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Automated Working Memory Assessment (AWMA) - Education Research

Attainment | Educational attainment | Vocabulary | Reading | Language | Comprehension | Maths | Learning styles | Attention | Classroom activities


Attainment (measured by the WIAT)

WIAT (WORD and WOND): A longitudinal study using the AWMA to measure working memory established that working memory skills at 5 years old are an excellent predictor of attainment six years later, as measured by the WIAT.

Reference: Alloway, T.P. & Alloway, R. G. (2010). Investigating the predictive roles of working memory and IQ in academic attainment. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 106, 20-29.

WIAT (WORD and WOND): In a large-scale study of over 3000 children identified with working memory deficits using the AWMA, only 2% of them achieved scores in the average range (>96) in standardised assessments of reading and maths (WORD and WOND; Wechsler, 1993; 1996). AWMA scores uniquely predicted scores in these tests even after IQ (WASI, Wechsler, 1999) was statistically accounted.

Reference: Alloway, T.P., Gathercole, S.E, Kirkwood, H.J., & Elliott, J.E. (2009). The cognitive and behavioral characteristics of children with low working memory. Child Development, 80, 606-621.

WIAT (WORD and WOND): In a study of students with learning difficulties, working memory scores were the best predictor of learning outcomes (measured by the WIAT), two years later.

Reference: Alloway, T.P. (2009). Working memory, but not IQ, predicts subsequent learning in children with learning difficulties. European Journal of Psychological Assessment, 25, 92-98.




Educational Attainment (measured by school tests)

The AWMA predicts children’s educational attainment in grade school. Almost 100 school children aged 7–8 years were tested on five measures of WM (using the AWMA). The results revealed that AWMA scores were excellent predictors of children’s achievement.

Reference: St Clair-Thompson & Sykes (2010). Scoring methods and the predictive ability of working memory tasks. Behav Res Methods, 4, 969-75.





This study looked at monolingual Dutch and bilingual Turkish–Dutch 4-year-olds and found that short-term memory was an important predictor of vocabulary in both languages.

Reference: Messer, Leseman, Boom, & Mayo. (2011). Phonotactic probability effect in nonword recall and its relationship with vocabulary in monolingual and bilingual preschoolers. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 105; 306-323.





Children were tested at 6 years of age in measures of Working Memory, IQ, language, phonological awareness, literacy, rapid naming, and speed of processing. Verbal Working Memory contributed most to predicting all three reading abilities (decoding, reading comprehension, and reading time) a year later. The authors conclude that adding an assessment of Verbal Working Memory is a better estimate of children’s likelihood of future academic success.

Reference: Nevo, E. & Breznitz, Z. (2011). Assessment of working memory components at 6 years of age as predictors of reading achievements a year later. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 109; 73-90.





In a study using the Dutch translation of the AWMA in four-year olds, those with poor working memory scores had the lowest scores in language tests and were most at risk for failure in school

Reference: Leseman et al. (2010). Home literacy as a special language environment to prepare children for school. Zeitschrift für Erziehungswissenschaft, 10, 334-355.


This study investigated the importance of working memory skills in monolingual and multilingual speakers (UK compared to South Africa).

Reference: Cockcroft, K. & Alloway, T.P. (in press). A comparison of working memory and phonological skills between British and South African children. Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies.





This study on poor comprehenders demonstrated a memory deficit specific to working memory, in the verbal domain.

Reference: Pimperton, H., & Nation, K. (2010). Suppressing irrelevant information from working memory: Evidence for domain-specific deficits in poor comprehenders. Journal of Memory and Language, 62, 380-391.





This study investigated the relationship between Working Memory (measured by the AWMA), teachers' maths talk and the acquisition of number sense within pre-school classrooms.

Reference: Boonen, Kolkman, & Kroesbergen. (2011). The relation between teachers' math talk and the acquisition of number sense within pre-school classrooms. Journal of School Psychology, 49, 281-299.


This study compared the contributions of working memory (using Italian translation of the AWMA) and verbal ability to mathematical skills in Italian school children. The results indicated that even when differences in verbal ability were statistically controlled, working memory uniquely predicated mathematical and arithmetical abilities.

Reference: Alloway, T.P. & Passolunghi, MC. (2011). The relations between working memory and arithmetical abilities:  A comparison between Italian and British children. Learning and Individual Differences, 21, 133-137.




Learning Styles

This study found that in secondary school children, those with high working memory were better able to excel in a range of learning activities, regardless of their learning style (ie., Verbalisers, Visualisers, Wholistic or Analytic thinkers).

Reference: Alloway, T.P., Banner, G., & Smith, P. (2010). Working memory and cognitive styles in adolescents’ attainment. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 80, 567-581.





This study found differences between children and adults in how they are able to control and allocate attention. These individual differences impact visual short-term memory capacity.

Reference: Astle, Nobre, & Scerif (2010). Attentional control constrains visual short-term memory: Insights from developmental and individual differences. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology.




Classroom Activities

Performance on the AWMA was compared with laboratory analogues of classroom activities. The findings confirm that Working Memory is strongly associated with the accuracy of performing instructions. The authors conclude that working memory plays a significant role in typical classroom activities that involve both the storage and mental manipulation of information.

Reference: Gathercole et al. (2008). Working memory abilities and children's performance in laboratory analogues of classroom activities. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 22; 1019-1037.





Key Information


AWMA provides a practical and convenient way for teachers and psychologists to screen for significant working memory problems from childhood to early adulthood


Dr Tracy Packiam Alloway

Publication Year


Age Range

4 to 22 years


Individual - Screener: 5 to 7 mins; Short form: 10 to 15 mins; Long form: 45 mins

Qualification Code


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