We designed a 15-item neurologic examination stroke scale for use in acute stroke therapy trials. In a study of 24 stroke patients, interrater reliability for the scale was found to be high (mean kappa = 0.69), and test-retest reliability was also high (mean kappa = 0.66-0.77). Test-retest reliability did not differ significantly among a neurologist, a neurology house officer, a neurology nurse, or an emergency department nurse. The stroke scale validity was assessed by comparing the scale scores obtained prospectively on 65 acute stroke patients to the patients' infarction size as measured by computed tomography scan at 1 week and to the patients' clinical outcome as determined at 3 months. These correlations (scale-lesion size r = 0.68, scale-outcome r = 0.79) suggested acceptable examination and scale validity. Of the 15 test items, the most interrater reliable item (pupillary response) had low validity. Less reliable items such as upper or lower extremity motor function were more valid. We discuss methods for improving the reliability and validity of brief examination scales to be used in stroke therapy trials.