OECD Low Literacy – Assessing Literacy via Tablets

In cooperation with the OECD, the project team develops the PIAAC test further for assessing low literacy of adults. Additional test languages such as Arabic and Dari as well as a tablet-based delivery further broaden its range of potential applications.

The PIAAC study (“PISA for Adults”) was initiated by the OECD. It employs a computer-based test for assessing literacy of adults. The TBA Centre is in charge of developing new test materials, the deployment system for tablet-based delivery, and conducts psychometric analyses. For further third parties who are interested in adapting the instrument, TBA manages the translation process, which is carried out by cApStAn, and implements the newly translated test materials. For the World Bank Group, test adaptations to Arabic and Dari have been developed as a first step.


The competence to understand and engage with written texts is crucial for successful participation in society. The PIAAC study assesses adults using a computer-based test for measuring the level of their literacy, among others. The computer-based delivery allows accurate measurement of the response time as well as adapting the task difficulties to individual competence levels. The project OECD Low Literacy develops this particular literacy test further regarding three aspects. First, the team expands the instrument by additional test materials. Primarily easy texts and tasks are added in order to be able to accurately assess the risk group of adults with lower literacy. Second, the test is being adapted and translated to further test languages. Cultural and linguistic differences particularly challenge this process. For example, the delivery technology must support so-called right-to-left languages such as Arabic, in which text is written from right to left. Third, the test is being administered on a tablet opposed to notebooks or desktop computers in order to allow a flexible employment. Since the overall aim is to locate the assessed adults on the PIAAC Literacy Scale, it is necessary to investigate the comparability of the extended and the original test. The instrument shall be available upon request to the OECD for a large diversity of scientific studies.

Funding: OECD, World Bank Group

Cooperations: OECD, cApStAn Linguistic Quality Control, World Bank Group

Duration: 02/2017 - 09/2020

Status: completed

Contact: Fabian Zehner, Frank Goldhammer