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Three Types of Literacy

NAAL is designed to measure functional English literacy. The assessment measures how adults use printed and written information to adequately function at home, in the workplace, and in the community.

Since adults use different kinds of printed and written materials in their daily lives, NAAL measures three types of literacy—prose, document, and quantitative—and reports a separate scale score for each of these three areas. By measuring literacy along three scales, instead of just one, NAAL can provide more comprehensive data on literacy tasks and literacy skills associated with the broad range of printed and written materials adults use.

The 2003 NAAL assessment questions were developed to permit measurement of these three types of literacy:

prose literacy example

Prose literacy

The knowledge and skills needed to perform prose tasks, (i.e., to search, comprehend, and use continuous texts). Examples include editorials, news stories, brochures, and instructional materials.

document literacy example

Document literacy

The knowledge and skills needed to perform document tasks, (i.e., to search, comprehend, and use non-continuous texts in various formats). Examples include job applications, payroll forms, transportation schedules, maps, tables, and drug or food labels.

quantitative literacy example

Quantitative literacy

The knowledge and skills required to perform quantitative tasks, (i.e., to identify and perform computations, either alone or sequentially, using numbers embedded in printed materials). Examples include balancing a checkbook, figuring out a tip, completing an order form or determining the amount.


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