Start delivering measurement based mental health care

Conduct psychological assessments remotely, get scores automatically, and maintain clinical records securely

Create account
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Checklist for DSM-5

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Checklist for DSM-5

What is PCL-5

The Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Checklist for DSM-5 (PCL-5) is a 20-item self-report measure that assesses the presence and severity of PTSD symptoms. The PCL was first developed during the 1990s by Frank Weathers and colleagues at the National Center for PTSD (Weathers et al. 1993) and recently revised. The current version (PCL-5; Blevins et al. 2015; Weathers et al. 2013b) is a 20-item questionnaire with items corresponding to the 20 PTSD symptoms (Criteria B-E) in the DSM-5 (American Psychiatric Association 2013).

PCL-5 Printable PDF

You can create a free account on PsyPack to access fillable PDFs, manuals and educational resources for the PCL-5

PCL-5 Scoring and Interpretation

Respondents are asked to rate how bothered they have been by each of 20 items in the past month on a 5- point

Likert scale ranging from 0-4. Items are summed to provide a total severity score (range = 0-80).

0 = Not at all 1 = A little bit 2 = Moderately 3 = Quite a bit 4 = Extremely

PCL-5 Score and Provisional Diagnosis

Table 4
PCL-5 ScoreProvisional Diagnosis

Less than 31

Not indicative of probable PTSD

31 or higher

Indicative of probable PTSD

Initial research suggests that a PCL-5 cutoff score between 31-33 is indicative of probable PTSD across samples. However, additional research is needed. Further, because the population and the purpose of the screening may warrant different cutoff scores, users are encouraged to consider both of these factors when choosing a cutoff score.

The PCL-5 items correspond to the 20 PTSD symptoms (Criteria B-E) in the DSM-5 (American Psychiatric Association 2013). Items 1–5 reflect intrusive reexperiencing symptoms (Criteria B), items 6–7 reflect avoidance symptoms (Criteria C), items 8–14 reflect negative mood and cognition symptoms (Criteria D), and items 15–20 reflect hyperarousal symptoms (Criteria E)

PsyPack can automatically score the PCL-5 assessment and prepare corresponding tables and graphs.

PCL-5 sample result

Further, PsyPack automatically plots a graph to help you easily track progress over time.

PCL-5 track progress

Sample Report of PCL-5


Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Post-Traumatic Stress

What does PCL-5 measure

The purpose of the evaluation is to:

  • quantifying and monitor symptoms over time,
  • screen individuals for PTSD, and
  • assist in making a provisional diagnosis of PTSD.



Type of outcome tool


Assessment modes


Age and eligibility

18 years and above

Estimated time

5 to 10 minutes


Since the questionnaire relies on client self-report, all responses should be verified by the clinician, and a definitive diagnosis is made on clinical grounds taking into account how well the client understood the questionnaire, as well as other relevant information from the client.

Characteristics of a respondent's setting should be considered when using PCL-5 severity scores to make a provisional diagnosis. The goal of assessment also should be considered. A lower cut-point score should be considered when screening or when it is desirable to maximize detection of possible cases. A higher cut-point score should be considered when attempting to make a provisional diagnosis or to minimize false positives.

The PCL-5 should not be used as a stand-alone diagnostic tool. When considering a diagnosis, the clinician will still need to use clinical interviewing skills, and a recommended structured interview (e.g., Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale for DSM-5, CAPS-5) to determine a diagnosis.

Measuring Change: Good clinical care requires that clinicians monitor patient progress. Evidence for the PCL for DSM-IV suggested 5 points as a minimum threshold for determining whether an individual has responded to treatment and 10 points as a minimum threshold for determining whether the improvement is clinically meaningful. Change scores for the PCL-5 are currently being determined. It is expected that reliable and clinically meaningful change will be in a similar range. We recommend following DSM-IV recommendations until new information is available.

Attribution and References

Weathers, F.W., Litz, B.T., Keane, T.M., Palmieri, P.A., Marx, B.P., & Schnurr, P.P. (2013). The PTSD Checklist for DSM-5 (PCL-5). Scale available from the National Center for PTSD at