A study has opined that testing students' working memory is better than IQ test for assessing their learning potential.
Scientists say that "working memory"-the ability to retain and juggle information for brief periods-could be as much a measure of modern mental abilities as traditional IQ tests.
Psychologists, teachers and employers have long relied on IQ tests, which measure problem-solving ability and a person's capacity for abstract reasoning.
Tracy Alloway, director of the centre for memory and learning at Stirling University, is all set to release the latest research suggesting that tests of children's working memory helped predict their grades more accurately than IQ tests.
"Working memory measures our ability to process and remember short-term information. It's about how well we juggle different thoughts and tasks," Times Online quoted her as saying.
She added: "There is a great deal of variation between different individuals and it is becoming clear that it is a much better way of predicting academic attainment."
The findings could be controversial, especially as Alloway has claimed that testing working memory also avoids the cultural bias built into IQ tests.
Such bias has been blamed, for example, for the way different racial groups achieve significant variations in their average scores.
In the latest research Alloway gave working memory and IQ tests to 98 children aged 4.3 to 5.7 years in full-time preschool education.
Recently, six years on, she revisited the children, now aged 10 and 11, and asked them to take a battery of tests to measure working memory and IQ.
She said: "Critically, we find that working memory at the start of formal education is a more powerful predictor of subsequent academic success than IQ."
While many think that psychologists' newfound interest in short-term memory is because of the rise of the internet and other electronic databases which makes the ability to juggle facts and figures more important than remembering them for long periods.
However, Alloway believes that there are other factors at work too.
"Working memory assesses people's ability to process information and keep track of complex tasks, so it is relevant to many aspects of modern lifestyles," she said.
The study is due to be published in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology.