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15-Minute Home Test Detects Early Signs of Dementia

Updated: Apr 1, 2020

If you suspect that your older adult is having problems with memory, thinking or judgement, you may want them to take the SAGE test for dementia.

This at-home pen-and-paper test is free, takes just 15 minutes, and accurately identifies early symptoms of Alzheimer’s or dementia.

And if the stress and exhaustion of family caregiving are making you feel like your brain isn’t working anymore, this quick test can reassure you that there’s no problem with your cognitive function.

We explain how the test works, how to take it at home, and why it’s important to discuss results with a doctor.


SAGE stands for Self-Administered Gerocognitive Examination and was developed by researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. It has 12 questions that cover all aspects of cognition including memory, problem solving and language.

There are 4 different versions of the test. They’re similar enough, but having multiple versions means that someone could take the test once a year and wouldn’t improve their score each year just from the “practice” of taking it before.


Anyone can take the SAGE test anytime. It’s free and you can get it here on the Ohio State University website.

Click the “Download Test” button and select “I agree and download test” to choose one of the 4 test versions – it doesn’t matter which one.

Print the test and take it with a pen or pencil. There’s no time limit, but most people finish in about 15 minutes.

Sample questions from the test:

  • How many nickels are in 60 cents?

  • You are buying $13.45 of groceries. How much change would you receive back from a $20 bill?

  • Write down the names of 12 different animals.

  • Draw a large face of a clock and place in the numbers: Position the hands for 10 minutes after 11 o’clock. On your clock, label “L” for the long hand and “S” for the short hand.

Discuss test results with a doctor

  • Don’t assume that the test results are equal to a diagnosis of any kind.

  • The SAGE test is a screening tool that helps doctors detect early signs of cognitive impairment that are typically not noticeable during a normal office visit.

  • When the test is repeated over time, doctors can watch for changes in cognitive ability. Being able to measure changes helps them detect and treat health conditions early.

  • It's important to bring the completed test to the doctor to have it reviewed. If there are signs of cognitive impairment, they may recommend further testing.


The SAGE test is useful because it helps you understand if your concerns are something to be worried about. If the results seem to indicate that there could be a problem, you might think there’s no point in talking with the doctor because there’s no cure for dementia. But an early Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnosis has significant benefits.

The most important is that a treatable condition could be the cause of cognitive impairment. Finding out sooner means getting treatment quicker that may eliminate the cognitive symptoms.

If the cognitive impairment is caused by Alzheimer’s or dementia, a major benefit is that starting treatment early is far more effective in managing symptoms and delaying progression of the disease.

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