Skip Navigation

International Benchmarks

International benchmarks for achievement were developed in an attempt to provide a concrete interpretation of what the scores on the PIRLS reading achievement scale mean (for example, what does it imply about what a student knows and can do if he or she were to have an achievement score of 625).

To describe student performance at various points along the PIRLS reading scale, PIRLS uses scale anchoring to summarize and describe student achievement at four points on the reading scale—Advanced (625), High (550), Intermediate (475), and Low (400) international benchmarks. Scale anchoring involves selecting benchmarks (scale points) on the PIRLS achievement scales to be described in terms of student performance. Once benchmark scores have been chosen, items are identified that students are likely to score highly on. The content of these items describe what students know and can do who are at the benchmark level of achievement. To interpret the content of anchored items, these items are grouped by content area within benchmarks and reviewed by reading experts. These experts focus on the content of each item and describe the kind of reading domain or process demonstrated by students answering the item correctly. The experts then provide a summary description of performance at each anchor point leading to a content- referenced interpretation of the achievement results. See exhibit 2 for a description of the PIRLS benchmarks, and exhibit 3 for a description of the benchmarks for ePIRLS. Detailed information on the creation of the benchmarks is provided in Chapter 13 of Methods and Procedures in PIRLS 2016 at