Investigating the predictive roles of working memory and IQ in academic attainment

J Exp Child Psychol. 2010 May;106(1):20-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jecp.2009.11.003. Epub 2009 Dec 16.


There is growing evidence for the relationship between working memory and academic attainment. The aim of the current study was to investigate whether working memory is simply a proxy for IQ or whether there is a unique contribution to learning outcomes. The findings indicate that children's working memory skills at 5 years of age were the best predictor of literacy and numeracy 6 years later. IQ, in contrast, accounted for a smaller portion of unique variance to these learning outcomes. The results demonstrate that working memory is not a proxy for IQ but rather represents a dissociable cognitive skill with unique links to academic attainment. Critically, we find that working memory at the start of formal education is a more powerful predictor of subsequent academic success than IQ. This result has important implications for education, particularly with respect to intervention.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Educational Status*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intelligence*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mass Screening
  • Mathematics*
  • Memory, Short-Term*
  • Reading*
  • Regression Analysis
  • United Kingdom