Health Professional Guide to Memory Loss: Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE)

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The Folstein Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) is used to evaluate a person’s cognitive and mental function and was designed as a screening test for dementia.

The MMSE is a global cognitive evaluation tool. It explores a person’s sense of time and space, their retention, attention to detail, ability to calculate, language skills and constructional praxia.  The results can be interpreted based on normative values for a person’s age and education according to the following table.

Completely normal results standardized for age/education



Normal MMSE

  • A score above 27 indicates normal cognition or very mild cognitive impairment that may or may not progress to dementia.
  • Yearly follow-ups are recommended


MMSE 24 - 27

  • This score is indicative of mild cognitive impairment

Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) or Minor Neurocognitive Disorder (MND)

MCI is not necessarily a sign of dementia or early Alzheimer's disease. People who have MCI do not have difficulty performing normal daily tasks such as driving, cooking, and handling finances.

Current literature suggests a conversion rate of mild cognitive impairment to dementia of 10–15% per year. Some patients never convert.

Drugs used to treat AD are being studied for MCI, but none are recommended at the current time.

Characteristics of MCI

  • MMSE >24 and < 27
  • MoCA < 26
  • Abnormal Clock Drawing Test
  • Memory complaint, preferably noticed by others
  • Intact activities of daily living


Source : The Canadian Review of Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias, volume 9, number 1, January 2007, p. 10.

Therapeutic alternatives

  • Treat all reversible causes (depression, vascular risk factor, lack of cognitive stimulation, lack of social activities).
  • 6 month follow-up.

Recommendations for non-progressive MCI

  • Reassure patient
  • Repeat tests annually to evaluate progression
  • Treat concurrent patho-physiological problems


MMSE less than 24

A result of less than 24 on MMSE indicates dementia. Dementia is characterized by multiple cognitive deficits, including significant memory impairment; these cognitive interfere with the ability to perform activities of daily living. The symptoms are not related to an acute confusional episode (delirium) or another psychiatric condition.


Driving evaluation



Next: MoCA, Clock Drawing Test, and Other Tests


We are pleased to house this series of FAQs for health professionals, supervised by Cara Tannenbaum, from the Centre de recherche de l’Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal.

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