How to Assess Cranial Nerves? Cranial Nerves Assessment Form


Assessment of the cranial nerves provides an insightful and vital information about the patient’s nervous system. There are 12 cranial nerves which are often forgotten by nurses, so with that in mind, here’s a free assessment form which you can use for your case studies and assessment forms.

Cranial Nerves Assessment Form

Cranial NerveAssessment TechniqueNormal ResponseClient’s Response
I. OlfactoryAsk the client to smell and identify the smell of cologne with each nostril separately and with the eyes closed.Client is able to identify different smell with each nostril separately and with eyes closed unless such condition like colds is present.Client was able to describe the odor of the materials used.
II. OpticProvide adequate lighting and ask client to read from a reading material held at a distance of 36 cm. (14 in.).The client should be able to read with each eye and both eyes.Client was able to read with each eye and both eyes.
III. OculomotorReaction to light: Using a penlight and approaching from the side, shine a light on the pupil. Observe the response of the illuminated pupil. Shine the light on the pupil again, and observe the response of the other pupil.Illuminated and non-illuminated pupil should constrict.PERRLA (pupils equally round and reactive to light and accommodation)
Reaction to accommodation: Ask client to look at a near object and then at a distant object. Alternate the gaze from the near to the far object. Next, move an object towards the client’s nose.Pupils constrict when looking at a near object, dilate when looking at a distant object, converge when near object is moved towards the nose.
IV. TrochlearHold a penlight 1 ft. in front of the client’s eyes. Ask the client to follow the movements of the penlight with the eyes only. Move the penlight upward, downward, sideward and diagonally.Client’s eyes should be able to follow the penlight as it moves.Both eyes are able to move as necessary.
V. TrigeminalWhile client looks upward, lightly touch lateral sclera of eye to elicit blink reflex.Client should have a (+) corneal reflex, able to respond to light and deep sensation and able to differentiate hot from cold.Client was able to elicit corneal reflex, sensitive to pain stimuli and distinguish hot from cold.
To test light sensation, have client close eyes, wipe a wisp of cotton over client’s forehead.
To test deep sensation, use alternating blunt and sharp ends of an object. Determine sensation to warm and cold object by asking client to identify warmth and coldness.
VI. AbducensHold a penlight 1 ft. in front of the client’s eyes. Ask the client to follow the movements of the penlight with the eyes only. Move the penlight through the six cardinal fields of gaze.Both eyes coordinated, move in unison with parallel alignment.Both eyes move in coordination.
VII. FacialAsk client to smile, raise the eyebrows, frown, and puff out cheeks, close eyes tightly. Ask client to identify various tastes placed on tip and sides of tongue.Client should be able to smile, raise eyebrows, and puff out cheeks and close eyes without any difficulty. The client should also be able to distinguish different tastes.Client performed various facial expressions without any difficulty and able to distinguish varied tastes.
VIII. VestibulocochlearHave the client occlude one ear. Out of the client’s sight, place a ticking watch 2 to 3 cm. ask what the client can hear and repeat with the other ear.Client should be able to hear the ticking of the watch in both ears.Client was able to hear ticking in both ears.
Ask the client to walk across the room and back and assess the client’s gait.The client should have upright posture and steady gait and able to maintain balance.The client was able to stand and walk in an upright position and able to maintain balance.
IX. GlossopharyngealAsk the client to say “ah” and have the patient yawn to observe upward movement of the soft palate.Client should be able to elicit gag reflex and swallow without any difficulty.Client was able to elicit gag reflex and able to swallow without difficulty.
Elicit gag response.
Note ability to swallow.
X. VagusAsk the patient to swallow and speak (note hoarseness)The client should be able to swallow without difficulty and speak audibly.Client was able to swallow without difficulty and speak audibly.
XI. AccessoryAsk client to shrug shoulders against resistance from your hands and turn head to side against resistance from your hand (repeat for other side).Client should be able to shrug shoulders and turn head from side to side.Client was able to shrug his shoulders and turn his head from one side to the other.
XII. HypoglossalAsk client to protrude tongue at midline and then move it side to side.The client should be able to move tongue without any difficulty.The client was able to move tongue in different directions.


You can download and print the assessment form via these links:


Download “Cranial Nerves Assessment” Nurseslabs-CranialNervesAssessmentForm.pdf – Downloaded 5292 times – 32 KB


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Matt Vera is a registered nurse with a bachelor of science in nursing since 2009 and is currently working as a full-time writer and editor for Nurseslabs. During his time as a student, he knows how frustrating it is to cram on difficult nursing topics and finding help online is near to impossible. His situation drove his passion for helping student nurses through the creation of content and lectures that is easy to digest. Knowing how valuable nurses are in delivering quality healthcare but limited in number, he wants to educate and inspire students in nursing. As a nurse educator since 2010, his goal in Nurseslabs is to simplify the learning process, breakdown complicated topics, help motivate learners, and look for unique ways of assisting students in mastering core nursing concepts effectively.


  1. This website is amazing! Thank you to all the Nurses and other healthcare professionals who contribute their knowledge and competency.

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