Beck Anxiety Inventory, Assessment Example


The purpose of the Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI) is to assess the severity of anxiety in an individual. The assessment consists of 21 multiple choice questions with responses for each scored on a scale of 0 to 3,thus having a 63 point maximum score.  Those who score 26 or greater out of those 63 points are considered to be severely anxious. While used for geriatric populations with some success, it was not designed specifically for that population and includes questions that may be more indicative of physical problems than anxiety with that population. Because of the speed with which the BAI can be administered and scored, the assessment makes an ideal instrument for clinical practice.

Description of Test

The Beck Anxiety Inventory assesses the severity of anxiety within an individual based on their responses to 21 self-report questions.  The questions are multiple choice with each question having responses of “not at all” (0 points); “mildly” (1 point); “moderately” (2 points), and “severely” (3 points). With 21 total questions and  a maximum score of 3 points per question, the highest possible score is 63 points.  The results of the inventory are figured by adding up the points of the responses. A total score of 0 to 7 points indicates a minimal level of anxiety.  A total score between 8 to 15 points indicates mild anxiety.  A total score of 16 to 25 points indicates moderate anxiety levels.  Finally, a total score of 26 points or more indicates severe anxiety.   Women tend to score up to four points higher than men on this inventory.

Development of Test

The BAI was developed to help clinicians to identify anxiety levels in patients and to distinguish between anxiety and depression, two factors that often co-occur ( Montingh et al., 2011). In particular, it was designed for use in settings such as primary care where the clinician often has only a few minutes of time with each patient.  Because the test is extremely short and simple, its ability simply to identify anxiety can be a boon to busy physicians (Muntingh et al., 2011).

The BAI was also designed to minimize its overlap with depression measures,  and excludes anxiety symptoms that may mimic depressive symptomology (Yochim et al., 2011).   The BAI was not intended as primarily a geriatric assessment, but Yochim et al (2011) noted that it is frequently used with geriatric populations with some success.  With that said, however, some of the questions are inappropriate for the geriatric population, such as those that address physiological issues such as “wobbly legs” which, in a geriatric population, may be more indicative of physiological problems than anxiety.

Assessment of Test

The BAI is an excellent tool for assessing general anxiety in clinical settings because it is easy and quick to administer and score, even in clinical settings where time is very short.  A study by Muntingh et al. (2011) found that the BAI is quite effective in distinguishing between anxiety and depression in a clinical setting, and that it has a strong bias for panic disorders and agoraphobia. Muntingh et al., also concluded that while the BAI was a robust measure of depression, but not particularly specific for anxiety in clinical settings.


Brooks, B. L., Strauss, E., Sherman, E. M. S., Iverson, G. L., Slick, D. J. (2009). Developments in neuropsychological assessment: Refining psychometric and clinical interpretive methods. Canadian Psychology, 50 (3), Special issue: Developments in psychological measurement and assessment, 196-209.

Muntingh, A. D. T., van der Feltz-Cornelis, C. M., van Manwijk, H. W. J., Spinhoven, P., Pennix, B. W. J. H., van Balkom, A. J. L. M. (2011). Is the Beck Anxiety Inventory a good tool to assess the severity of anxiety? A primary care study in The Netherlands study of depression and anxiety (NESDA). BMC Family Practice, 12 (1), 66-71.

Stulz, N., Crits-Christoph, P. (2010). Distinguishing anxiety and depression in self-report: purification of the Beck Anxiety Inventory and Beck Depression Inventory II. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 66 (9), 927-940.

Yochim, B. P., Mueller, A. E., June, A., Degal, D. L. (2011). Psychometric properties of the Geriatric Anxiety Scale: Comparison to the Beck Anxiety Inventory and Geriatric Anxiety Inventory. Clinical Gerontologist, 34 (1), 21-33.