The Ballard Maturational Score was refined and expanded to achieve greater accuracy and to include extremely premature neonates. To test validity, accuracy, interrater reliability, and optimal postnatal age at examination, the resulting New Ballard Score (NBS) was assessed for 578 newly born infants and the results were analyzed. Gestational ages ranged from 20 to 44 weeks and postnatal ages at examination ranged from birth to 96 hours. In 530 infants, gestational age by last menstrual period was confirmed by agreement within 2 weeks with gestational age by prenatal ultrasonography (C-GLMP). For these infants, correlation between gestational age by NBS and C-GLMP was 0.97. Mean differences between gestational age by NBS and C-GLMP were 0.32 +/- 1.58 weeks and 0.15 +/- 1.46 weeks among the extremely premature infants (less than 26 weeks) and among the total population, respectively. Correlations between the individual criteria and C-GLMP ranged from 0.72 to 0.82. Interrater reliability of NBS, as determined by correlation between raters who rated the same subgroup of infants, ws 0.95. For infants less than 26 weeks of gestational age, the greatest validity (97% within 2 weeks of C-GLMP) was seen when the examination was performed before 12 hours of postnatal age. For infants at least 26 weeks of gestational age, percentages of agreement with C-GLMP remained constant, averaging 92% for all postnatal age categories up to 96 hours. The NBS is a valid and accurate gestational assessment tool for extremely premature infants and remains valid for the entire newborn infant population.