Frequently Asked Questions - IALS

How did IALS measure literacy proficiency?

IALS measured literacy proficiency for each domain on a scale of 0 to 500 points. Literacy ability in each domain was expressed by a score, defined as the point at which a person has an 80 percent chance of successful performance from among the set of tasks of varying difficult included in the assessment. The five levels of literacy that correspond to measured ranges of scores achieved are:

  • Level 1 indicates persons with very low skills, where the individual may, for example, be unable to determine the correct amount of medicine to give a child from information printed on the package.
  • Level 2 respondents can deal only with material that is simple, clearly laid out, and in which the tasks involved are not too complex. It denotes a weak level of skill, but more than at level 1. It identifies people who can read, but test poorly. They may have developed coping skills to manage everyday literacy demands, but their low level of proficiency makes it difficult for them to face novel demands, such as learning new job skills.
  • Level 3 is considered a suitable minimum for coping with the demands of everyday life and work in a complex, advanced society. It denotes roughly the skill level required for successful secondary school completion and college entry. Like higher levels, it requires the ability to integrate several sources of information and solve more complex problems.
  • Levels 4 & 5 describe respondents who demonstrate command of higher-level information processing skills.

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