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California Verbal Learning Test - Second Edition (CVLT-II)
Please visit this website for more information about the instrument: California Verbal Learning Test-II
Supplemental – Highly Recommended: Myalgic encephalomyelitis/Chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS)
Supplemental: Cerebral Palsy (CP), Epilepsy, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Sport-Related Concussion (SRC) Persistent/Chronic (3 months and greater post concussion)
Exploratory: Sport-Related Concussion (SRC) Acute (time of injury until 72 hours) and Subacute (after 72 hours to 3 months)
Short Description of Instrument
Assessment of verbal learning and memory for older adolescents and adults.
The California Verbal Learning Test II (CVLT-II) has been revised to include more comprehensive information provided by new items including a more technologically advanced scoring system. An expanded age range has also been added and these additions have resulted in improved correlation with the Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence leading to valuable comparative data.
Flexible Administration:
New options provide flexibility in test administration. The Short Form can be used when exam time is limited or when less detailed test information is sufficient. The Short Form is also helpful when examinee fatigue is a concern, or severe memory or cognitive deficits make the Standard or Alternate Forms impractical. The Short Form features lists of nine words in three categories and takes only 15 minutes to administer (plus two delay periods that total 15 minutes). The new Alternate Form prevents artificially inflated scores when re-testing is necessary. The Standard and Alternate Forms can be administered in 30 minutes, with an additional 30-minute delay.
Expanded Sample:
Extensive clinical data are available. New norms are available on a national sample of adults selected to represent the U.S. population. Norms are provided for individuals from ages 16 to 89 years, increasing the use of the new edition.
The CVLT–II is correlated with the Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence™ (WASI™), providing valuable comparison information about the effect of cognitive ability on verbal learning and memory. Correlation data with the WASI-II are not available.
Epilepsy Specific General Description:
The CVLT-II is commonly used in North America to characterize verbal learning and retention in both clinical practice and clinical research. The CVLT-II contains 5 learning trials of 16 words chosen from several semantic categories (e.g., apple, banana (fruit)). After completing the 5 learning trials, a second (new) word list is presented for a single learning trial. Then, following the single recall trial of the new words, spontaneous recall of the initial word list is obtained. Following a 30-minute delay, free recall and recognition of the initial word list is assessed. In addition to recall and recognition scores, CVLT-II scores also provide information on encoding strategies, learning rates, error types, and other process data. CVLT-II includes forced choice items to detect poor motivation (Wolfe et al. 2010).
The CVLT-II can be manually scored or by using the proprietary software. The CVLT–II Comprehensive Scoring System provides rich information not available through typical hand scoring. The most technologically advanced scoring software yet, it offers multiple scoring options, varying from brief to highly detailed information.
Epilepsy-Specific Strengths and Weaknesses:
One of the main advantages of the CVLT-II is the availability of normative information. The original CVLT also demonstrated sensitivity to verbal memory decline associated with left temporal surgery (Stroup et al., 2003; Martin et al., 2001). It also contains a forced choice recognition test, which may be useful in identifying incomplete effort directed toward task. The CVLT-II also permits characterization of learning styles (semantic, serial) and serial position effect of item recall. However, these factors have not been selectively identified as consistent characteristics that are useful in characterizing memory performance in epilepsy.
There are two primary disadvantages of the CVLT-II, however. The first is that the semantic relationship among words decreases its sensitivity to lateralized temporal lobe dysfunction in patients with temporal lobe epilepsy This semantic link across different words in the list acts as a cue to facilitate memory performance in patients whose memory is partially compromised. The other primary disadvantage is that it is a commercial product (Kit price $650; record forms $2.75 each). As with the WMS-IV, there is an additional risk that a new word list or other changes may be introduced during its revision/restandardization. For example, the CVLT-II contains a different word list than the original CVLT.
ME/CFS-Specific Strength and Weaknesses:
The availability of information about encoding and learning strategy, learning styles, as well as characterization of errors is very valuable when interpreting CVLT-II results in patients with ME/CFS as it allows not only for differentiation by level of performance, but also by pattern of performance. Information on CVLT-II's learning and memory subtypes as well as on CVLT-II's semantic and serial clustering indices is available for the CVLT-II standardization sample (Stricker et al., 2002; Donders, 2008). This data is not available for a ME/CFS population yet and should be the goal of future investigations.
The short form of the CVLT-II is only advisable to use for follow up once the thorough assessment with the long form has been made as it provides for important information on learning processes as outlined above.
The CVLT-II should be used in clinical trials targeting management tools for cognitive dysfunction in ME/CFS as well as trials exploring attention and memory in ME/CFS.
Delis DC, Kramer JH, Kapkan E, Ober BA. California Verbal Learning Test® - Second Edition (CVLT® -II) [Internet]. Pearson Education, Inc. 2000 [cited 22 June 2016]. Available from:
Woods SP, Delis DC, Scott JC, Kramer JH, Holdnack JA.  The California Verbal Learning Test - second edition: Test-retest reliability, practice effects, and reliable change indices for the standard and alternate forms. Arch of Clin Neuropsychol. 2006;21(5):413-420.
DeLuca J, Johnson SK, Ellis SP, Natelson BH. Cognitive functioning is impaired in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome devoid of psychiatric disease. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 1997;62:151-155.
Donders J. Subtypes of learning and memory on the California Verbal Learning Test-Second Edition (CVLT-II) in the standardization sample. J Clin Exp Neuropsych. 2008;30(7):741-748.
Martin RC, Kretzmer T, Palmer C, Sawrie S, Knowlton R, Faught E, Morawetz R, Kuzniecky R. Risk to verbal memory following anterior temporal lobectomy in patients with severe left-sided hippocampal sclerosis. Arch Neurology. 2002;59(12):1895-1901.
Martin RC, Sawrie SM, Knowlton RC, Bilir E, Gilliam FG, Faught E, Morawetz RB, Kuzniecky R. Bilateral hippocampal atrophy: consequences to verbal memory following temporal lobectomy. Neurol. 2001;57(4):597-604.
Stricker JL, Brown GG, Wixted J, Baldo JV, Delis DC. New semantic and serial clustering indices for the California Verbal Learning Test-Second Edition: Background, rationale, and formulae. J Int Neuropsychol Soc. 2002;8(3):425-435.
Stroup E, Langfitt J, Berg M, McDermott M, Pilcher W, Como P. Predicting verbal memory decline following anterior temporal lobectomy (ATL). Neurol. 2003;60(8):1266-1273.
Wolfe PL, Millis SR, Hanks R, Fichtenberg N, Larrabee GJ, Sweet JJ. Effort indicators within the California Verbal Learning Test-II (CVLT-II). Clin Neuropsychol. 2010;24(1):153-168.


Document last updated July 2019
Recommended Instrument for
CP, Epilepsy, ME/CFS, MS and SRC