March 30, 2020
Category:

Autism Spectrum Quotient

Last updated on November 9, 2022

The Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ) is a self-administered questionnaire used to measure autistic traits in adults (age 16+) with IQ in the normal range (IQ >=80).

Basic information
Statements: 50
Duration: 5–10 minutes
Type: screening tool
Authors: Simon Baron-Cohen
Publishing year: 2001
Seminal Paper: The Autism-Spectrum Quotient (AQ): Evidence from Asperger Syndrome/High-Functioning Autism, Males and Females, Scientists and Mathematicians (Baron-Cohen et al., 2001)

 

Take the test here:


Dr. Natalie’s rating: 4 stars for appropriate and respectful wording, 2 stars for clarity & lack of ambiguity, and 5 stars for testing accuracy.Dr. Natalie’s rating: 4 stars for appropriate and respectful wording, 2 stars for clarity & lack of ambiguity, and 5 stars for testing accuracy.


Who the test is designed for


Versions & translations


Taking the test

The AQ consists of 50 statements, giving you 4 choices for each statement:

  1. Definitely agree
  2. Slightly agree
  3. Slightly disagree
  4. Definitely disagree

Note: it makes no difference to your score whether you choose slightly or definitely, so treat the statements as a binary choice agree and disagree.

If you decide to take the test, please consider the information under the sections titled Outdated and Updated below.


Scoring

  • Scoring range: 0–50
  • Threshold score: 26↑
    • Scores 26 or greater indicate you might be autistic
    • Lower scores mean you likely are not
  • 79.3% of autistic people score 32 or higher[2]The Autism-Spectrum Quotient (AQ)—Adolescent Version (Baron-Cohen et al., 2006)
  • Most non-autistic males score 17 on average
  • Most non-autistic females score 15 on average

You can take the test using two methods of scoring:

  1. Automated-scoring
  2. Self-scoring, if you want documentation of your answers

Mean scores

In the table below—based on Baron-Cohen’s 2001 paper—you can see the mean AQ scores of autistic people (designated Asperger’s syndrome and high-functioning autism) and controls.[3]The Autism-Spectrum Quotient (AQ): Evidence from Asperger Syndrome/High-Functioning Autism, Males and Females, Scientists and Mathematicians (Baron-Cohen et al., 2001)

Mean AQ scores
 Total AQ score
AS/HFA total35.8
AS/HFA males35.1
AS/HFA females38.1
Controls total16.4
Controls males17.8
Controls females15.4

And in the table below, you can see the mean AQ scores and subscale scores of autistic people (n: 58), controls (n: 174), students from the University of Cambridge (n: 840), and UK Mathematics Olympiad winners (n: 16).[4]The Autism-Spectrum Quotient (AQ): Evidence from Asperger Syndrome/High-Functioning Autism, Males and Females, Scientists and Mathematicians (Baron-Cohen et al., 2001)

Mean AQ scores & subscale scores
 Total AQ scoreCommunicationSocialImaginationLocal detailsAttention switching
AS/HFA total35.87.27.56.46.78.0
AS/HFA males35.17.27.46.26.67.7
AS/HFA females38.17.37.97.06.98.9
Controls total16.42.42.62.35.33.9
Controls males17.82.82.82.75.24.3
Controls females15.42.12.31.95.43.6
Students total17.62.92.32.55.34.5
Students males18.63.22.62.95.34.7
Students females16.42.72.02.05.44.3
Olympiad total24.53.05.14.96.64.9

And finally, in the table below, you can see the mean AQ scores and subscale scores of the Cambridge students, from various disciplines (highest scores in bold).[5]The Autism-Spectrum Quotient (AQ): Evidence from Asperger Syndrome/High-Functioning Autism, Males and Females, Scientists and Mathematicians (Baron-Cohen et al., 2001)

Mean AQ scores of student scientists
 Total AQ scoreCommunicationSocialImaginationLocal detailsAttention switching
Biological sciences14.92.71.51.74.74.2
Computer science21.13.43.73.45.74.8
Engineering17.92.92.33.05.44.3
Mathematics21.53.83.63.35.85.1
Medicine15.42.51.42.05.24.2
Physical sciences19.63.03.43.15.44.6
Nonspecific science18.53.02.62.65.64.7

Validity

How reliable, accurate, valid, and up to date is the test?
The AQ correctly scores autistics (both male and female) higher than neurotypicals.[6]Negatively phrased items of the Autism Spectrum Quotient function differently for groups with and without autism (van Rentergem, Lever, & Geurts, 2019)

Research shows that the AQ is a quick tool to identify where a person is situated on the continuum from autism to neurotypicality.[7]The Autism-Spectrum Quotient (AQ): Evidence from Asperger Syndrome/High-Functioning Autism, Males and Females, Scientists and Mathematicians (Baron-Cohen et al., 2001)


Outdated

In 2017, the following items were proven unrepresentative measures of autistic traits, thus needing revision.[8]Is the Autism-Spectrum Quotient a Valid Measure of Traits Associated with the Autism Spectrum? A Rasch Validation in Adults with and Without Autism Spectrum Disorders (Lundqvist & Lindner, 2017)

Researchers thought that autistics would agree with the following questions, but we don’t necessarily:

  • 9. I am fascinated by dates.
  • 21. I don’t particularly enjoy reading fiction.

And researchers thought that autistics would disagree with the following questions, but again, we don’t necessarily:

  • 29. I am not very good at remembering phone numbers.
  • 30. I don’t usually notice small changes in a situation, or a person’s appearance.
  • 49. I am not very good at remembering people’s date of birth.

Updated

If you take the test, please interpret the outdated questions as follows:

  • 9. I am interested in the patterns or correlations of events.
  • 21. I enjoy reading informative literature, but I sometimes like reading fiction as well (and might use it to learn social skills).
  • 29. I am not very good at remembering information that is important to me.
  • 30. I usually notice small changes in a situation or person’s appearance.
  • 49. I am not very good at remembering information that is important to me.

NB: This is our personal supplementation; you won’t find references to this.


Dr. Natalie Engelbrecht pointing to the title ‘Discussion’.

Discussion

  • Not knowing there are only two options (‘agree’ or ‘disagree’), dramatically increases the time it takes to complete this test.
  • Outdated questions may reduce the accuracy of the test.
  • Some questions are too general for an ‘agree’ or ‘disagree’ answer. For instance, item 21: I don’t particularly enjoy reading fiction.

I very much enjoy particular types of fiction, but did not read fiction when I was younger. I still enjoy reading factual information. (Kendall)

  • Some questions are based on outdated assumptions about autism. For example, item 8: When I’m reading a story, I can easily imagine what the characters might look like. Older research papers claim we lack imagination, but this is affective alexithymia, not autism. Furthermore, affective alexithymia is not at all common in autism.

To read more on alexithymia and aspects of this construct that are commonly mistaken for autism, have a look at:

Alexithymia & autism guide

Dr. Natalie Engelbrecht pointing at a psychometric test.

Autism Spectrum Quotient

For each statement below, choose one response that best describes how strongly that statement applies to you:

1. I prefer to do things with others rather than on my own.
2. I prefer to do things the same way over and over again.
3. If I try to imagine something, I find it very easy to create a picture in my mind.
4. I frequently get so strongly absorbed in one thing that I lose sight of other things.
5. I often notice small sounds when others do not.
6. I usually notice car number plates or similar strings of information.
7. Other people frequently tell me that what I've said is impolite, even though I think it is polite.
8. When I'm reading a story, I can easily imagine what the characters might look like.
9. I am fascinated by dates.
10. In a social group, I can easily keep track of several different people's conversations.
11. I find social situations easy.
12. I tend to notice details that others do not.
13. I would rather go to a library than a party.
14. I find making up stories easy.
15. I find myself drawn more strongly to people than to things.
16. I tend to have very strong interests which I get upset about if I can't pursue.
17. I enjoy social chit-chat.
18. When I talk, it isn't always easy for others to get a word in edgeways.
19. I am fascinated by numbers.
20. When I'm reading a story, I find it difficult to work out the characters' intentions.
21. I don't particularly enjoy reading fiction.
22. I find it hard to make new friends.
23. I notice patterns in things all the time.
24. I would rather go to the theatre than a museum.
25. It does not upset me if my daily routine is disturbed.
26. I frequently find that I don't know how to keep a conversation going.
27. I find it easy to 'read between the lines' when someone is talking to me.
28. I usually concentrate more on the whole picture, rather than the small details.
29. I am not very good at remembering phone numbers.
30. I don't usually notice small changes in a situation, or a person's appearance.
31. I know how to tell if someone listening to me is getting bored.
32. I find it easy to do more than one thing at once.
33. When I talk on the phone, I'm not sure when it's my turn to speak.
34. I enjoy doing things spontaneously.
35. I am often the last to understand the point of a joke.
36. I find it easy to work out what someone is thinking or feeling just by looking at their face.
37. If there is an interruption, I can switch back to what I was doing very quickly.
38. I am good at social chit-chat.
39. People often tell me that I keep going on and on about the same thing.
40. When I was young, I used to enjoy playing games involving pretending with other children.
41. I like to collect information about categories of things.
42. I find it difficult to imagine what it would be like to be someone else.
43. I like to plan any activities I participate in carefully.
44. I enjoy social occasions.
45. I find it difficult to work out people's intentions.
46. New situations make me anxious.
47. I enjoy meeting new people.
48. I am a good diplomat.
49. I am not very good at remembering people's date of birth.
50. I find it very easy to play games with children that involve pretending.


What does my score mean?

The AQ doesn’t really offer much insight into specific autistic traits, as it only outputs a single score. Any scores of 26 or greater indicate the presence of autistic traits; the higher the score, the more autistic traits you have.

Furthermore, 79.3% of autistic people score 32 or higher (whereas only 2% of controls do), so scores of 32 and above are particularly significant. The AQ is particularly sensitive in distinguishing between autistic and non-autistic adult females, as 92.3% of autistic females scored 32 or higher (compared to 1% of the control group).[9]The Autism-Spectrum Quotient (AQ)—Adolescent Version (Baron-Cohen et al., 2006)

Do note that no single test is conclusive, and not every autistic person necessarily scores above the defined threshold on each test. If you score low on the AQ but still think you could be autistic, try taking a few other autism tests.


Recommended next steps

After the AQ, consider taking one of the tests below.

RAADS–R

Identifies adults who often “escape diagnosis”
due to a subclinical level presentation

CAT-Q

Measures camouflaging, and can account
for lower scores on other autism tests

Aspie Quiz

Identifies neurodivergence and
potential co-occurring conditions

Online autism tests can play an essential role in the process of self-discovery, and may inform your decision to pursue a formal diagnosis. For a formal assessment, please see a knowledgeable medical professional trained in assessing autism.


Embrace Autism | Autism Spectrum Quotient | icon Diagnosis

If you are looking for an autism assessment,
Dr. Natalie Engelbrecht can offer help!
You can find more information here:

Autism assessments

References

This article
was written by:
dr-natalie-engelbrecht
Dr. Natalie Engelbrecht ND RP is a dually licensed naturopathic doctor and registered psychotherapist, and a Canadian leader in trauma, PTSD, and integrative medicine strictly informed by scientific research. And not only do I happen to be autistic, but my autism plays a significant role in who I am as a doctor and how I interact with and care for my patients and clients.

Disclaimer

Although our content is generally well-researched
and substantiated, or based on personal experience,
note that it does not constitute medical advice.

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