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What ICILS Measures

The International Computer and Information Literacy Study (ICILS), a computer-based international assessment of 8th-grade students, was first conducted in 2013 by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) and was conducted again in 2018. The ICILS assessment framework, updated for each assessment cycle, provides a description of the field and the constructs to be measured. It outlines the design and content of the measurement instruments and describes how measures generated by those instruments relate to the constructs. The ICILS 2018 framework includes two dimensions of an individual’s skills with information communications technologies. The first dimension, computer and information literacy (CIL), focuses on understanding computer use, gathering information, producing information, and communicating digitally. The second dimension, computational thinking (CT), focuses on conceptualizing problems and operationalizing solutions. The ICILS 2023 framework, which is based on the ICILS 2018 framework, is currently being updated to guide the development of ICILS 2023.

ICILS 2018 was conducted to help answer the following research questions, which apply to both the CIL and CT components:

  • What variations in students’ CIL and/or CT skills exist within and across countries?
  • What aspects of schools and countries are related to students’ CIL and/or CT skills?
  • What are the relationships between students’ levels of access to, familiarity with, and self-reported proficiency in using computers and their CIL and/or CT skills?
  • What aspects of students’ personal and social backgrounds (such as their gender and socioeconomic background) are related to their CIL and/or CT skills?
  • What is the association between students’ CIL and CT skills?

Computer and Information Literacy (CIL) is defined in the ICILS 2018 Assessment Framework as “an individual’s ability to use computers to investigate, create, and communicate in order to participate effectively at home, at school, in the workplace, and in society” (Fraillon et al. 2018). This definition relies on and brings together technical competence (computer literacy) and intellectual capacity (conventional literacies, including information literacy) to achieve a highly context-dependent communicative purpose that presupposes and transcends its constituent elements.

For more information on CIL, see the ICILS 2018 Assessment Framework


The CIL proficiency levels were established in 2013 after consideration of the content and difficulty of the test items. The item content and relative difficulty were analyzed to identify themes of content and process that could be used to characterize the different ranges, or levels, on the CIL achievement scale. This process was performed iteratively until each level showed distinctive characteristics, and the progression from low to high achievement across the levels was clear. The level boundaries—set at 407, 492, 576, and 661 scale points out of 700 total—form four proficiency levels. Student scores below 407 scale points indicate CIL proficiency below the lowest level targeted by the assessment instrument. The CIL proficiency levels did not change from 2013 to 2018.


CIL assessment modules include the following essential features:

  • Students complete tasks solely on computer.
  • The tasks have a real-world cross-curricular focus.
  • The tasks combine technical, receptive, productive, and evaluative skills.
  • The tasks reference safe and ethical uses of computer-based information.
Each CIL test module is comprised of a set of questions and tasks based on a real-world theme and following a linear narrative structure. Each module has a series of smaller discrete tasks,11 each of which typically takes less than a minute to complete. The narrative of each module positions the smaller discrete tasks as a mix of skill execution and information management tasks that students need to do in preparation for completion of a larger task. The larger task in each module typically takes 15-20 minutes to complete.


The international versions of the ICILS 2018 student, teacher, school and Information and Computer Technology (ICT) Coordinator questionnaires are included in the ICILS IDB User Guide, which is publicly available through the IEA data repository. Several questions in the student questionnaire were adapted to be appropriate in the U.S. educational and cultural context, and several U.S.-specific questions, such as race/ethnicity, were added to the international versions of the questionnaires. The U.S. versions of the student, teacher, school, and ICT coordinator questionnaires are below.

In addition to the student assessment, students complete a questionnaire about their

  • background;
  • access to ICT;
  • use of ICT; and
  • familiarity with ICT at home and at school.

2018 Questionnaire

National Context

Lastly, a national context survey is completed by the national study centers of participating countries to provide information on policies, curricula, resources, and practices related to CIL and CT education from a national perspective. For ICILS 2018, a summary of the national contexts for CIL and CT education is found in chapter 2 of Preparing for Life in a Digital World.

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