No single outcome measure can describe or predict all dimensions of recovery and disability after acute stroke. Several scales have proven reliability and validity in stroke trials, including the National Institutes of Health stroke scale (NIHSS), the modified Rankin scale (mRS), the Barthel index (BI), the Glasgow outcome scale (GOS), and the stroke impact scale (SIS). Several scales have been combined in stroke trials to derive a global statistic to better define the effect of acute interventions, although this composite statistic is not clinically tenable. In practice, the NIHSS is useful for early prognostication and serial assessment, whereas the BI is useful for planning rehabilitative strategies. The mRS and GOS provide summary measures of outcome and might be most relevant to clinicians and patients considering early intervention. The SIS was designed to measure the patient's perspective on the effect of stroke. Familiarity with these scales could improve clinicians' interpretation of stroke research and their clinical decision-making.