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What are the tests for memory loss?

There are lots of tests you can do if you’re worried about your memory. Here’s what you need to know

Could this be you?

You keep forgetting things, you want to find out why but you don’t want to see a doctor yet. If this sounds familiar, you aren’t alone. Whilst there are some simple tests that your doctor can carry out to determine if you’re suffering from memory loss, many people – understandably perhaps – prefer to ‘test’ their own memories first, before asking anyone else to do it for them.


We’ve found two quick tests you can do at home

Before you start

Relax! These are not a test of your intelligence and you can’t ‘pass or fail’ them. They are simply a way to understand what’s going on with your memory…so there’s really no point at all in cheating!

Test 1: Short Blessed Test or Six Item Cognitive Impairment Test (6CIT Kingshill version)

This is a speedy test that many doctors will carry out for signs of mild cognitive impairment and mild dementia. You can try the test out yourself, but you’ll need to get a friend or family member to run the test for you so you can be scored fairly.

1. What year is it (score 4 points for incorrect answer)
2. What month is it now (score 3 point for incorrect answer)
3. Please repeat this name and address after me:
John Brown, 42 Market Street, Bristol
(Say three times. Tell them they need to remember this name and address for later.)
4. Without looking at your watch, say what the time is (score 3 points if time is more than one hour out – e.g. they say 10.45 or 12.15 and the time is 11.30)
5. Count aloud backwards from 20 to 1 (one error gets two points, two or more errors gets four points)
6. Say the months of the year in reverse order (one error gets two points, two or more errors gets four points)
7. Repeat the name and address that you were asked to remember earlier on in the test (score two points for one error, four points for two errors, six points for three errors, eight points for four errors and 10 points for five errors).

The final score will be out of 28. If you scored:
0-4 points: you have normal memory – no further action
5-9 points: you have questionable cognitive impairment – talk to your GP
10+ points: you have clear cognitive impairment – if you haven’t already, talk to your GP


Test 2: Mini-Cog Test

Another super-speedy and popular test revolves around two memory tasks. Once again, this test works best if a friend or relative is asking the questions.

1. Repeat the following words after me: apple, watch, penny.
2. Draw a large circle on a blank piece of paper then add in the numbers so it looks like an analogue clock face.
3. Next draw in the hands of the clock to represent the time “forty-five minutes past ten o’clock”.
4. Tell me the three words that you repeated at the beginning of the test.

If you correctly recall all three items then you should stop the test there as it’s unlikely you have any cognitive impairment.
If you can’t remember any of the three items, visit your doctor for more tests.
If you can remember 1-2 items, the clock drawing should be checked. If it’s correct, then you don’t need to see a doctor. If the drawing doesn’t look right (all the numbers are on one side of the face or if the time is incorrect), then you may need further evaluation by a doctor.

Why is the clock test done?

Drawing a clock is a good way to test executive functioning. This is your ability to get dressed, balance a budget, plan projects and remember steps involved in complex tasks. Someone with dementia may struggle to put the numbers in the right order, or in the right places on the clock face, including trying to squash them all into one half of it.

Tests provided through mybraintest.org


Don’t Panic

If your scores for either of these tests suggest you may have significant memory problems try not to worry. The tests themselves aren’t fool proof and you could find that if you do them on a different day you could get a different result. However, it makes sense to use the information they reveal about your memory wisely. You could start by confiding in a friend or relative or by making an appointment to see your doctor.