The aim of the study was to compare the screening properties of two General Health Questionnaire (GHQ) versions and the Symptom Checklist (SCL-90), and to evaluate them as psychiatric screening instruments in Finland. We administered the GHQ-36 and the SCL-90 to psychiatric outpatients (n=207) and to a community sample (n=315). Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analysis was used to estimate the screening performance of the two instruments and of the GHQ-12 extracted from the GHQ-36. The screening properties of the scales were found to be good and similar. Suggested optimal cut-off points were 3/4 for the GHQ-12, 8/9 for the GHQ-36 and 0.90/0.91 for the SCL-90. In conclusion, the scales functioned equally well in screening. This favors the GHQ-12 for pure screening. When information on the symptom level is also needed, the GHQ-36 and the SCL-90 become better choices. The cut-off points presented here should be considered in the future Finnish psychiatric screening studies.