Skip Navigation
small NCES header image

Frequently Asked Questions

In addition to the following questions about PIRLS, more FAQs about international assessments are available at:

How does PIRLS compare to the NAEP fourth-grade reading assessment?

Three studies have compared PIRLS and NAEP in terms of their measurement frameworks and the reading passages and questions included in the assessments. The most recent study (See Appendix C in the PIRLS 2011 report) compared NAEP with PIRLS 2011. A prior study—A Comparison of the NAEP and PIRLS Fourth-Grade Reading Assessments PDF icon (852 KB)— compared NAEP with PIRLS 2001 and the second study—Comparing PIRLS and PISA with NAEP in Reading, Mathematics, and SciencePDF icon (211 KB)—compared NAEP with PIRLS 2006. The studies found the following similarities and differences:


  • PIRLS and NAEP call for students to develop interpretations, make connections across text, and evaluate aspects of what they have read.
  • PIRLS and NAEP use literary passages drawn from children's storybooks and informational texts as the basis for the reading assessment.
  • PIRLS and NAEP use multiple-choice and constructed-response questions with similar distributions of these types of questions.


  • PIRLS reading passages are, on average, shorter than fourth grade NAEP reading passages.
  • Results of readability analyses suggest that the PIRLS reading passages are easier than the NAEP passages (by about one grade level on average).
  • PIRLS calls for more text-based interpretation than NAEP. NAEP places more emphasis on having students take what they have read and connect to other readings or knowledge and to critically evaluate what they have read.

<< Previous Question  |  Next Question >>


Would you like to help us improve our products and website by taking a short survey?

YES, I would like to take the survey


No Thanks

The survey consists of a few short questions and takes less than one minute to complete.
National Center for Education Statistics -
U.S. Department of Education