What is the "Tumbling E" Eye Chart?

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Eye doctors use eye charts to test a person's visual acuity, a measure of their vision correction needs. The chart allows for a standardized means to assess a patient's ability to correctly identify certain letters or numbers from specific distances. The results of the eye chart test can help eye doctors diagnose certain vision disorders. There are various charts available for eye doctors to use including a "Tumbling E" eye chart or the Snellen eye chart. What is a Tumbling E eye chart and why is it so different from the other more popularly used eye charts?

What is the "Tumbling E" Eye Chart?

The Tumbling E eye chart is similar to the standardize Snellen eye chart that most people use for testing; however it contains a series of letter E's instead of the variety of letters included in the Snellen chart. These letter E's are rotated at 90 degrees requiring the individual taking the test to properly identify the direction of each version of the E's "fingers" using their hands to point up, down, right or left.

Why do Doctors use the Tumbling E Chart instead of the Regular Eye Chart?

The tumbling E eye chart is typically used to test individuals who are unable to properly communicate or identify letters of the alphabet. This may include young children who do not know their alphabet, people who are illiterate or perhaps individuals who suffer from a handicap. This test provides doctors an easy and effective means to test the visual acuity of individuals who fall into any of these categories. In fact, studies have shown that the results of this test are as accurate as the standard Snellen eye chart.

How to Use a Tumbling E Eye Chart?

Below is an example of a "Tumbling E" eye chart. Click on the image to download it. Follow the directions below to properly use this eye chart. If the individual taking the test wears corrective lenses of any type full-time they should also wear them during the test.

tumbling e eye chart

  1. Place the chart on a wall at a distance of 10 feet.
  2. Have the person cover one eye (without applying pressure to it) so that their vision is completely blocked.
  3. Start with the first line at the top of the chart and have the person point with their fingers the direction the "fingers" on the E are pointing.
  4. Point to each "E" going left to right from top to bottom.
  5. When the person fails to correctly identify the orientation of at least 50 percent of the Es on a line stop the test and note the previous line they were able to correctly identify at least 50% of the tumbling E's.
  6. Repeat the above steps for the other eye.

This eye chart only measures a person's visual acuity and cannot be used to determine other vision issues such as color blindness, depth perception or disorders such as glaucoma. The test presented in this article is not an official test and should not be used as an official diagnosis tool. For proper diagnosis it is important to contact your eye doctor.


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