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Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC)


PIAAC is designed to assess adults in different countries over a broad range of abilities, from simple reading to more complex problem-solving skills. To do this, PIAAC defines four core competency domains of adult cognitive skills seen as key to facilitating the social and economic participation of adults in advanced economies: literacy, reading components, numeracy, and problem solving in technology-rich environments. All participating countries and regions are required to assess the literacy and numeracy domains, but the reading components and problem solving in technology-rich environments domains are both optional. The U.S. PIAAC assessment measured all four domains.

Literacy. Literacy is defined as the ability to understand, evaluate, use, and engage with written text to participate in the society, to achieve one’s goals and to develop one’s knowledge and potential.

Reading components. Reading components measures literacy skills of adults at the lower end of the literacy spectrum, focusing on elements of reading that are comparable across the range of languages (reading vocabulary, sentence comprehension, and basic passage comprehension and fluency).

Numeracy. Numeracy is defined as the ability to access, use, interpret, and communicate mathematical information and ideas, in order to engage in and manage the mathematical demands of a range of situations in adult life.

Problem solving in technology-rich environments (PS-TRE). Problem solving in technology-rich environments (also referred to as “digital problem solving”) involves using digital technology, communication tools and networks to acquire and evaluate information, communicate with others and perform practical tasks. The PIAAC problem solving assessment focuses on the abilities to solve problems for personal, work and civic purposes by setting up appropriate goals and plans, accessing and making use of information through computers and computer networks.