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Cogmed Software Review

Merits of Cogmed Training vs. Fast ForWord

What Is Cogmed Software?

cogmed-logoCogmed Working Memory Training is an evidence-based, computerized training program to improve attention by increasing working memory capacity over a five week training period. By increasing working memory capacity, the program seeks to make learning easier, therefore improving attention skills.
What is working memory?

Cogmed software users range from young children to senior adults. Some have diagnosed attention deficits, some have suffered a brain injury, some feel the deteriorating effects of normal aging, and others find they’re not doing as well as they could, academically or professionally, given their intelligence and their efforts.

What Is Fast ForWord?

Fast ForWord is a series of cognitive and reading programs that strengthen processing, working memory, attention and sequencing skills, required for reading. Following the cognitive training, most students progress to a series of reading programs that fill in reading skill gaps, individualized to each student.

fast forword logoFast ForWord is suitable for children five and older through to adults, who need help with reading, auditory processing, or language based learning disabilities.
Fast ForWord program

Where Cogmed and Fast ForWord Are Similar

While these two programs vary markedly in terms of the amount of research done to validate results — Fast ForWord has over 240 documented studies, while Cogmed software has only a handful — they have features in common:

  1. Cognitive Training To Boost Learning
    Both programs exercise cognitive skills using adaptive exercises, that add speed and/or complexity in tiny increments. Cogmed exercises working memory skills to improve focus, while Fast ForWord strengthens auditory processing to help reading and language-based learning skills.
    Why brain training?
  2. Neuroscience Based
    Both were developed by neuroscientists. Fast ForWord was developed by four American neuroscientists and cognitive researchers, world leaders, and its development included work in about 50 leading universities around the world. Cogmed software was developed by well respected neuroscientists out of Sweden.
  3. Enduring Gains
    Because both programs work at a cognitive level, where improvements in skill integrate into daily language and life, where they are then exercised daily, both programs can reliably claim that gains will endure. This is a major difference from instruction-based programming or tutoring, where retention is a challenge.

Where Cogmed and Fast ForWord Differ


Gemm Learning does not at this time provide Cogmed software because the Cogmed research reviews are inconclusive. We have interviewed many clinicians and providers of Cogmed, and have conducted our own trials using Gemm Learning students, so far coming to the same conclusion. Its impact is “subtle” or “nuanced.”

While it appears that the improvement in working memory from Cogmed software is measurable and real, there is some doubt that these working memory gains translate into improved focus and/or academic gain.

By contrast, almost all clinicians we talked to before taking on Fast ForWord were glowing in discussing their results, confirming the outcomes reported in 240+ trials. And now, six years later, Gemm Learning’s experience with Fast ForWord confirms these outcomes. There is nothing “subtle” about the gains from Fast ForWord. Most of the time they are clear and often dramatic. The cognitive improvements do carry over into reading and academic success.

Student Engagement

Cogmed training is intense, tough on students, as are most memory oriented programs. While its graphic interface is appealing, and the variety of exercises is helpful, student compliance can be a challenge. Fast ForWord, by contrast, exercises a broader range of skills, and while also being a challenge at times, its engaging interface focuses more on speed and accuracy skill sets, making it an easier program for students.

Documented Evidence

In terms of pedigree and standing in the educational and scientific community, there is no comparison between the two programs. Fast ForWord is the New York Yankees to Cogmed as a high school baseball team. This is no disrespect to Cogmed — it is a new program, research is expensive, and building a student base is slow going in education.

Fast ForWord has been used by 2+ million students, there have been 240+ studies done covering 30,000 students and there have been 700 university white papers written on Fast ForWord. This is an incredible body of documented evidence, unmatched in educational software. Cogmed is years away from coming close to this level of scrutiny.

Cogmed or Fast ForWord?

If these were two equally-regarded programs, reason would suggest you would favor Cogmed training where your child has a diagnosed working memory weakness, especially if there are also attention deficits. And you would favor Fast ForWord where there are reading or language-based learning concerns.

However, these are not two equally-regarded programs.

Fast ForWord has a long track record of success in reading, learning and in improving working memory. By building processing skills, we are seeing reading and learning gains, and behavioral gains, including improved focus.

While we are open to new Cogmed reviews or indeed any other cognitive-training program such as Brain HQ or Lumosity for adults, our experience suggests Fast ForWord is the best starting place for most learning interventions, including those where the primary concern is focus.
Attention deficits treatment using Fast ForWord