We investigated the accuracy of the Hodkinson abbreviated mental test (AMT) as a screening instrument for dementia in an Italian population. The AMT was administered by nonmedical personnel to 124 subjects > 59 years old. Each subject independently underwent a clinical evaluation for dementia (DSM-III criteria), and scores on the AMT were compared to corresponding clinical diagnoses (standard for comparison). Twenty of the 124 subjects were found to be affected by dementia upon clinical investigation. Although a score of 6 on the AMT showed the best combination of sensitivity (90%) and specificity (89%), only a score of 7 yielded 100% sensitivity (71% specificity). Specificity was higher in men, younger, and more educated subjects.