Computer-based cognitive assessment and the development of reading

Singleton, Chris; Thomas, Kevin and Horne, Joanna (2002). Computer-based cognitive assessment and the development of reading. Journal of Research in Reading, 23(2) pp. 158–180.



This paper reports on a longitudinal study using the computer‐based cognitive assessment system CoPS, and considers the applicability of this system in the early identification of cognitive strengths and limitations that affect the development of reading. CoPS comprises eight tests of basic cognitive abilities, including phonological awareness, auditory discrimination, and short‐term visual and auditory‐verbal memory. A total of 421 children participated in the study. Assessment with the CoPS tests was carried out at age 5 years, and follow‐up assessments using conventional tests of reading and general ability were carried out at 6 and 8 years of age.

Correlations between the CoPS tests administered at age 5 and reading ability at age 8 were in the region of 0.6 for auditory‐verbal memory and phonological awareness, and in the region of 0.3 for the CoPS measure of auditory discrimination as well as most of the other memory measures. Stepwise linear regression analyses showed that the CoPS tests of auditory‐verbal memory and phonological awareness administered at age 5 together accounted for 50% of the variance in reading ability at age 8, compared with only 29% of the variance being attributable to intelligence. It was concluded that short‐term memory is an important predictor variable for reading, in addition to the more generally acknowledged variable of phonological processing.

Discriminant function analysis showed that CoPS tests provide a highly satisfactory prediction of poor reading skills, with very low or zero rates for false positives and false negatives. By contrast, a word recognition test given at age 6 was not found to predict reading at age 8 to the same degree of accuracy, resulting in an unsatisfactory false positive rate of 21%. Measures of verbal and nonverbal ability at age 6 produced unacceptably high false positive rates between 50% and 70%. These findings are discussed in relation to the prediction of children at risk of reading failure. The potential of computer‐based cognitive profiling for facilitating differentiated teaching in early reading is also considered.

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