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What is Cognitive Assessment?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 21, 2024
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A cognitive assessment is an examination conducted to determine someone's level of cognitive function. There are a number of reasons to perform such an exam, and this test can be administered by a mental health professional, neurologist, or education professional, depending on how it is to be used. Several standardized assessments have been published, and people can also develop their own, mixing and matching elements of various tests that can be used to measure cognitive function.

In this type of assessment, the subject will be asked to complete a series of tasks that require cognitive skills. Exams may be broken up into several different components to test things like reasoning, understanding language, and so forth. Each section is scored separately, and the results can be compared with those of other people who have taken the test to see where someone falls on a scale of cognitive performance.

One reason to perform a cognitive assessment is if a medical professional is concerned that someone may be experiencing a cognitive impairment. This may be the result of a brain injury or stroke, or it may be congenital in nature, as in a child with suspected intellectual disabilities. Neurologists and pediatricians use these tests to check on patients they are concerned about, and to establish a baseline that can be used for comparison in the future.

Such tests may also be used in the management of mental illness. The test can be used when a patient is first assessed, and later in the course of treatment to see how well the patient is responding to medication. A cognitive evaluation can also be used to determine whether or not a patient is experiencing any problems as a side effect of psychiatric medication.

During a neurological workup, an assessment may be done to learn more about the patient, and such tests are also used after brain surgery to confirm that the patient is recovering and that no area of the brain was damaged during the operation. In fact, for some types of surgery, assessments are performed periodically during the procedure so that the surgeon has instant feedback on what she or he is doing.

Such testing can also be used by education professionals to evaluate students. Care should be taken, however, because a cognitive assessment is not an intelligence test. It can provide information about how people acquire and process information, and it can identify areas where people may lag behind their peers cognitively, but it does not provide data about intelligence.

All The Science is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a All The Science researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon992222 — On Aug 23, 2015

Testing of cognitive functioning is better personalized on an individual basis to achieve better responses and accurate results.

By anon270244 — On May 21, 2012

I am sorry sunshine 31, I also assist schools in determining special education placements and determine whether or not an LD is present. To say that an individual with an IQ under 100 does not indicate an intellectual disability. That statement is irresponsible.

By cupcake15 — On Nov 24, 2010

Bhutan-I think that is so sad but every day they are making advances that one day may help these children.

I know that another frustrating cognitive disorder among children is ADHD. In ADHD the child suffers from an inability to concentrate and as a result has difficulty completing school work and in many cases the child gets left back and has to repeat the grade.

Often these children also suffer from the inability to connect socially with other children because their incredible exuberance is often too much for other children and subsequently they are rejected from the peer group.

A cognitive assessment screening test will determine if the child has this disorder and a cat scan by a neuropsychologist will me able to confirm the diagnosis further.

This is often a complicated affliction to diagnose because so many of the symptoms mirror other conditions. This is why the cognitive behavioral assessment is so important.

I also know that cognitive rehabilitation through immediate post concussion assessment and cognitive testing also provides treatment options for those suffering from brain injuries.

By Bhutan — On Nov 24, 2010

Icecream17-They normally do not make eye contact and some children with autism might also suffer from speech impediments or may not even talk.

In fact one of the major indicators of autism is that the child has not spoken by age 2. Sometimes children with autism will flap their arms or engage in seemingly odd behavior because their brain is wired differently.

Children will autism are diagnosed with the disorder in terms of a spectrum. Some children exhibit some symptoms of autism and the doctor would suggest that they are on autistic spectrum but do not have all of the full blown symptoms.

Children with varying degrees of autism can also experience sensory processing disorders and may also need occupational therapy to assist in their fine motor skills.

Many children with autism also seek speech therapist to correct improper speech formations. Asperser’s is also on the autism spectrum, but it is a milder form of autism in which the children often demonstrated gifted intellect but do not read social cues at all and have subpar social skills as a result. The use of cognitive assessment screening tests are very helpful in detecting this conditions.

By icecream17 — On Nov 24, 2010

Sunshine31-Cognitive disorders in adults can range from amnesia to dementia. Poor memory recall in these disorders requires cognitive training interventions by therapists to assist the member in piecing back their life.

For example, with patients suffering from dementia, the family of the patient might provide a series of photographs labeled with dates and actually try to stir up some memory of the event.

For these patients a good strategy to retain current memories is to have memorable events on video.

This also helps those suffering from amnesia because it allows them to place pieces of their life together and the video is the best proof of that.

Children also suffer cognitive social disorders but the most prevalent are Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, and Attention deficient hyperactivity disorder. With Autism, the child does not express the normal expressions that a child or person would demonstrate in a normal conversation. These children often seek occupational therapy and cognitive assessments in order to help in the recovery.

By sunshine31 — On Nov 24, 2010

Cognitive assessment in children helps to reveal intellectual capacities of the child. I also assist schools in determining placement of special educational programs such as gifted education or special education for learning disabilities.

A cognitive skills assessment will measure the mental capacity of a child with respect to recalling information and memory. It will also measure processing speed and accuracy in performing a given tasks.

Often the tests are timed and a series of eight to ten cognitive abilities tests are performed in order to gain the full scope of the child intellectual capacity and reasoning.

A common test administered for this purpose is the WISC tests which are basically I.Q. tests. A score two standard deviations above the norm indicates gifted capacity which would have a minimum I.Q. of 130.

A score of 120 to 129 is superior intelligence, while a score of 100 is considered average. A score below 100 indicates intellectual disabilities and possible processing issues that lead to learning disabilities.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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