PIAAC 2 International

The Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (Cycle 2)

Team: Prof. Dr. Beatrice Rammstedt, Dr. Silke Schneider, Natascha Massing, Dr. Dorothée Behr, Anouk Zabal, Dr. Katharina Meitinger, Dr. Cornelia Neuert, Dr. Stefan Zins, Dr. Clemens Lechner, Melanie Partsch, Britta Gauly
Leader: Prof. Dr. Beatrice Rammstedt, Dr. Silke Schneider, Natascha Massing
Scientific unit: Dep. Survey Design and Methodology (SDM)


PIAAC is an OECD study concerned with competencies across countries, similar to PISA. Unlike PISA, PIAAC assesses the competencies of adults aged 16 to 64 though. PIAAC examines basic competencies such as literacy, numeracy and adaptive problem solving that are needed to participate in society at large and specifically in the labour market. Thereby PIAAC provides comprehensive high-quality data on ‘human capital’ in a broad range of countries, which can inform political, social and educational interventions.

The second cycle of PIAAC started in 2018. Currently 33 countries are planning to participate in the main study data collection in 2021/22. The results and data are planned to be published in 2023.

As a partner in the international PIAAC Cycle 2 consortium led by ETS, GESIS is, like in PIAAC Cycle 1 (2011/12), involved in the development of the background questionnaire (BQ) in. In close collaboration with the Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market (ROA, Maastricht University) the BQ is developed which next to socio-demographic data collects information on respondents’ educational background, labour market involvement, as well as skill use. BQ development is accompanied by an international expert group.

As one innovation for PIAAC Cycle 2, GESIS contributes to the validation of the draft BQ using a web-pretest for a selection of new and revised items, to ensure that these items deliver high-quality and cross-nationally comparable data. This pretest ran in 5 countries and languages in 2018. It was conducted in close collaboration with the GESIS Pretest Lab and used the web probing method which was developed at GESIS. The results of the pretest also made its way into the translation guidelines for the BQ, for which GESIS is also responsible. A large field trial in 2020 will test all instruments and procedures in all participating countries, like in PIAAC Cycle 1. Together with other members of the international consortium, GESIS will also analyse the field trial data.

Another innovation concerns the measurement and harmonisation of education in the PIAAC BQ, which can be regarded as the single most important variable in the questionnaire. To ensure a more comparable and detailed measurement, GESIS has conducted consultations which each participating country to ensure that the measurement and harmonization guidelines are implemented similarly across countries. The measurement of non-formal education is in PIAAC Cycle 2 also one of GESIS’ responsibilities, which was prepared by research in the PIAAC Leibniz Network and PIAAC-Longitudinal study. The measurement of social and emotional skills (or non-cognitive skills) was also strongly influenced by GESIS.

In addition, GESIS is responsible for the development of standards for questionnaire translation in PIAAC by defining translation processes and generating item-specific translation guidelines. GESIS also trains participating countries for questionnaire translation and provides hotline-support during the national translation phases. Finally, consortium partner Westat can rely on GESIS expertise regarding register sampling in the preparation of sampling activities.



Sponsored by


  • ETS (Consortium lead)
  • cApStAn
  • IEA
  • ROA (Maastricht University)