Clinical assessment tools

Updated March 23, 2017

Doctors, nurses, psychologists and other medical professionals all use clinical assessment tools to evaluate the state of a client or patient. The assessment of a patient calls for the collection of both objective and subjective data so the doctor or evaluator can make a proper diagnosis.

Tests and Scales

A clinical scale or test consists of questions or sections designed to objectively quantify and assess a patient's functioning. Each section typically has a specific score or rating scale, which the test administrator compares to scores of a "normal" population in order to determine the functioning or impairment level of the patient. Many types of clinical tests and scales exist, including those that measure and rate cognitive abilities, brain functioning, feelings and attitudes, personality, social and physical functioning.

Surveys and Questionnaires

Self-report surveys and questionnaires get the patient to rate himself on a subjective basis. These techniques rely on getting the individual to be honest, which is one of the flaws with self-report assessment tools. Evaluators use surveys and questionnaires to assess many areas, including psychiatric well-being, physical functioning and general state-of-being.


In a clinical interview, the evaluator or professional meets with the patient and asks questions about the issue at hand. The evaluator monitors the patient's overall demeanour and body language during the interview. She asks questions about the patient's background and history. During the interview, the evaluator wants to obtain honest, qualitative answers so that he can make a professional judgment or diagnosis and work on treatment plans tailored to the patient.


Examinations involve the clinical inspection, observation and comparison of parts of the body to determine where deficiencies or abnormalities lie. For example, a physical examination involves checking the patient's vital signs, such as blood pressure, respiration and heart rate. It also involves physically inspecting parts of the body, such as your head and neck, abdomen and extremities.

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About the Author

Matthew Schieltz has been a freelance web writer since August 2006, and has experience writing a variety of informational articles, how-to guides, website and e-book content for organizations such as Demand Studios. Schieltz holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. He plans to pursue graduate school in clinical psychology.