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Working Memory

This category of memory plays an important role in reading and learning. It is the part of short-term memory that allows our brain to hold onto information for a brief period of time while doing something else.The ability to recall and apply, then use information, while distinguishing between the contexts in which it can be used, without losing track of it.

Countries where Working Memory is assessed

Approximately 10% of us have weak working memory; however, the estimates of the percentage of weak working memory in students with specific learning disorders, including dyslexia, ranges from 20 to 50 percent. Weak working memory is a core difficulty for students with ADHD, Inattentive Type.

This category of memory plays an important role in reading and learning. It is the part of short-term memory that allows our brain to hold onto information for a brief period of time while doing something else. We can call it a temporary sticky note in the brain


You may now wonder how then this sticky note can affect reading and learning.

Weak working memory can impede phonological learning and production at all levels. Consider a frequent rhyming exercise for preschoolers: “Tell me which word rhymes with fox: truck, dog, box.” To identify the two rhyming words, the child must hold and then compare all of the words in working memory (fox/truck, fox/dog, fox/box). Or when children attempt to sound out new words, they use their working memory to hold the entire sequence of sounds long enough to blend those sounds.

Also, it plays a crucial role in holding and sequencing sounds for spelling and also for composing, holding, and connecting ideas in written text. We also rely on working memory in reading comprehension and reading fluency. When reading a long sentence, paragraph, or passage, working memory is what allows us to hold on to and integrate the information we read early on with information that comes later. 

Individuals with poor working memory tend to have trouble planning, organizing, and carrying out daily chores because it requires mentally formulating a “to do” list organized by time and location.

It appears that working-memory capabilities increase across the life span of the individual. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4207727/). We can see that in the results of the most common test for working memory assessment – repetition of numbers. The number of items that a person can repeat increases with age.

How do we test working memory?

  1. WISC-IV 

WISC-IV or Wechsler is a psychological assesment tool. Four of its subtests tests working memory. 

  1. The person is asked to repeat the digits the examiner tells him. The digits have no logical relationship to each other and are presented in random order by the examiner. The student must then recite the digits correctly by recalling them in the same order.
  2. Repeating backward: examiner tells the digits 3,5,1 and the person has to repeat them backward – 1,5,3
  3. Letter- Number Sequencing: The task involves listening to and remembering a string of digits and letters read aloud at a speed of one per second, then recalling the information by repeating the numbers in chronological order, followed by the letters in alphabetical order.

Example: A – 7 – X – 2 – M – 4

Response: 2, 4, 7, A, M, X

  1. Aritmetic: includes mental arithmetic and story problem.

Example: How many carrots are there in this picture?

Example: Michelle is 2 years younger than Peter and 5 years older than Sam. If Sam is 6 how old is Michelle?

2. Literate – screening test on reading difficulties from Norway. It contains a battery of tests, and one test refers to working memory.

3. Recall – a test from the UK. It is made up of three subtests that assess the fundamental functions of working memory: Phonological loop – a word recall test, Visuo-Spatial Sketchpad – a pattern recall test, and Central Executive Function – a counting recall test.

How can we help?

In an educational environment, we can help a child to develop some strategies and accommodations. For example, You can:

  •  Use different colors for each component of a task
  • Provide step-by-step instructions
  • Use numbers rather than bullet points so pupils can keep track of where you are up to 
  • In maths, provide multiplication tables, operation guides, number lines, and calculators. 
  • Repeat key information regularly
  • dProvide information in a multisensory way – visual help
  • Make the information meaningful by providing examples or connections that students can relate to

But we must emphasize that every child is different and has different difficulties. Therefore, we cannot use the same procedures with everyone. We need to get to know the child and adapt to him and his needs.

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Nome Vocational School (Nome videregående skole) consists of two campuses about 10 kilometers apart. Nome vocational school offers studies in the following fields: Agriculture, Fishing and Forestry, Health Care, Building and Constructions, Electricity and Electronics, Technical and Industrial Production, and Hairdressing, floral, interior and retail design.
Omoguru is a research-oriented team specialized in dyslexia and development of assistive technologies for reading improvement. OmoType enhances legibility and readability of the text. It is designed with all the features proven to facilitate reading, improve letter detection and recognition. Research shows children read faster and make fewer mistakes when reading with the OmoType. OmoLab's OmoType has been used for the Dyslexia Compass website.
Centrul Pentru Promovarea Invatarii Permanente is a Romanian NGO that works in Lifelong Learning since 2005. We support initiatives and run programs and projects that aim at cooperating and innovating for good practices in this field.
Babel Idiomas
Babel Idiomas was born in 1999 as a small private language school. Since then, the school has grown into a well-known and highly respected language training institution in Spain with currently 3 centres. We provide language training in English, Spanish, German, French and Italian to students of all ages. We work with an international staff who have personal experiences with social inclusion in various EU countries.
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