The random dot stereogram E (RDE) has been shown to be a simple and effective test for the detection of binocular abnormalities and defective visual acuity in children. We determined the validity of the RDE as a screening test for reduced visual acuity, amblyopia and strabismus in two separate populations of children. A nonselective group of 100 school children (aged 5 to 15 years) who presented consecutively to the ophthalmology department at Auckland Public Hospital were tested with the RDE. All cases of amblyopia and strabismus were detected by the RDE. Similar screening with the RDE test of 168 preschool children (aged three to four years) in the community resulted in an unacceptably high over-referral rate. The test was unreliable in the preschool age group because of difficulty in distinguishing between test failure and non-cooperation with the test. The low positive predictive value of the test in the younger age group suggests the test to be unsuitable for preschool vision screening.