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About - Transition from Paper-based to Digitally-based Survey Systems

To better measure the knowledge and skills required for success in the 21st century, all international studies in which the United States participates through NCES are being transitioned to digitally-based studies. In this new format, participants respond to assessment or survey questions using a tablet or computer.

The transition to digitally-based assessments (DBA) will make possible:

  • Better measurement across the assessment frameworks;
  • The possibility of adaptive assessments, which allow more accurate measures of performance at the top and bottom of the proficiency scale; and
  • More innovative ways to measure cognitive processes, including using interactive tasks, measuring timing, and recording processes involved in responding.

Transition of Large-scale International Education Studies to Digitally-Based Assessment

Study First Year of DBA Components DBA Implementation Details
TALIS 2008* TALIS administers online teacher and principal questionnaires.
PIAAC 2012 PIAAC assesses adult literacy and numeracy using paper-based or computer-based assessments. PIAAC’s problem solving in technology-rich environments component is only computer-based. PIAAC administers online background questionnaires, with an option for paper where necessary.
PISA 2012 In 2012, PISA administered optional DBA assessments in mathematics, reading, and problem solving. In the 2015 cycle, all domains were administered online. PISA administers online curriculum, school, teacher, and student questionnaires.
ICILS 2013* ICILS is a computer-based international assessment of eighth-grade students' computer and information literacy.
PIRLS 2016 In 2016, in addition to the paper-based PIRLS assessment, a subset of education systems administered ePIRLS, an innovative computer-based assessment of online reading. PIRLS administered online curriculum, school, and teacher questionnaires during this cycle.
IELS 2018 Children interact with tablet computers on activities to measure pre-literacy, pre-numeracy, self-regulation, and social emotional (empathy and trust) skills.
TIMSS 2019 In 2019, for both fourth and eighth grade, TIMSS administered eTIMSS, where mathematics and science items were administered via computers or tablets. TIMSS administers online curriculum, school, and teacher questionnaires.
PIRLS 2021 In 2021, PIRLS was administered as an entirely digital assessment referred to as digitalPIRLS, which included both the traditional PIRLS assessment in digital format as well as the interactive ePIRLS items. For the first time, the student questionnaire was also administered digitally.

*The United States did not participate in this cycle.