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Test of Cognitive Skills - Poor Working Memory

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: Hello I just received results from a test I took when I was a child, through the public school system in 2000, and would like some help understanding what the scores mean. It is Test of Cognitive Skills, Second Edition (TCS/2). I received a CSI of 111 and was 9 years old while taking the test. There is a chart of what I am assuming are subset score. Scores (NPA) SEQ(92) ANA(62) NVRB(82) MEM(25) VRB(82). Is the low memory score a sign of a learning disability?

I have always struggled to recall lessons and memorize thing like math fact and spelling words but it was constantly wrote of as me being lazy due to the fact that I excelled greatly and easily in most other subjects. I am also interested in how the subset scores affect the CSI score? Thank you for you time.

A: I am not very familiar with Test of Cognitive Skills (TCS) but found some information on it on the following site. Do look it up :

It is somehow said to be the only major academic ability test that measures memory - which could be the reason you were given the test. As a rule of thumb, based on the bell curve, a score of 100 is the average. That means your overall score of 111 places you in the above average range. Your low NPA on the memory test probably brought down your overall IQ score as the scores are usually scaled and averaged.

Based on the huge gap with other scores, it is very possible and indicative of a learning disability. I am sorry that it was written off then and I hope it did not affect you too much. But the fact remains that without proper intervention, it is definitely a struggle.

Possibility is ADHD as there is probably lack of attention being paid to what is happening to create a well-formed memory of the happenings. Rather, one is constantly processing ideas, which may be tangentially related to what is required and visible. With ADHD, one is quickly leaping from one idea to another, and analysing the connections between them, which could be in your case. It is true that children with ADHD have very low working memory capacity. Having said that, they are also impulsive and hyperactive. If you do not have those symptoms, it is still possible to have poor memory skills. It could also be dyslexia. Studies have indicated that about 70% of kids with learning difficulties in reading have poor working memory skills.

Whatever the difficulty is, children with poor working memory are not less smart and it is surely not indicative of a low IQ (although it does affect the scores). In fact, there are also different types of working memory. Children with poor auditory memory often struggle with spoken verbal instructions. On the other hand, those with poor visual-spatial memory find Math a struggle.

You must be in your mid 20's by now and I hope the struggles are less pronounced. However, there are ways to improve your memory at this point. Read the following interesting articles on working memory and how to improve:

Hope it helps you understand your struggles and all the best for the future.


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