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The PIAAC Background Questionnaire is meant to identify (a) what skills participants regularly use in their job and in their home life, (b) how participants acquire those skills, and (c) how those skills are distributed throughout the population. In order to obtain this information, the background questionnaire asks participants about their education and training; present and past work experience; the skills they use at work; their use of specific literacy, numeracy, and ICT skills at work and at home; personal traits; and background information.

In order to obtain background information from a wide range of respondents in the U.S., the background questionnaire was administered in either English or Spanish depending on the language of the respondent. The PIAAC background questionnaire includes several items used in past IALS and ALL assessments for continuity. In addition, some items are country-specific. 

Participating countries are allowed to add up to 5 minutes of country-specific items.  The United States added questions focused on education, country of origin, language and ethnicity, training courses, occupation, health, work and earnings.  A majority of the U.S. country-specific questions were adopted from the National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL) background questionnaire. 

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