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Fifteen-minute consultation: How good is this test
  1. Thomas Waterfield
  1. Correspondence to Dr Thomas Waterfield, Centre for Experimental Medicine, Queen’s University Belfast, Belfast, UK; thomas.waterfield{at}


As technology evolves and cultural attitudes towards diagnosis change, there is an increasing move towards newer, faster and more accurate diagnostic testing. As new tests are developed, clinicians are increasingly required to appraise data from diagnostic test accuracy (DTA) studies.

The accuracy of a test is fluid and changes depending on the population, setting, timing and position within the diagnostic pathway. This article attempts to provide a short guide to understanding diagnostic test accuracy and a simple approach to appraising DTA studies.

  • general paediatrics
  • statistics
  • diagnostic test accuracy

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  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.