your ability to:

  • Complete a task unassisted. This includes not having to rely on an additional body part (like your hands) to steady yourself or needing extra support from the provider giving the test to maintain balance during a task.
  • Hold a position for the specified length of time. The maximum amount of time you’ll need to hold a position depends on the task, but most are under a minute.
  • Maintain steady movements. Your provider will assess how you maintain your posture and balance your weight as you complete various tasks.

Your healthcare provider will interpret your results of the Berg balance test based on where your score falls within a range:

  • 0 to 20: A person with a score in this range will likely need the assistance of a wheelchair to move around safely.
  • 21 to 40: A person with a score in this range will need some type of walking assistance, like a cane or a walker.
  • 41 to 56: A person with a score in this range is considered independent and should be able to move around safely without assistance.

When should I know the results of the test?

As testing and scoring both happen during your office visit, you should know your results before leaving your appointment. Your healthcare provider will explain what the score means for your health and recommend next steps.


When should I call my healthcare provider?

Reach out to your provider if you’re experiencing ongoing symptoms of a balance issue, like dizziness, unsteadiness or falls. Sometimes., trouble balancing is temporary. But other times, balance issues indicate an underlying issue that requires treatment.

If you’re having trouble balancing for more than an hour or if other symptoms accompany your balance issues, contact a healthcare provider right away. Symptoms to look out for include:

A provider can examine you to determine what’s causing the issue and design a personalized treatment plan for your needs.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

The Berg balance scale (Berg balance test) is a brief, straightforward test that can provide insight into how effectively you can maintain your balance in everyday situations. It can help your provider determine whether you need additional support, like from a wheelchair or cane. Ask your provider what your score means in terms of next steps and to resolve or manage any balance issues.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 04/11/2024.

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