TOVA is a computer test that helps diagnose ADHD by assessing attention-related abilities.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental condition characterized by symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. An accurate ADHD diagnosis is important as it allows you to access the appropriate support and treatment to effectively manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life.

The Test of Variables of Attention (TOVA) is a computerized assessment tool commonly used to help diagnose ADHD. By measuring attention-related abilities, such as sustained attention, impulsivity, and response time variability, the TOVA provides objective data that complements other diagnostic information.

TOVA is a continuous performance test (CPT) used to evaluate attention-related difficulties and symptoms associated with ADHD.

By presenting visual stimuli and analyzing your responses, it measures the following:

  • sustained attention (the ability to maintain focus over time)
  • response time variability (consistency of response speed)
  • impulsivity (tendency to respond hastily without proper consideration)
  • overall attention performance

TOVA then generates performance scores that are used to assess attention-related abilities and aid in diagnosing and treating ADHD.

TOVA is typically administered on a computer and involves a series of visual stimuli, usually presented in the form of letters or shapes.

During TOVA, you observe a computer screen where letters or symbols appear. Your task is to press a button when you see a specific letter while refraining from pressing it for other letters. The test measures your reaction time, response consistency, and error rate.

TOVA measures the following skills:

  • Sustained Attention: assesses your ability to maintain focus and attention over an extended period of time
  • Response Time: measures how quickly you react to specific stimuli presented during the test
  • Response Time Variability: evaluates how consistently you’re able to respond at a steady pace
  • Impulsivity: assesses your tendency to respond hastily or impulsively without proper consideration
  • Attention Performance: provides an overall assessment of your attention abilities

How does TOVA determine ADHD?

TOVA doesn’t directly determine ADHD on its own but rather serves as a diagnostic tool alongside other clinical evaluations. It provides objective data on attention-related abilities like sustained attention and impulsivity.

By combining TOVA results with a comprehensive evaluation that includes clinical interviews, behavioral observations, and medical history, healthcare professionals gain a better understanding of your attention-related skills, leading to a more accurate ADHD assessment.

Yes, TOVA is considered to be a reliable assessment tool because it provides objective and standardized evidence.

Research suggests that people with genuine ADHD perform differently on CPTs compared with those without ADHD, supporting the validity of these tests.

In a 2007 study of Taiwanese children, researchers assessed the validity and reliability of TOVA in diagnosing ADHD. They compared 31 children with ADHD with 30 typically developing children, using TOVA and the Child Behavior Checklist (a commonly used psychological questionnaire).

The ADHD group showed lower performance outcomes on response time variability, higher ADHD scores, and increased hyperactivity on the CBCL. The study concluded that TOVA had good consistency and provided valid measures of attention and impulsivity.

A 2019 study aimed to investigate whether TOVA showed practice effects, which are improvements in performance due to repeated testing rather than actual changes in attention.

The results indicated that there were no significant changes in TOVA scores over time, suggesting that the test provides genuine measures of attention and is not influenced by practice effects.

Can TOVA detect individuals pretending to have ADHD symptoms?

Some individuals (more often teens and adults) may feign ADHD to gain access to stimulant medication or special academic accommodations. However, research suggests that TOVA and other continuous performance tests (CPTs) are generally reliable in distinguishing genuine ADHD symptoms from fake or exaggerated ones.

Individuals attempting to fake ADHD often go to great lengths, intentionally performing poorly and making more errors of omission and commission, attempting to demonstrate a lack of attentional control and impulsivity.

Despite their efforts, their performance tends to differ from individuals with genuine ADHD, particularly in measures like reaction time variability or reaction time change.

Directly from The TOVA Company’s website, the TOVA 9th edition test costs $995 plus shipping. The cost of TOVA, however, can vary depending on various factors such as location, healthcare professional performing the test, and whether it’s administered as part of a comprehensive assessment or as an individual test.

There are several signs that may indicate a child should be tested for ADHD. These signs include:

  • inattention
  • hyperactivity
  • impulsivity
  • poor academic performance
  • behavioral problems (difficulty following rules, acting out, or being disruptive in social situations)
  • emotional issues (difficulty managing emotions, frequent mood shifts, or impatience)
  • relationship difficulties

TOVA is a computer-based test that helps diagnose ADHD by providing objective information on attention-related abilities like sustained attention and impulsivity. It’s a reliable and valid assessment that can differentiate between individuals with ADHD and those without based on their performance patterns.

If you suspect you or your child has ADHD and want to take TOVA, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional for guidance. They can assess your symptoms, provide a comprehensive evaluation, and determine if TOVA is suitable for your situation.