Executive Function Tests

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Many times, parents and educators ask about testing children for executive functioning skills. Today, we’re covering executive function tests that cover a range of cognitive skills as part of an executive functioning assessment. Let’s get started!

Executive function tests for therapists, including formal and informal executive functioning assessments.

Executive Function Tests

These executive functioning assessment tools can be used as part of a formal assessment, or used in part as an informal executive function assessment. These testing tools can also be included in a full OT assessment.

When determining a child’s need for skilled occupational therapy services, it is important to collect data through an occupational profile, formal and informal assessment tools, observation, and client/caregiver interview. However, there are a lot of different executive functioning assessment tools available, so it can be hard to determine the best one for you!

There are a multitude of different executive functioning assessment tools that vary in their applicable ages, administration type (questionnaire vs. participation-based), and standardization. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses, but check out a few favorites to see if one might fit your needs!

The Children’s Kitchen Task Assessment (CKTA)

The Children’s Kitchen Task Assessment (CKTA) is a fantastic non-standardized assessment of executive functioning skills. The CKTA is geared toward children ages 8-12. Let’s dissect this particular executive functioning assessment.

The CKTA asks children to make play dough from a recipe with both words and pictures. The CKTA itself is free, though you do need to make a kit of materials out of common household items. Children are rated based on the level of assistance they require, rather than their quality of performance.

Prior to starting the activity, the child is asked to respond to a few questions, including predicting how much help they will need to perform the activity. The child also responds to questions after participating, including their perceived level of assistance and performance, as well as how they could have done better. This is a great opportunity to develop self-reflection!

Try this executive function assessment using kitchen tasks: Children’s Kitchen Task Assessment.

The Executive Function Performance Test (EFPT)

The Executive Function Performance Test (EFPT) is another non-standardized assessment of executive functioning skills. The EFPT does not have a specified age range, though with the nature of the tasks, it is best suited for use with ages 14 and up.

During the EFPT, participants are asked to cook stovetop oatmeal, make a phone call, take a pretend medication, and pay pretend bills. Much like the CKTA, the participant is rated on their level of assistance and the participant also completes self-reflection components. Executive functioning skills become even more critical as a child grows up—executive functioning is critical in adulthood!

Try this executive function assessment, the Executive Function Performance Test.

Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Functioning- 2nd Edition (BREIF-2)

The BRIEF-2 is a standardized, questionnaire-based executive functioning assessment. There are multiple options for the BRIEF-2: teacher report, parent report, and self-report (ages 11+). The general BRIEF-2 is for ages 5-18, though preschool and adult versions are available for an additional cost.

In completing the BRIEF-2, raters are asked to respond to statements relating to a wide variety of executive functioning skills. In order to increase validity, there are 3 subscales to determine any responses that would decrease validity: infrequency, inconsistency, and negativity.

To view or purchase: BRIEF-2.

Informal Executive Function Tests

There are several nontraditional and informal assessment methods for testing executive function skills. Executive functioning is important for nearly every task we complete each day. As a result, it can have an enormous impact on a child’s ability to participate in age-appropriate activities. However, these skills can also be easily assessed through many everyday activities!

Daily tasks such as self-care routines, learning tasks, chores, kitchen tasks, games, or problem-solving tasks, consider these aspects of executive function listed below. These are informal executive performance tests in a very functional strategy, taking into consideration the environment in which the task actually is performed.

  • Forming ideas to do an action (planning)
  • Starting an action (task initiation)
  • Using organization of tools and materials
  • Maintaining an action until the step is finished and knowing when a step is done (task completion, processing speed, impulse control, attention)
  • Switching behaviors or strategies to do the next step needed (prioritization, foresight)
  • Regulating, controlling, and adjusting body actions to deal with changes and new information along the way (working memory, strategizing)
  • Planning a tactic down the road to deal with a new issue or new direction (planning, cognitive flexibility)
  • Holding details in the working memory (working memory)
  • Controlling emotions (self-monitoring, emotional control, emotional regulation)
  • Thinking abstractly (problem solving, persistence, shift)
  • Knowing when the whole task is finished, stopping that task, and moving onto a different task or activity (hindsight)

Some simple tasks to assess these skills can be cooking a simple recipe, completing a chore, making a daily “to-do” list, preparing for a party or event, or other tasks that require several steps and a process of planning out tasks.

When in doubt, select an activity and see if you can assess multiple executive functioning skills within the activity! Whether an obstacle course, board game, or a craft, there are so many options to gather “real-time” data on how these skills are impacting a child!  

Executive Function Activities

Looking for applicable resources to informally test executive functioning skills as well as incorporate executive function activities into daily tasks? The Impulse Control Journal is your printable guide to working through tasks, multi-step activities, and daily issues that impact executive function. Not only does it address impulse control, the journal is a resource in organization, establishing habits and mindset, working through goals, and getting things accomplished.

Click here to access the Impulse Control Journal.

Impulse Control Journal the OT Toolbox

The Impulse Control Journal…a printable resource for helping kids strategize executive functioning skill development. When saying “calm down” just isn’t enough…

When a child is easily “triggered” and seems to melt down at any sign of loud noises or excitement…

When you need help or a starting point to teach kids self-regulation strategies…

When you are struggling to motivate or redirect a child without causing a meltdown…

When you’re struggling to help kids explore their emotions, develop self-regulation and coping skills, manage and reflect on their emotions, identify their emotions, and more as they grow…

Grab the Impulse Control Journal to build organizational strategies, planning, prioritization, habits, and mindset in kids.

executive function tests