Based on studies prior to PIAAC, it was found that in the United States over 7 million adults had very low literacy skills. Many other countries participating in PIAAC also had large numbers of adults with low literacy skills. The primary goal of the PIAAC reading components framework is to provide information about the literacy skills of adults at the lower end of the literacy spectrum—specifically, whether they have the foundational skills to develop the higher literacy and numeracy abilities necessary for functioning in society.
The reading components assessment focuses on elements of reading that are comparable across the range of languages in the participating countries: reading vocabulary, sentence comprehension, and basic passage comprehension.
The reading vocabulary section asks participants to identify the best word to label different graphic illustrations. This task measures whether participants can identify common, concrete print words used in everyday adult interactions in the community, home, and workplace. It is not meant to determine the vocabulary knowledge (breath or depth) of the participants.
The sentence comprehension section asks participants to identify whether sentences of varying grammatical/syntactic complexity make sense. This task measures whether participants can understand and correctly judge the accuracy of the content of sentences.
The basic passage comprehension section asks participants to make a choice between a correct and an incorrect word to complete a sentence within a passage. This task measures whether respondents comprehend text in context and can appropriately use words in ways that characterize fluency.
The reading component portion of the assessment is optional for countries participating in PIAAC. In countries that chose to adopt the reading components tasks, participants who do not take the computer-based assessment and those who fail to pass the computer-administered ICT and literacy/numeracy "core" items will be directed to these tasks.