Mental status testing
Mental status testing is done to check your thinking ability, and to determine if any problems are getting better or worse. It is also called neurocognitive testing.
Mental status exam; Neurocognitive testing
How the test is performed
A nurse, physician, physician assistant, or mental health worker will ask a number of questions. The test can be done in the home, in an office, nursing home, or hospital. Sometimes, a psychologist with special training will do more extensive tests.
The most common test used is called the mini-mental state examination (MMSE) or Folstein test.
The following may be tested:
The health care provider will check your physical appearance, including:
- General level of comfort
The health care provider will ask questions such as:
- What is your name?
- How old are you?
- Where do you work?
- Where do you live?
- What day and time is it?
- What season is it?
Attention span may be tested earlier, because this fundamental skill can influence the rest of the tests.
The provider will want to test:
- Your ability to complete a thought
- Your ability to think and problem solve
- Whether you are easily distracted
You may be asked to do the following:
- Start at a certain number, and then begin to subtract backwards by 7s.
- Spell a word such as "WORLD" forward, and then backward.
- Repeat up to 7 numbers forward, and up to 5 numbers in reverse order.
RECENT AND PAST MEMORY
The provider will ask questions related to recent people, places, and events in your life or in the world.
Three items may be presented, and the person may then be asked to repeat them, and then recall them after 5 minutes.
The provider will ask about your childhood, school, or events that occurred earlier in life.
The provider will point to everyday items in the room and ask you to name them, and possibly to name less common items.
You may be asked to say as many words as possible that start with a certain letter, or that are part of a certain category, in 1 minute.
You may be asked to read or write a sentence.
This part of the test looks at your ability to solve a problem or situation. You may be asked:
- "If you found a driver's license on the ground, what would you do?"
- "If a police officer approached you from behind in a car with lights flashing, what would you do?"
How to prepare for the test
How the test will feel
Why the test is performed
The most commonly used test, the mini-mental state examination (MMSE) or Folstein test, is scored from 0 to 30. The test is also divided up into sections, each one with its own smaller score. These results may help show which part of someone's thinking and memory may be affected.
What abnormal results mean
A number of health conditions can affect your mental status.
What the risks are
Some tests that screen for language problems using reading or writing do not account for people who may never have been able to read or write. If you know that the person being tested has never been able to read or write, tell the health care provider in advance.
If your child is having any of these tests performed, it is important to help him or her understand the reasons for the tests.
Snyderman D, Rovner B. Mental status exam in primary care: a review. Am Fam Physician. 2009;80:809-814.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. ©1997-2013 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Mood Disorders: Are They Caused by Vitamin Deficiencies?
Treating OCD and ADD With Medicinal Marijuana
Exercise: An Additional Treatment for ADHD?
Antidepressant Fears and Facts
How Is Mental Illness Tested and Diagnosed?
Sign Up for Free Newsletters
Ask Your Doctor the RIGHT Questions!
the most from your doctor visit.
Emailed right to you!
The Ask Your Doctor email series
may contain sponsored content.
18+, US residents only please.
Explore Original Articles About...
Get the MOST from QualityHealth
- Top Searches
- 1. Arthritis Management: Nature Heals
- 2. 5 Digestive To-Dos
- 3. Men: Should You Shave It or Leave It?
- 4. Today's Top Fitness Trends
- 5. Sugar and Osteoarthritis : The Link
- 6. Can't Afford Your Hospital Bills?
- 7. Stay Energized All Day Long
- 8. Phobias: Who Has Them and Why?
- 9. What If Your EpiPen Fails?
- 10. 5 Costly Medical Billing Mistakes
- 1. Ice Falls Can Cause Serious Injuries
- 2. Can Inactivity Act Like a Disease?
- 3. Kale Snack Recipe for Diabetics
- 4. How Running Affects Arthritis
- 5. Sugar and Your Immunity System
- 6. Do Weight Loss Supplements Work?
- 7. 5 Super Foods for Spring
- 8. The Hazards of Reusable Bags
- 9. How to Avoid Ingrown Hairs
- 10. Health Tip: Constantly Change Shoes
- 1. 4 Common Treatments for Epilepsy
- 2. What Does a Urogynecologist Do?
- 3. GERD Without Heartburn? It's Possible
- 4. Graston Technique: Can It Work on You?
- 5. Music Therapy Can Help Autism
- 6. 8 Ways to Fight MS-Related Fatigue
- 7. Can You Still Bleed After Menopause?
- 8. Be Your Own Health Care Advocate
- 9. Why Is Syphillis on the Rise?
- 10. Ideal Weight vs. Happy Weight
The material on the QualityHealth Web site is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment provided by a physician or other qualified health provider. See additional information.