Digit Symbol Test Questions

What happens if they make a mistake? Do you just skip to the next question? If they make an error after the trial area, do we correct them or prompt or let them go and just get it when scoring?

If they make errors during the practice trial, point out the error and have them correct it. If they make errors during the administration of the test, you just let them go (do not stop them, do not stop the timer) and when scoring, count those items as incorrect (0 points). When scoring, if their response is a very close approximation that appears to be sloppy (e.g., 90 degree angles are slightly rounded), that is ok – credit should be given. In contrast, if the participants substitute a common symbol for a correct answer, that is incorrect (e.g., do not give credit if they turn the Λ into an A.) Here is a part from the What’s up with that? Section on the digit span in the manual. These all refer to the administration portion and not to the practice items:

 On the Digit Symbol test, unusual errors or responses are rare. Here are some possible ways in which participants may throw examiners for a loop, and how these situations should be handled:

  • If the participant skips one or more items, immediately give a reminder to go in order and not skip over any; point out the skipped item and direct the subject to continue from the last item completed successfully in order.
  • Do not intervene if the subject fills in a wrong symbol, but if the subject has clearly lost focus as to what to do (e.g., starts filling in something other than the symbols), you may give the following reminder: Remember, you are to fill in the symbol that goes below each number, as indicated in the key above.
  • If the subject pauses at the end of a row, say, Good , keep going. (Point to the beginning of the next row if necessary). 
June 10, 2010
Primary teaching affiliate
of BU School of Medicine