Skip Navigation

What Works Clearinghouse


Program Description1

Fast ForWord® is a computer-based reading program intended to help students develop and strengthen the cognitive skills necessary for successful reading and learning. The program, which is designed to be used 30 to 100 minutes a day, five days a week, for 4 to 16 weeks, includes two components. The first component, the Fast ForWord® Language2 and Literacy3 series, aims to build cognitive skills such as memory, attention, processing, and sequencing, as well as language and reading skills, including listening accuracy, phonological awareness, and knowledge of language structures. The second component, the Fast ForWord® to Reading4 series (also known as the Fast ForWord® Reading series), aims to increase processing efficiency and further improve reading skills such as sound-letter associations, phonological awareness, word recognition, knowledge of English language conventions, vocabulary, and comprehension. The program, developed by scientists with expertise in the areas of brain plasticity, cognitive development, and reading instruction, is designed to adapt the nature and difficulty of the content based on individual students’ responses.


Two studies of Fast ForWord® that fall within the scope of the Adolescent Literacy review protocol meet What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) evidence standards, and six studies meet WWC evidence standards with reservations. The eight studies included about 2,000 students, ranging in age from 5 to 17, who attended elementary, middle, and high schools6 in Indiana, Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, an urban district in the northeastern United States, and Australia.7

Based on these eight studies, the WWC considers the extent of evidence for Fast ForWord® on adolescent learners to be small for the alphabetics and reading fluency domains and medium to large for the comprehension and general literacy achievement domains.


Fast ForWord® was found to have no discernible effects on the alphabetics and general literacy achievement domains, and potentially positive effects on the reading fluency and comprehension domains for adolescent learners.

Alphabetics Reading fluency Comprehension General literacy achievement
Rating of effectiveness No discernible effects
Potentially positive
Potentially positive
No discernible effects
Improvement index8


Average: +2 percentile points

Range: –8 to +9 percentile points

+17 percentile points


Average: +8 percentile points

Range: –6 to +15 percentile points

Average: +3 percentile points

Range: –1 to +9 percentile points

na = not applicable

1 The descriptive information for this program was obtained from a publicly available source: the program’s website (, downloaded July 2009), as well as information provided to the WWC by the developer. The WWC requests developers to review the program description sections for accuracy from their perspective. Further verification of the accuracy of the descriptive information for this program is beyond the scope of this review. The literature search reflects documents publicly available through December 2008.
2 The Fast ForWord® Language series, designed for elementary school students, includes three products: (1) Fast ForWord® Language Basics, which focuses on sound sequencing, fine motor skills, hand–eye coordination, pattern recognition, and color–shape recognition; (2) Fast ForWord® Language, which focuses on listening accuracy, phonological awareness, and language structures; and (3) Fast ForWord® Language to Reading, which focuses on the link between spoken and written language.
3 The Fast ForWord® Literacy series, designed for secondary school students and adults, includes two products: (1) Fast ForWord® Literacy, which focuses on listening accuracy, phonological awareness, and language structures; and (2) Fast ForWord® Literacy Advanced, which focuses on processing efficiency, memory, concentration, comprehension, and sequencing. Students in at least two of the studies included in this review used Fast ForWord® Middle and High School, which was discontinued and replaced by the Fast ForWord® Literacy series.
4 The Fast ForWord® Reading series, designed for students at all reading levels, includes six products. Fast ForWord® Reading Prep focuses on letter recognition, phonological awareness, and letter–sound associations. Fast ForWord® Reading Levels 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 focus on a variety of skills, depending on the level. For example, Level 1 focuses on early reading skills such as phonemic awareness, early decoding skills, vocabulary knowledge, and motivation for reading, and Level 5 focuses on skills suitable for more advanced readers in upper elementary, middle, or high school, such as reading comprehension and vocabulary skills.
5 The studies in this report were reviewed using WWC Evidence Standards, Version 1.0 (see the WWC Standards), as described in protocol Version 1.0.
6 The Adolescent Literacy topic area reviews studies of interventions administered to students in grades 4–12 (or 9–18 years of age). For studies that include samples of students that span both the Adolescent Literacy (grades 4–12) and Beginning Reading (grades K–3) topic areas and cannot be disaggregated by grade level, the Adolescent Literacy topic area also reviews any studies that include 5th-grade students or higher. For example, this report includes a combined sample of students from grades 3–6 (Rouse & Krueger, 2004), grades 2–8 (Scientific Learning Corporation, 2004b), and students aged 5–14 years (Scientific Learning Corporation, 2007a).
7 The evidence presented in this report is based on available research. Findings and conclusions may change as new research becomes available.
8 These numbers show the average and range of student-level improvement indices for all findings across the studies.