A cognitive assessment is an examination conducted to determine someone's level of cognitive function. There are a number of reasons to perform such an exam, and this test can be administered by a mental health professional, neurologist, or education professional, depending on how it is to be used. Several standardized assessments have been published, and people can also develop their own, mixing and matching elements of various tests that can be used to measure cognitive function.
In this type of assessment, the subject will be asked to complete a series of tasks that require cognitive skills. Exams may be broken up into several different components to test things like reasoning, understanding language, and so forth. Each section is scored separately, and the results can be compared with those of other people who have taken the test to see where someone falls on a scale of cognitive performance.
One reason to perform a cognitive assessment is if a medical professional is concerned that someone may be experiencing a cognitive impairment. This may be the result of a brain injury or stroke, or it may be congenital in nature, as in a child with suspected intellectual disabilities. Neurologists and pediatricians use these tests to check on patients they are concerned about, and to establish a baseline that can be used for comparison in the future.
Such tests may also be used in the management of mental illness. The test can be used when a patient is first assessed, and later in the course of treatment to see how well the patient is responding to medication. A cognitive evaluation can also be used to determine whether or not a patient is experiencing any problems as a side effect of psychiatric medication.
During a neurological workup, an assessment may be done to learn more about the patient, and such tests are also used after brain surgery to confirm that the patient is recovering and that no area of the brain was damaged during the operation. In fact, for some types of surgery, assessments are performed periodically during the procedure so that the surgeon has instant feedback on what she or he is doing.
Such testing can also be used by education professionals to evaluate students. Care should be taken, however, because a cognitive assessment is not an intelligence test. It can provide information about how people acquire and process information, and it can identify areas where people may lag behind their peers cognitively, but it does not provide data about intelligence.