MSD Manual

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Mental Status Testing

Mental Status Testing

Examples of What People May Be Asked To Do

What This Test Evaluates

State the current date and place and their name.

Orientation to time, place, and person

Spell "world" or another 5-letter word forward, then backward.


Repeat a short list of objects.

Attention and recording of information to memory (registration)

Recall the short list of objects after about 2 to 5 minutes.

Short-term recall (called working memory)

Describe an event that happened in the last day or two.

Recent memory

Describe events from the distant past.

Remote (long-term) memory

Ask people to do one of the following:

  • Interpret a proverb (such as “a rolling stone gathers no moss”).

  • Explain a particular analogy (such as “why the brain is like a computer”).

  • Identify the category for 3 or 4 objects, such as fruit for apples, oranges, and bananas.

Abstract thinking

Describe their thoughts about the illness and its severity.

Insight into illness

Name the last five presidents and the state capital.

Fund of knowledge

Tell how they feel on this day and how they usually feel.


Follow a simple command that involves three different body parts and requires distinguishing right from left (such as “put your right thumb in your left ear and stick out your tongue”).

Language comprehension

Name simple objects and body parts, and read, write, and repeat certain phrases.

Ability to use language

Copy simple and complex structures (for example, using building blocks), and draw a clock, cube, or house.

Ability to understand spatial relationships

Brush the teeth, or take a match out of a box and strike it.

Ability to do an action

Do simple arithmetic, such as asking them to subtract 7 from 100 and continue to subtract 7 from the answer obtained—93 minus 7 equals 86 minus 7 equals 79 and so on—or asking them how many nickels are in $1.35.

Ability to calculate numbers

Ask what they would do in a hypothetical situation requiring good judgment, such as “What would you do if you found a stamped, addressed letter on the sidewalk?”