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Could you pass a cognitive test? What are example questions that measure your mental fitness?

Since the first presidential debate there has been much talk about cognitive tests. Here’s what these tests look like and what they can and can’t measure.

Take 15 to try your hand at a cognitive test
Yves HermanREUTERS

There has been much talk about the cognitive abilities of President Biden since his weak debate against Trump. The White House released a medical assessment from his physician, Kevin C. O’Connor, in February which stated that there were “no new concerns” were identified and it was “essentially unchanged from baseline.”

“An extremely detailed neurological exam was again reassuring” the health summary stated and that “there were no findings of cerebellar or other central neurological disorder.” It went on to list conditions such as stroke, multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s among others.

However, it was pointed out at the time that Biden didn’t take a cognitive test. The White House explained that Biden’s doctors didn’t feel that he needed one. And press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters that “he passes a cognitive test every day,” through his every day work which is “more rigorous” than such assessments.

Trump for his part has often bragged about his performance on the cognitive tests that he has taken. While occupant of the White House in 2018, his first physician, Ronny Jackson, said Trump scored 30 out of 30 on a basic cognitive test. In a three-paragraph letter on his health released in November, Bruce Aronwald, an osteopathic physician from New Jersey and long-time member of Trump’s golf club in Bedminster, said that the Republican presidential frontrunner had “exceptional” cognitive ability.

However, unlike the report latest released about Biden, Trump’s most recent lacked any actual specific numbers about his health or details about medications he is taking.

So with all the hubbub about cognitive tests, what are they and what can and can’t they measure?

Could you pass a cognitive test? What are example questions that measure your mental fitness?

There are different types of cognitive tests that people may be asked to take. For example, if you’re applying for a job, your prospective employer may ask you to take one. These screening tests help to predict job performance and measure general cognitive ability and agility.

Those should not be confused with the ones that Trump says he took and which some have questioned whether Biden should take. Medical cognitive tests help assess if someone has problems with mental function.

They involve answering simple questions and performing simple tests. The results help to show if a person is having a problem with some aspect of cognition. A low score can help a healthcare provider determine if there is some brain impairment and send the patient for more in-depth testing.

However, a high score doesn’t indicate that all is right as rain, there may still be issues with how the patient’s brain is functioning. The Cleveland Clinic says that a poor score on a cognitive test provides more information than a good score.

The most commonly used cognitive test is the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) which was developed in 1996. It takes about 15 minutes to complete and involves memorizing a short list of words, copying a drawing of an object or shape, looking at pictures of animals and saying which ones you see and performing other tasks. The University of Missouri provides an example of the MoCA that you can try yourself.

The MoCA has been validated as a test for mild cognitive impairment. The test has a total score of 30 points. A score of 25 or less indicates some level of cognitive impairment with below 10 indicating severe.