A latent growth curve analysis of precursor cognitive abilities and academic achievement

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British Journal of Educational Psychology

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Language‐based cognitive fitness describes the ability to carry out cognitive tasks with vigour and alertness, to learn, and to adapt.


The purpose of this research was to test the efficacy of a brain fitness training programme to better understand the role played by three precursor abilities for language‐based cognitive development—verbal reasoning, visual synthesis, and active analysis—and their impact on academic achievement.


The sample included 92 children from a private school designed to deliver a prescriptive educational model for the spectrum of challenged, average, and gifted students.


Students completed cognitive tests at entry to the program and at the end of each academic year. Students completed daily brain‐based exercises. Associative latent variable growth curve modelling using Mplus was used to test growth in all variables. Bayesian estimation analysis was used for missing data imputation. Age and baseline cognitive ability were included as covariates.


Model fit was excellent, χ2(104) = 115.98, p = .20, (χ2/df) = 1.11, CFI = 0.98, TLI = 0.98, RMSEA = 0.04, SRMR = 0.05. Students who started with the lowest ability levels initially grew faster than those students with higher initial two‐wave performance levels consistent with a closing of an ability gap. This had a lagged effect on achievement that accelerated in growth after the first 2 years.


Results provide evidence for the importance of interventions that focus on strengthening precursor cognitive abilities directly involved with language and mathematics achievement.