In some mild haemophilia A patients (discrepant haemophilia), factor VIII coagulant activity (FVIII:C) levels, by one-stage assay are more than double than those by two-stage assay. This may be due to the longer incubation times (10-12 min) in the two-stage assay. This study aimed to determine the time course of the activation phase of the two-stage assay, using both classical coagulation and chromogenic detection methods. In both systems, for equivalent patients (equivalent FVIII:C levels by one-stage and two-stage assays, n = 6, all different mutations), similar FVIII:C results were obtained with short- or long-incubation times. In contrast, plasma from discrepant patients (n = 8, five different mutations) showed higher FVIII:C at shorter incubation times than after longer incubation times. In the chromogenic assay, FVIII:C levels were higher after incubation for 2 min (23-56%, mean 41%) than after 10 min (19-41%, mean 29%). In the classical coagulation assay, FVIII:C levels were higher at shorter incubation times (21-64%, mean 37%) than with the longer incubation times usually used (13-29%, mean 23%). These time-course experiments have verified that the longer incubation time used in the two-stage assay is at least partly responsible for the lower FVIII:C measured by that assay in discrepant haemophilia.