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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
A third edition of the California Verbal Learning Test is also available: California Verbal Learning Test-3
Supplemental - Highly Recommended: Myalgic encephalomyelitis/Chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS)
Supplemental: Cerebral Palsy (CP), Epilepsy, Huntington's Disease (HD), 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
For use in 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. The California Verbal Learning Test - Third edition was published in 2017. (Delis et al., 2017)
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.
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 short form of the CVLT-II is only advisable to use for following 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.
Comments/Special Instructions
Published in 2017 the CVLT-3 differs from the CVLT-II in several ways:
Updates to the CVLT-3
    • Norms from a national standardization sample of 700 individuals aged 16 to 90, demographically matched to most recent US census.
    • Online scoring on the Q-global® platform while maintaining the traditional paper-and-pencil administration format.
    • Use of the scaled score metric rather than the z-score metric for ease of comparison to other tests like the WMS®.
    • New process scores to evaluate intrusion error types across trials.
    • Provides T-scores reflecting education and sex demographic adjustments to age-adjusted core and process scores.
    • New intrusion measures that enhance the ability to distinguish between memory disorders associated with subcortical-frontal regions and mesial-temporal regions.
    • New yes/no recognition memory measures.
    • Modification of the Forced Choice Recognition task.
What has not changed:
Target words that have been proven successful in hundreds of studies for List A and List B remain the same from the CVLT-II to the CVLT-3.
Scoring and Psychometric Properties
Scoring: 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.
Psychometric Properties: Results revealed generally large test-retest correlation coefficients for the primary CVLT-II measures in both the standard/standard (range=0.80-0.84) and standard/alternate (range=0.61-0.73) cohorts. Participants in the alternate form group displayed notably smaller practice effects (Cohen's d range=-0.01 to 0.18) on the primary indices relative to individuals who received the standard (Cohen's d range=0.27-0.61). Reliable change indices were also generated and applied to primary CVLT-II variables to determine the base rates of significant improvements (range=2-10%), declines (range=0-7%), and stability (range=85-97%) in performance over time. Overall, findings support the test-retest reliability of the standard and alternate forms of the CVLT-II in healthy adults and may enhance the usefulness of this test in longitudinal neuropsychological evaluations. (Woods et al., 2006)
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. In a study by Helmstaedter et al., (2009), in patients with epilepsy, the parameters of the CVLT and WMS-R, were highly correlated with attention, language function and vocabulary.
There are two primary disadvantages of the CVLT-II. 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 with an associated cost. As with the WMS-IV, there is an additional risk that a new word list or other changes may be introduced during its revision/standardization. For example, the CVLT-II contains a different word list than the original CVLT.
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)
Data is not yet available for a ME/CFS population and should be the goal of future investigations.
Key References:
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:
Delis DC, Kramer JH, Kapkan E, Ober BA. California Verbal Learning Test® - Third Edition (CVLT® -3) [Internet]. Pearson Education, Inc. 2017 [cited 07 November 2023]. 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 Clin Neuropsychol. 2006 Aug;21(5):413-20.
Additional References:
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 Feb;62(2):151-5.
Fine EM, Delis DC, Wetter SR, Jacobson MW, Hamilton JM, Peavy G, Goldstein J, McDonald C, Corey-Bloom J, Bondi MW, Salmon DP. Identifying the "source" of recognition memory deficits in patients with Huntington's disease or Alzheimer's disease: evidence from the CVLT-II. J Clin Exp Neuropsychol. 2008 May;30(4):463-70.
Donders J. Subtypes of learning and memory on the California Verbal Learning Test-Second Edition (CVLT-II) in the standardization sample. J Clin Exp Neuropsychol. 2008 Oct;30(7):741-8.
Helmstaedter C, Wietzke J, Lutz MT. Unique and shared validity of the "Wechsler logical memory test", the "California verbal learning test", and the "verbal learning and memory test" in patients with epilepsy. Epilepsy Res. 2009 Dec;87(2-3):203-12.
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 Neurol. 2002 Dec;59(12):1895-901.
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. Neurology. 2001 Aug 28;57(4):597-604.
McDowell BD, Bayless JD, Moser DJ, Meyers JE, Paulsen JS. Concordance between the CVLT and the WMS-III word lists test. Arch Clin Neuropsychol. 2004 Mar;19(2):319-24.
Pearson. CVLT-3: Features and Revisions from CVLT-II [Internet]. Pearson Education, Inc. 2019 [cited 07 November 2023]. Available from:
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 Mar;8(3):425-35.
Stroup E, Langfitt J, Berg M, McDermott M, Pilcher W, Como P. Predicting verbal memory decline following anterior temporal lobectomy (ATL). Neurology. 2003 Apr 22;60(8):1266-73.
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 Jan;24(1):153-68.
Document last updated June 2024
Recommended Instrument for
CP, Epilepsy, ME/CFS, MS and SRC