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Social Processes: Methodology · Types of test

The mini-mental state examination (MMSE) or Folstein test is a brief 30-point questionnaire test that is used to screen for cognitive impairment. It is commonly used in medicine to screen for dementia. It is also used to estimate the severity of cognitive impairment at a given point in time and to follow the course of cognitive changes in an individual over time, thus making it an effective way to document an individual's response to treatment.

In the time span of about 10 minutes it samples various functions including arithmetic, memory and orientation. It was introduced by Folstein et al. in 1975,[1]. This test is not the same thing as a mental status examination. The standard MMSE form which is currently published by Psychological Assessment Resources is based on its original 1975 conceptualization, with minor subsequent modifications by the authors.

Various other tests are also used, such as the Hodkinson[2] abbreviated mental test score (1972, geriatrics) or the General Practitioner Assessment Of Cognition as well as longer formal tests for deeper analysis of specific deficits.

The test


Interlocking pentagons used for the last question

The MMSE test includes simple questions and problems in a number of areas: the time and place of the test, repeating lists of words, arithmetic such as the serial sevens, language use and comprehension, and basic motor skills. For example, one question asks to copy a drawing of two pentagons (shown on the right).[1]

Although consistent application of identical questions increases the reliability of comparisons made using the scale, the test is sometimes customized (for example, for use on patients that are intubated, blind, or partially immobilized. Also, some have questioned the use of the test on the deaf.[3]) However, the number of points assigned per category is usually consistent:

Category Possible points Description
Orientation to time 5 From broadest to most narrow. Orientation to time has been correlated with future decline.[4]
Orientation to place 5 From broadest to most narrow. This is sometimes narrowed down to streets,[5] and sometimes to floor.[6]
Registration 3 Repeating named prompts
Attention and calculation 5 Serial sevens, or spelling "world" backwards[7] It has been suggested that serial sevens may be more appropriate in a population where English is not the first language.[8]
Recall 3 Registration recall
Language 2 Name a pencil and a watch
Repetition 1 Speaking back a phrase
Complex commands 6 Varies. Can involve drawing figure shown.


Any score greater than or equal to 25 points (out of 30) is effectively normal (intact). Below this, scores can indicate severe (≤9 points), moderate (10-20 points) or mild (21-24 points)[9]. The raw score may also need to be corrected for educational attainment and age.[10] Low to very low scores correlate closely with the presence of dementia, although other mental disorders can also lead to abnormal findings on MMSE testing. The presence of purely physical problems can also interfere with interpretation if not properly noted; for example, a patient may be physically unable to hear or read instructions properly, or may have a motor deficit that affects writing and drawing skills.

Copyright issues

Originally, the MMSE was distributed widely for free. However, the current version of the MMSE is owned by copyright owner Psychological Assessment Resources (PAR). Despite the many free versions of the test that are available on the internet, the official version is copyrighted and must be ordered through PAR.[11][12] The enforcement of the copyright on the MMSE has been compared to "stealth", or "submarine" patents, where a patent applicant would wait until an invention gains widespread popularity until allowing the patent to issue and only then commencing enforcement (such patent applications are no longer possible with changes made to the patent term).[11] The enforcement of the copyright has led to researchers looking for alternative strategies in assessing cognition.[13][14]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Folstein MF, Folstein SE, McHugh PR (1975). "Mini-mental state". A practical method for grading the cognitive state of patients for the clinician. Journal of psychiatric research 12 (3): 189–98.
  2. Hodkinson HM (1972). Evaluation of a mental test score for assessment of mental impairment in the elderly. Age and ageing 1 (4): 233–8.
  3. Dean PM, Feldman DM, Morere D, Morton D (December 2009). Clinical evaluation of the mini-mental state exam with culturally deaf senior citizens. Arch Clin Neuropsychol 24 (8): 753–60.
  4. Guerrero-Berroa E, Luo X, Schmeidler J, et al. (December 2009). The MMSE orientation for time domain is a strong predictor of subsequent cognitive decline in the elderly. Int J Geriatr Psychiatry 24 (12): 1429–37.
  5. Morales LS, Flowers C, Gutierrez P, Kleinman M, Teresi JA (November 2006). Item and scale differential functioning of the Mini-Mental State Exam assessed using the Differential Item and Test Functioning (DFIT) Framework. Med Care 44 (11 Suppl 3): S143–51.
  6. MMSE. URL accessed on 2009-12-10.
  7. Ganguli M, Ratcliff G, Huff FJ, et al. (1990). Serial sevens versus world backwards: a comparison of the two measures of attention from the MMSE. J Geriatr Psychiatry Neurol 3 (4): 203–7.
  8. Espino DV, Lichtenstein MJ, Palmer RF, Hazuda HP (May 2004). Evaluation of the mini-mental state examination's internal consistency in a community-based sample of Mexican-American and European-American elders: results from the San Antonio Longitudinal Study of Aging. J Am Geriatr Soc 52 (5): 822–7.
  9. Mungas, D (1991). In-office mental status testing: a practical guide. Geriatrics 46 (7): 54-56.
  10. Crum RM, Anthony JC, Bassett SS, Folstein MF (May 1993). Population-based norms for the Mini-Mental State Examination by age and educational level. JAMA 269 (18): 2386–91.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Powsner S, Powsner D (2005). Cognition, copyright, and the classroom. The American journal of psychiatry 162 (3): 627–8.
  12. Mini-Mental State Examination. Psychological Assessment Resources, Inc.. URL accessed on 2006-06-22.
  13. Holsinger T, Deveau J, Boustani M, Williams JW (June 2007). Does this patient have dementia?. JAMA 297 (21): 2391–404.
  14. Mini-Mental State Exam (MMSE) Copyright, M. Smith, University of Iowa College of Nursing

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