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National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL)

Framework -> Task Difficulty

The difficulty of a particular task depends on the specific literacy skills required (also called the task demands) and the characteristics of the written materials used for the task. Some types of task demands are generally less challenging than others. For example, reading words (i.e., basic reading skills) is generally less challenging than making inferences (i.e., inference skills) based on the text that one has read. The written materials also vary in difficulty depending on the text characteristics. The text may sometimes include inhibitors, such as distracting information or less familiar words, which may affect finding the correct response. But highly literate adults are typically able to overcome such problems by relying on the ability to suppress inhibitors and exploit in the text facilitators that may contribute to locating, inferring or calculating a correct response to the assessment task. For example, those adults may parse the question for key terms and then look for the repetition of key terms in the text to find the answer to the question. The 2003 NAAL framework describes all the features of the written materials that may make a NAAL literacy task more or less difficult. View sample assessment questions for examples of inhibitors, facilitators, and computational complexity variables.


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