How is PIAAC administered?

PIAAC requires in-person interviews to complete the background questionnaire, before administering the direct assessments (i.e., literacy, numeracy, component skills and/or problem solving in technology-rich environments). The direct assessments are available in two modes; paper-and-pencil and computer-administered. The design of the US-PIAAC survey includes the following instruments:

The overall direct assessment time is approximately 60 minutes. However, PIAAC is not a timed assessment and some participants may take longer to complete the assessment.

The assessment begins with a Background Questionnaire (BQ) . Among other things, the BQ asks about the participant's computer experiences, which is essential to route them to either taking the paper assessment or computer assessment.  After completing the assessment, participants with no computer experience will be routed to the paper-based assessment, as will participants refusing to take the test on the computer. The remainder will be routed to the computer-based assessment (see Figure A).

  • Paper-based assessment (PBA): This assessment begins with a 10-minute core of literacy/numeracy items in paper-and-pencil format. Participants who perform at or above a minimum standard on this core will be randomly assigned to either a 30-minute cluster of literacy items or a 30-minute cluster of numeracy items.  After they complete those items, they will receive a 20-minute assessment of component skills. Participants who perform poorly on the paper literacy-numeracy core proceed directly to the reading components booklet (see Figure A).
  • Computer-based assessment (CBA): Participants who indicate having previous experience with computers in the BQ interview are directed to a Core section that is composed of two parts; an information communication technology (ICT) core , which measures basic computer skills such as highlighting, and a literacy/numeracy core which measures basic skills within these domains. Each of these cores takes approximately 5 minutes.  Participants who perform poorly in either of these cores will be switched over to the appropriate sections of the paper-and-pencil instruments. Participants who fail the ICT core will proceed to the paper-based assessment and take the paper-based literacy-numeracy core items.  Participants passing the ICT core proceed to the computer-based literacy-numeracy core. If they do not pass the computer literacy-numeracy core, participants will proceed directly to the reading components section of the paper-based assessment.

Participants who perform well on both parts of the computer-based Core section will be randomly routed to the computer-based literacy , computer-based numeracy , or problem-solving domains. The computer-based assessment (CBA) consists of Module 1 and Module 2. Each module is a set of literacy, numeracy, or problem-solving units.  Respondents who receive literacy or numeracy in CBA Module 1 will not repeat the same domain but instead receive one of the other two modules in CBA Module 2. Respondents who receive problem-solving in CBA Module 1 have a 50 percent chance of receiving a second set of problem-solving items again and a 50 percent chance of receiving literacy or numeracy items in CBA Module 2.

The diagram below is a simplified version of the workflow of the assessment with the paper-based assessment branching to the right and the computer-based assessment branching to the left. Note that within the computer-based assessment an adaptive design is used for the literacy and numeracy items in Modules 1 and 2.

Figure A. PIAAC Instruments Simplified Workflow
PIAAC Instruments Simplified Workflow