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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the International Adult Literacy Survey?

The International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS) is a large-scale, international comparative assessment designed to identify and measure a range of skills linked to the social and economic characteristics of individuals across (or within) nations. As our societies become more and more information-oriented, it is clear that adults will need a broad set of skills in order to participate effectively in the labor market, in political processes, and in their communities. They will need to be literate and numerate; they will need to be capable problem-solvers; and increasingly, they will need to be familiar with information and communications technologies.

IALS provides information on the skills and attitudes of adults aged 16-65 in a number of different areas, including:

  • Prose Literacy: the knowledge and skills needed to understand and use information from texts including editorials, news stories, poems, and fiction.
  • Document Literacy: the knowledge and skills required to locate and use information contained in various formats, including job applications, payroll forms, transportation schedules, maps, tables, and graphics.
  • Quantitative Literacy: the knowledge and skills required to apply arithmetic operations, either alone or sequentially, to numbers embedded in printed materials, such as balancing a checkbook, calculating a tip, completing an order form, or determining the amount of interest on a loan from an advertisement.

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