BACKGROUND: The prevalence of dementia is estimated to be as high as 11.3% among coummunity-dwelling persons over 65 years of age in Korea. The fear of dementia for both patients and families is growing because of the chronicity and progressiveness of the disease. Though the recognition, evaluation, and management of patients with dementia are important for the care of older pateint, unfortunately, MMSE takes 5 to 10 minutes to administer and is cumbersome to carry for all elderly patients in busy office. The Clock Drawing Test has been known as valid, easily administered and low cost screening procedure for the congnitive impaiment associated with dementia in general geriatric clinic population. In this study, we assessed the usefulness of this measure as a screening test for dementia, on the basis of the correlation between clock drawing and MMSE-K. METHODS: The subjects for this study consisted of 47 elderly who visited to two elderly clubs in Seoul from April 1996 through June 1996 or the outpatient department of Family medicine of the Ehwa Mok-dong hospital. They received the Mini-Mental Status Exam and the Clock Drawing test. Three observers evaluated them by ratings from 10(best) to 1(worst). Inter-rater reliability of scores from the Clock Drawing Test was assessed and Pearson correlation coefficients were used to examine the relationships between scores from the Clock Drawing Test and MMSE-K. RESULTS: Their mean age was 75.4 years with range of 65 to 91 years. There were 34 women and 13 men. Correlations between individual raters was highly significant(y=0.8939, 0.8552, and 0.8698, respectively ; P<0.01). Compared to scores on MMSE-K, rating from clock drawings by each of 3 raters revealed statistically significant correlations(y=0.7164, 0.7398, and 0.6884, respectively ; P<0.01). CONCLUSIONS: The clock drawings can be rated reliably by even untrained observers and performance on this task relates significantly to performance on MMSE-K of severity. We confirmed the usefulness of clock drawings as a simple, easily administered, low cost, and reliable general screening tool for dementia in a general geriatric clinic population.