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Overview of the literacy levels


Level and definition Key abilities associated with level Sample tasks typical of level

Below Basic indicates no more than the most simple and concrete literacy skills.

Score ranges for Below Basic:

Prose: 0–209
Document: 0–204
Quantitative:   0–234

Adults at the Below Basic level range from being nonliterate in English to having the abilities listed below:

  • locating easily identifiable information in short, commonplace prose texts
  • locating easily identifiable information and following written instructions in simple documents (e.g., charts or forms)
  • locating numbers and using them to perform simple quantitative operations (primarily addition) when the mathematical information is very concrete and familiar

 


 
  • searching a short, simple text to find out what a patient is allowed to drink before a medical test
  • signing a form
  • adding the amounts on a bank deposit slip

Basic indicates skills necessary to perform simple and everyday literacy activities.

Score ranges for Basic:

Prose: 210–264
Document: 205–249
Quantitative:   235–289
  • reading and understanding information in short, commonplace prose texts
  • reading and understanding information in simple documents
  • locating easily identifiable quantitative information and using it to solve simple, one-step problems when the arithmetic operation is specified or easily inferred
  • finding in a pamphlet for prospective jurors an explanation of how people were selected for the jury pool
  • using a television guide to find out what programs are on at a specific time
  • comparing the ticket prices for two events

Intermediate indicates skills necessary to perform moderately challenging literacy activities.

Score ranges for Intermediate:

Prose: 265–339
Document: 250–334
Quantitative:   290–349
  • reading and understanding moderately dense, less commonplace prose texts as well as summarizing, making simple inferences, determining cause and effect, and recognizing the authorís purpose
  • locating information in dense, complex documents and making simple inferences about the information
  • locating less familiar quantitative information and using it to solve problems when the arithmetic operation is not specified or easily inferred
  • consulting reference materials to determine which foods contain a particular vitamin
  • identifying a specific location on a map
  • calculating the total cost of ordering specific office supplies from a catalog

Proficient indicates skills necessary to perform more complex and challenging literacy activities.

Score ranges for Proficient:

Prose: 340–500
Document: 335–500
Quantitative:   350–500
  • reading lengthy, complex, abstract prose texts as well as synthesizing information and making complex inferences
  • integrating, synthesizing, and analyzing multiple pieces of information located in complex documents
  • locating more abstract quantitative information and using it to solve multistep problems when the arithmetic operations are not easily inferred and the problems are more complex
  • comparing viewpoints in two editorials
  • interpreting a table about blood pressure, age, and physical activity
  • computing and comparing the cost per ounce of food items

NOTE: Although the literacy levels share common names with the NAEP levels, they do not correspond to the NAEP levels.
SOURCE: Hauser, R.M, Edley, C.F. Jr., Koenig, J.A., and Elliott, S.W. (Eds.). (2005). Measuring Literacy: Performance Levels for Adults, Interim Report.Washington, DC: National Academies Press;White, S. and Dillow, S. (2005). Key Concepts and Features of the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NCES 2006-471).U.S.Department of Education.Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.

For more information please see Performance Level Fact Sheet.

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National Center for Education Statistics - http://nces.ed.gov
U.S. Department of Education