What is the Conners rating scale for ADHD?

When a child is suspected of having ADHD, parents often turn to their family doctor who may refer them to a behavioral health expert, such as a psychologist.

The psychologist may then use an ADHD rating scale, such as the Conners Comprehensive Behavior Rating Scale, or Conners CBRS, to better understand the child’s symptoms and their severity.

The Conners CBRS aids diagnosis by helping to discover where the child’s issues lie, as well as in what settings these issues are most troublesome.

What does the scale measure?

Scoring for the Conners rating scale is designed to be comprehensive, and measures many behavioral markers, including signs of:

  • hyperactivity
  • aggressive behavior
  • potential for violence
  • compulsive behaviors
  • perfectionism
  • difficulty in class
  • extra trouble with math
  • difficulty with language
  • social issues
  • emotional distress
  • separation anxiety

There are short and long versions of the Conners CBRS assessments. Both versions are designed to test children from ages 6 to 18 years old, but experts use each for a different purpose.

The long version of the Conners CBRS is used for the initial evaluation of a child. The short version is used to follow up on a child’s behavioral patterns.

The long version will ask questions to check for:

  • types of behavioral issues
  • emotional disorders
  • difficulties with academics

There are also three different forms within each version of the Conners CBRS assessment. One is designed for parents to fill out, another for teachers, and one for the child to give their assessment of their symptoms.

Each form is worded differently, depending on what it is being used for. By combining the answers from all three forms, doctors can begin to paint a picture of a child’s behaviors. They are then able to decide if the child has ADHD, and start to help them understand their symptoms.

The long version of the Conners CBRS assessment may take up to 90 minutes to complete correctly and is designed to give a comprehensive evaluation of a child’s behaviors.

The short version of the test is called the Conners Clinical Index, or Conners CI, and may take as little as 5 minutes to complete.

The Conners CI covers 25 questions. It is designed to assess symptoms or progress over time. It is often used to follow up on a child’s behaviors, or see how they are responding to a medication or treatment routine.

As with all ADHD rating scales, the Conners rating scale is subjective and has limitations.

According to the medical assessment publisher MHS Assessments, validity analyses are used to ensure the accuracy of Conners CBRS scores. Furthermore, the mean overall classification accuracy rate is said to be 78 percent across all Conners CBRS forms.

As much as these tests aim to be objective, assessing a child’s behavior will always have a subjective element to it.

Because of this subjectivity, individuals are often recommended to use the Conners CBRS alongside other evaluation approaches.

These include:

  • attention span tests
  • the Conners 3 for continuing assessment
  • an ADHD symptom checklist

Further analysis of an individual’s behaviour can help to give a more rounded view of symptoms. It may also help avoid a misdiagnosis.


Self-diagnosis of ADHD is not an intended outcome of any ADHD test.

Anyone who suspects they or their child has symptoms of ADHD should make an appointment with their doctor and a mental health specialist for diagnosis. Even if the person has self-analyzed their behaviors prior to the visit, the psychologist will often recommend retesting under their guidance.

The Conners rating scale is not perfect, nor is any other ADHD rating scale. But when used correctly, and under the guidance of a medical health professional, it may offer people a way to understand better their child’s behaviors and possible ADHD symptoms.

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