Programme for the International
Assessment of Adult Competencies

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Prof. Dr. Beatrice Rammstedt

Survey Design and Methodology

+49 (621) 1246-155

PIAAC – An International Survey of Adult Competencies

PIAAC is an international comparative survey initiated by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) that aims to assess key adult competencies. In Germany, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research contracted GESIS – Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences with the national project management (2018-2023). In addition, GESIS is a member of the international PIAAC consortium and is responsible for the validation, translation, and adaptation of the background questionnaire.

PIAAC: An Overview

The Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) was initiated by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and is steered by the PIAAC Board of Participating Countries. Over thirty countries, including Germany, are participating in the second cycle of PIAAC. The second cycle started in 2018 and results are expected to be published in 2023. In Germany, PIAAC is implemented by GESIS – Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences and funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). GESIS is also part of the international consortium commissioned by the OECD to design and monitor the implementation of PIAAC. As part of the consortium, GESIS is involved in the development of the PIAAC background questionnaire and is also responsible for its validation and translation.
The OECD repeats PIAAC at regular ten-year intervals. The first published round, PIAAC 2012, marked the starting point of this multi-cycle program. Starting in 2008, around 40 countries participated in the first cycle of PIAAC. The second cycle of PIAAC began in 2018. The main study is planned in 2021/22 and is preceded by a field trial in 2020. First results will be published in 2023. The multi-cycle design of PIAAC enables changes in adult skills to be monitored and analyzed. 
In PIAAC at least 5,000 randomly selected respondents between the ages of 16 and 65 are interviewed and assessed in each participating country. The survey is carried out as a personal interview (background questionnaire) with a subsequent skills assessment (see Zabal et al., 2014).



The PIAAC interview consists of two central elements: the measurement of key competencies (duration of the cognitive assessment approximately 60 minutes) and the background questionnaire (duration approximately 45 minutes). The following competency domains will be assessed in the second cycle of PIAAC: literacy, numeracy, and adaptive problem solving. Furthermore, reading components and numeracy components will be assessed.

The assessment will be administered on tablet-based hardware in PIAAC Cycle 2. In addition, a CAPI background questionnaire will be administered to obtain key individual data. This includes demographic characteristics such as the age or gender of the respondent, and the educational background or employment history. In addition, the background questionnaire also collects information such as the respondents’ skills, personality, and attitudes.

All PIAAC instruments will be tested in a field trial in 2020. The questions and assessment items for the main study will be selected and modified based on the field trial results.

Structure of the Project


PIAAC is an initiative of the OECD. The decision-making committee for PIAAC is the Board of Participating Countries (BPC), in which the funders of the participating countries are represented. An international consortium led by Educational Testing Service (ETS), USA, is responsible for the international project implementation. This consortium is supported and advised by a Technical Advisory Group (TAG). In addition, there is an expert group for each domain measured in PIAAC. The design of PIAAC is developed by the international consortium and will be implemented in all participating countries. Germany is represented in the BPC by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

Further Information:


GESIS - Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences is commissioned by the BMBF to carry out the national project implementation in Germany. At GESIS, a team of researchers led by Prof. Dr. Beatrice Rammstedt and Anouk Zabal work on the PIAAC project.


The PIAAC National Project Management began in 2018. In 2020 a field test will be carried out in all countries participating in PIAAC and this experience as well as the field test results will be used to prepare the main survey. The main survey is planned for 2021/22. The publication of first results is planned for 2023.


PIAAC Cycle 1: Download Area


You are welcome to visit the PIAAC Research Data Centre (RDC PIAAC) for detailed information, publications, access to the current PIAAC data, and available analysis tools.