What are the Different ADHD Rating Scales?

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  • Written By: Maggie J. Hall
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 06 November 2019
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The Conners' Rating Scales, the Swanson, Nolan and Pelham (SNAP) test and the Strengths and Weaknesses of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Normal Behaviors (SWAN) test are a few of the assessment tools clinicians use for ADHD diagnostic testing. Generally, a group of qualified professionals is involved in the diagnostic and testing process, which may include educators, social workers, health care providers and psychologists. Once an individual receives a formal diagnosis, health care providers determine the appropriate course of treatment and follow-up testing often assesses the efficacy of therapy and treatment.

ADHD rating scales use data compiled from specific tests completed by a wide range of people in various age groups. Based on the data obtained, clinicians evaluate the number and severity of symptoms experienced by the majority of those tested. Symptoms outside of this range may be indicative of a positive diagnosis. The various tests are structured to evaluate the presence and severity of 18 separate symptoms associated with ADHD, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-Fourth Edition (DSM-IV), used by psychologists.


Generally, individuals must experience symptoms in a variety of settings for a minimum of six months before consideration for ADHD testing. Children and adults may undergo ADHD screening. Typically, parents, guardians and teachers complete the screening tests regarding the symptoms of the child in question. Patients ranging in age from adolescence to adulthood typically participate in the testing process by completing an ADHD test that poses questions concerning behaviors and difficulties concerning everyday activities. While some ADHD rating scales ask participants to identify specific behaviors, others also require that patients indicate the level of severity in symptoms based on a zero to three scale.

Complete testing involving ADHD rating scales generally assesses the academic, emotional and social life of patients along with the developmental level of the child. When assessing adults, questions may also concern the person’s work or professional life and relationships. Inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity are some of the criteria that must be present for a definitive diagnosis. ADHD rating scales also include questions concerning anxiety or depression levels, cognitive ability and learning aptitude.

Another test called the Vanderbilt rating scale compiles information from various tests covering numerous aspects of a patient’s life in order to make a comprehensive and thorough determination. This ADHD rating scale involves assessing aptitude and cognitive ability along with academic achievement, information processing and behavior. Potential patients typically undergo an interview process, and clinicians gather information from other individuals. A complete family, medical and medication history is also required for proper diagnosis.


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