Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC)

On behalf of the OECD, PIAAC, also known as “PISA for adults“, assesses cognitive competencies that are relevant to successfully participating in professional life in more than 25 countries.

Project description

These include, for instance, competencies in the classical areas of mathematics and reading comprehension, but also techniques in dealing with information and communication technologies. The empirical data thus gained are correlated with variables regarding income or occupation; thus they deliver internationally comparable data pertinent to the knowledge levels of adults for each participating country.

Organisation / Conduct

As regards organising and conducting PIAAC, the TBA project  at the DIPF is mainly commissioned to further develop the software system TAO. TAO is implemented as an open source platform offering functionalities for a collaborative and disparate development, government and provision of computer-based tests. The main focus concerns two tasks:

(1) The Hypertext Builder created within the TBA project is further developed and used for constructing respective test tasks in the areas of mathematics, reading and information and communication technology.

(2) In order to support the interviewers visiting the households in obtaining general and professional background information regarding the test persons, the functions necessary for conducting computer assisted personal interviews (CAPI) are implemented in TAO. Furthermore, an authoring tool will support the design of country-specific questions in TAO.

On the basis of TAO, both test parts, i.e. the assessment of background information (“background questionnaire“) and the assessment of cognitive tests will be integrated on a shared assessment platform. 

TBA will offer training measures and deliver technical support particularly with regard to the construction of the tests and their conduct.

The TBA technology used for the PIAAC study does not only increase the efficiency and reliability of assessments, but it also opens up a variety of additional options in comparison with traditional paper-and-Pencil procedures:

  • In adaptive tests (computer adaptive tests), for instance, the system adjusts the degree of difficulty of individual test items to the level of competence the test person has achieved in previous questions. Hence, the testing time is cut short for the individual test person while at the same time the accuracy of measurement is increased (reliability). 
  • Filters are applied to the assessment of socio-demographic background data so that each test person needs to answer a small part of the questions only (branching).
  • New question formats can be integrated following the simulation of daily computer tasks or conditional branching subsequent to certain interactions.  

International Links

A total of more than 25 countries have already committed themselves to participating in PIAAC. Even countries that do not belong to the OECD will probably take part in the study.

The translation platform and a first release of the assessment software will be completed by the end of 2008. First field tests in PIAAC are scheduled for 2010 while the first assessment will take place in 2011.

The project is funded by the OECD / Directorate for Education, head: Andreas Schleicher

Co-operation partners

Partners of the DIPF in the core consortium, which is headed by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), USA, are the Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market (ROA), the Netherlands, the Belgian Linguistic Quality Control Agency (cApStAn), the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) and the Mannheim Zentrum für Umfragen, Methoden und Analysen (ZUMA). PIAAC provides the framework for a co-operation of the TBA project at DIPF with the Luxemburg research institute, Centre de Recherche Public Henri Tudor and the University of Luxemburg, regarding the further development of their assessment software TAO for the purposes of PIAAC.

Project Details

Completed Projects
7/2008 – 5/2013
External funding