Reliability can be defined in a variety of ways. It is generally understood to be the extent to which a measure is stable or consistent and produces similar results when administered repeatedly. A more technical definition of reliability is that it is the proportion of “true” variation in scores derived from a particular measure. The total variation in any given score may be thought of as consisting of true variation (the variation of interest) and error variation (which includes random error as well as systematic error). True variation is that variation which actually reflects differences in the construct under study, e.g., the actual severity of neurological impairment. Random error refers to “noise” in the scores due to chance factors, e.g., a loud noise distracts a patient thus affecting his performance, which, in turn, affects the score. Systematic error refers to bias that influences scores in a specific direction in a fairly consistent way, e.g., one neurologist in a group tends to rate all patients as being more disabled than do other neurologists in the group. There are many variations on the measurement of reliability including alternate-forms, internal consistency , inter-rater agreement , intra-rater agreement , and test-retest .

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