Test of Memory and
Reynolds, C.R. & Bigler, E.D.
(1994). Austin, Tx: Pro-Ed.
For a comprehensive review see:
Dumont, R., Whelley, P., Comtois, R., &
Levine, B. (1994) Test of Memory and Learning (TOMAL): Test Review
Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment, 12, 2,
Drs. Cecil Reynolds and Erin Bigler, through Pro-Ed, have
released the Test of Memory and Learning (TOMAL) ($159). It is
designed to assess persons 5 through 19 years of age and is composed
of Verbal , Nonverbal , and Composite Memory Indexes. An Delayed
Recall Index may be computed from the scores of 4 recall subtests.
Descriptions of terms used to define memory are adapted from the work
of Kolb and Whishaw (1990) and L. Squire (1987). Five subtests form
the Verbal Memory Index while five more form the Nonverbal Memory
Index. Additional subtests for each Index are available as additions
to the core subtests. Four measures of delayed recall, given 30
minutes after the start of testing, permit the comparison of
performance across time. Also included with the TOMAL are directions
for computing 5 Supplementary Indexes (Attention/Concentration,
Sequential Recall, Free Recall, Associative Recall, and Learning).
Finally, normative tables are provided on the Supplementary Analysis
forms so that a person's learning and retention curves can be drawn
Test material comes in a box which contains: 2 booklets
containing the stimuli for subtests; Facial Memory chips; Visual
Selective Reminding test board; Delayed Recall cue card set;
protocols for test including separate Supplementary Analysis forms;
and the examiner's manual. The booklets do not stand on their own,
and an easel is recommended by the publisher. The picture stimuli
books were cumbersome when flipping from page to page. Tabs would
have been helpful for selecting the correct pages to turn to. Because
some of the pages are printed on both sides, laying the booklet flat
on the table allowed the child to see, and often be distracted by the
material on those pages.
The TOMAL was standardized on 1342 people selected as
representative of the US, 1990 population estimates. 15 different age
groups were divided by geographic area (17 states), race, gender, and
ethnic group. Socioeconomic Status (SES) was determined on the basis
of the test site chosen. The sample was also stratified by urban
versus rural residence. The size of the 15 sample ages tested ranged
from a low of 42 at age 18 to a high of 163 at age 11.
Internal reliabilities for the TOMAL are generally high, ranging
from a low of .56 to a high of .98. Of the 4 core Indexes, all but
Delayed Recall have reliabilities in the 90's. Delayed Recall
averages .85 across all ages. Each of the 5 Supplementary Indexes
have reliability estimates in the .90's. Nine of the fourteen core
subtests have an average reliability in the .90's while the remaining
5 are in the 80's. Delayed recall subtests generally had lower
reliabilities than did the other subtests.
Test-retest reliability coefficients for the Core and
Supplementary Indexes ranged from .81 to .92. The fourteen subtest
reliabilities averaged .81. Average test-retest reliability for 3 of
the fourteen subtests was found to be in the .70s. Two of these
subtests, Facial Memory and Abstract Visual Memory, are primary
subtests of the Nonverbal Memory Composite.
Content validity was assessed by reference to initial development
and tryouts, task analysis, and representativeness. Because of the
newness of the TOMAL and the lack of agreement as to the definition
of the construct, the authors state "Until the field can coalesce the
innumerable designations of forms and types of memory, an empirically
verifiable analysis of content validity under this definition will
always go wanting."
The exploratory factor analysis found that the TOMAL subtests all
had positive correlations with every other TOMAL subtest. The results
of factor analysis show strong evidence for a measure of general
memory and thus for the TOMAL's Composite Memory Index (CMI). A Two
Factor solution did not support the Verbal/Nonverbal index
interpretation. The Four Factor solution did not lend support for the
Verbal/Nonverbal division of the TOMAL. The process determined
groupings are said to supplement the "content-driven" and "expert
The TOMAL showed low correlations to measures of achievement,
typically about .10 points below what is typical of IQ/Achievement
comparisons. When compared to the WISC-R and the K-ABC, the TOMAL
correlated in the mid .50's. No comparisons between the TOMAL and
other measures of memory, such as the Wide Range Assessment of Memory
and Learning (WRAML, 1990) are included in the manual.
A single diagnostic validity study was reported for a sample of
learning disabled children.
Administration and Scoring
Administration time for the Core Battery (10 subtests) is
approximately 45 minutes while the entire battery (10 core subtests,
4 alternative subtests, and 4 recall subtests) takes approximately 60
to 75 minutes. Directions for each subtest are contained on the
protocol pages, so the manual is not needed during administration.
The Facial Memory, Paired Recall, Digits Backwards, and Letters
Backwards subtests are the only subtests to provide unscored teaching
tasks. Teaching items are also allowable on a number of other
subtests, but only after the person has attempted an item and
received a score of 0.
Seven of the 10 core subtests have different starting or stopping
points depending on the age of the person. Discontinuation rules vary
from subtest to subtest, and are noted on the individual record
Administration flows smoothly from subtest to subtest. Recording
responses on the protocol is straight forward but certainly not
without some difficulty. Without considerable practice, examiners
will find this task quite difficult on a number of subtests.
A number of specific questions that seem unanswered by the manual
were found during these authors' administrations of the TOMAL. The
manual states that for the Memory for Stories (MFS) subtest, a child
is given "1 point for each element of the story repeated correctly."
Some children tested simply repeated back to the examiner correct
elements, but missequenced them, resulting in correct recall of facts
but a total misunderstanding of the story content. Does a child who
recalls only salient facts at the expense of the story comprehension
receive credit? Must the answers be in some logical sequential
manner? Along those same lines, there may be confusion on the
subjects' part about how they are expected to retell the story. For
the first story the child is instructed "I'm going to tell you a
story. Listen carefully, because when the story is done, I want you
to tell me everything you remember about the story." The story is
then read to them. Only after this reading is the child instructed to
"Tell the story back to me the very best you can". The need for
verbatim responses is not clearly conveyed in the initial
instructions. It is only later in the second and third stories that
the child is instructed "Tell it back to me just the way you heard
it." One subject asked "Do you want me to use your words?" This
suggests that the manual is not clear enough, at least for the
persons taking the test. There is no direction for the examiner to
query possibly ambiguous responses. There are guide words listed in
the table but no criteria is given as to how to judge accuracy of
close but not verbatim words, colloquialisms, and synonyms.
Since the use of the TOMAL is recommended for those considered
professionally competent to give assessments, some level of
interpretive skill is expected of examiners. Three chapters of the
manual provides background information about the subtests and
theoretical information to aid in interpretation of the test. Tables
in the manual provide information about the frequency of differences
when certain comparisons are made. Such baseline data are helpful in
determining the relative frequencies of differences and thus making
logical statements about the abnormality of a suspected difference.
Regarding the meaning of scaled scores, the TOMAL authors state:
"Because a scaled score of 10 is average on the TOMAL, scaled scores
higher than this average indicate a strength, and scaled scores below
this average indicate a weakness, or impairment, relative to age peers." (p. 41). For years, psychologists have been taught that
reliance on scaled scores are suspect since they are unstable. All
scores contain error, and because of that a scaled score of 9,
although "below the mean" and supposedly indicating "impairment" on
the TOMAL, must be viewed with caution. The inclusion of this sort of
interpretive guideline in the manual for the TOMAL may lead some to
over-interpret scores that are otherwise meaningless deviations from
A second point of apprehension these reviewers had is regarding
Global score comparisons. When discussing the Global Scale
Comparisons, the TOMAL authors note: "..if a child performs in the
average range on the Verbal, Nonverbal, and Composite Indexes, but
the Delayed Recall Index is more than 13 points below the other
indexes, this would be significant at the p<.05 level. This would
be an indication of disturbed retention of information in this
child." (p. 42). This sort of blanket statement, if taken out of
context of the manual, must be viewed with caution.
One further caution. The manual discusses how to link a subtest
or composite score result with brain hemisphere pathology (pp 44-48).
Although the authors caution against making specific assertions based
on the test results, they then offer examples of this type of
interpretation. The potential for abuse in this area seems immense.
The TOMAL appears to offer a new and comprehensive addition in
psychologists' choice of memory assessment tools.
In the process of reviewing the test, these reviewers
administered over twenty TOMAL's. It was found at first to be
difficult and often burdensome but after repeated administrations
increased in its user friendliness. Interpretation required more time
and extreme caution since the test is new and the manual offers
limited guidelines. The theoretical nature of the test is still
undefined and examiners may choose from content driven, process
derived, or expert derived factors.
As stated earlier the TOMAL has a steep learning curve for
administration. Although this is definitely a factor in the ease of
administration it is secondary to the reactions of the children we
observed with this instrument. Both children and older adolescents
found the test to be difficult, and for some, very challenging.
Frustration was evidenced by quite a few of the subjects. One wonders
how a child who is deficient in memory skills, and who is aware of
such deficiencies, might react to the administration of the TOMAL.
One student's comment was particularly telling. After being
administered the entire TOMAL in standardized fashion, the child
noted to the examiner "This test made me feel stupid." These factors
need to be considered when choosing this instrument. Some examiners
may wish to only use portions of this test. The information contained
in the manual is insufficient to judge subtest specificity. As with
any standardized test, examiners who pick and choose subtests run the
risk of misinterpretation. Given that the TOMAL factor analysis did
not support the hypothesized factors, examiners who simply use
individual subtests, or subtest groupings must do so with the
knowledge that they are reliant on clinical inference rather than
Concerns about the protocol, the scoring, and the interpretation
are all issues that raised concern to these reviewers. Valuable
research is yet to be done using the TOMAL and school aged
populations so that its merit can be proven.
Kolb, B. & Whishaw, I.Q. (1990). Fundamentals of human
neuropsychology. New York: Freeman.
Sheslow, D., & Adams, W. (1990). Wide range assessment of
memory and learning. Wilmington, DE: Jastak Associates.
Squire, L. (1987). Memory and the brain. New York: Oxford