What an online ADHD quiz will (and won’t) tell you
1-minute summary: Whilst online ADHD tests may ask similar questions to those used in clinic interviews, they are no substitute for a proper assessment. Without an experienced clinician or expert to interpret patient answers in the context of one’s medical history and current needs, online ADHD quizzes have no real value as a diagnostic tool. Objective data, such as that provided by QbTest or QbCheck can be used alongside subjective tools like surveys and interviews to arrive at a more accurate evaluation.
Every month, nearly 35,000 people search Google for a structurally simple yet complex question: “Do I have ADHD?”. Many of them will land on websites offering online ADHD tests that claim to help answer that very question in a matter of minutes, all from their personal computer. The question is just how effective or relevant these short, web-based questionnaires are when it comes to helping those who potentially have ADHD or a related condition.
The fact is, when approached with the right mindset, these types of quizzes can have a useful role in improving one’s understanding of ADHD. They are not, however, a clinically-backed tool for making a diagnosis.
The best way to approach an online ADHD quiz is as a preliminary starting point—one small piece of data to consider in a larger journey. Viewed this way, an online ADHD quiz can be engaging, but only insofar as it leads to treatment guided by an experienced healthcare professional.
Online ADHD testing: the basics
Most online ADHD quizzes ask the user to respond to various scenarios on a Likert scale, offering “always,” “often,” sometimes,” or “never” answers. Some common questions include:
- How often have you had trouble focusing on work or school-related tasks over the past three months?
- How often do you struggle to complete tasks or make deadlines?
- Do you often find yourself fidgeting, tapping, or struggling to remain still when seated?
These kinds of questions are similar to the ones commonly asked during in-clinic interviews. In that sense, online ADHD tests can offer would-be patients a primer on what to expect from a clinical evaluation. Test takers will later enter the clinician’s office with an awareness of what they may be asked, potentially reducing their anxiety and giving them more confidence as they move through their evaluation.
Drawbacks of online ADHD quizzes
Problems may arise when online ADHD quizzes are taken at face value, rather than as a preliminary piece of self-assessment. Without an experienced clinician or expert to interpret patient answers in the context of one’s medical history and current needs, online ADHD quizzes have no real value as a diagnostic tool.
The limited effectiveness of surveys and questionnaires alone, when diagnosing ADHD, has been studied by researchers. One 2013 study from the Journal of Attention Disorders found that rating scales alone were not sufficient to make an accurate assessment. The low specificity of these tests – that is, their high likelihood of falsely diagnosing someone without the condition – make them unsuitable as a sole means of diagnosis.
More importantly, the tests studied by researchers were administered by trained professionals in a clinical setting. Any results delivered by a self-guided online questionnaire filled out from a personal computer are likely to be even less accurate. Clearly, an objective ADHD diagnosis requires much more professional support and guidance than a website can offer.
How to use online ADHD test results
The same researchers who found low specificity in ADHD questionnaires also studied more complex diagnostic processes, which included interviews, observations, and psychoeducational assessments. These more thorough analyses provided results far more accurate than questionnaires alone, signaling the need for a robust assessment standard for effective treatment.
For the most complete assessment possible, clinicians utilize both subjective tools like surveys and interviews alongside objective data, such as that provided by QbTest or QbCheck. Utilizing an objective standard allows clinicians to witness how a patient’s results compare to those of a control group, better enhancing their ability to make an accurate evaluation.