Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC)

New Zealand is participating in Cycle 2 of the OECD's Survey of Adult Skills. This is part of the OECD's Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC). Through interviews with a representative sample of respondents aged 16-65 in each participating country, it will assess literacy, numeracy and problem solving skills. It continues the measures of Cycle 1, which built on previous international surveys of adult skills, allowing literacy levels to be compared over 25 years for some countries.

The OECD has contracted the United States based organisation Educational Testing Service (ETS) to lead a Consortium of agencies to manage the implementation of Cycle 2 of the Survey of Adult Skills. ETS and the Consortium members work with participating countries to ensure the Survey data is comparable across countries, and that all aspects of its implementation are of high quality.

What is the Survey of Adult Skills?

The Survey of Adult Skills:

  • is the most comprehensive international survey of adult skills ever undertaken.
  • is a collaboration between governments, an international consortium of organisations and the OECD.
  • measures the skills and competencies needed for individuals to participate in society and for economies to prosper.
  • helps governments better understand how education and training systems can nurture these skills.
  • will have a field trial in 2020 and a main data collection in 2021/22. First results will be published in 2023.

The survey will be carried out by:

  • interviewing adults aged 16-65 years in their homes – at least 5,000 in each participating country.
  • assessing literacy, numeracy and problem solving skills.
  • collecting a broad range of information from the adults taking the survey, including education background, how their skills are used at work and in other contexts such as the home and the community.

The information from individual respondents is strictly confidential. Published results are for groups of people where individuals cannot be identified.

Cycle 2 continues and develops the approach of Cycle 1 in the following ways:

  • It will measure literacy and numeracy skill in the same way as Cycle 1.
  • It will measure a new problem solving domain: Adaptive Problem Solving (APS).  APS is the capacity to achieve one’s goals in a dynamic situation, in which a method for solution is not immediately available. It requires engaging in cognitive and metacognitive processes to define the problem, search for information, and apply a solution in a variety of information environments and contexts. Cycle 1’s problem solving domain, Problem Solving in Technology-rich Environments, differed from APS by focusing on solving problems by using digital technology, communication tools and networks.
  • It will collect new information on socio-emotional skills.
  • It will collect new measures of education pathways.
  • The assessment will be delivered on a touch-screen tablet rather than a laptop. This will enable more people to undertake the full assessment electronically.
  • The interview will contain the following elements:
    • A background questionnaire that will collect information on education, work, use of skills at work and in everyday life, languages spoken and socio-demographic information. The background questionnaire will be administered face-to-face by an interviewer who enters the respondent's answers into a tablet.
    • A skill assessment which will be undertaken by the respondent on the tablet. Test items will cover a wide range of difficulty and will measure skill in three skill domains: literacy, numeracy and problem solving.

Which countries are participating in the Survey of Adult Skills?

The following countries are planning to participate in Cycle 2 of the Survey of Adult Skills: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Romania, Russian Federation, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

International sites of interest


The OECD's website contains:

  • published findings from the cycle of the Survey of Adult Skills.
  • technical, and methodological material.
  • countries' datasets and questionnaires.
  • the International Data Explorer where users can create their own statistical tables.

Related Pages

Where to find out more

Contact Us

Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC)
For queries about the Survey of Adult Skills please contact:

Paul Satherley
Senior Research Analyst
Ministry of Education
P O Box 1666, Thorndon
Wellington 6140
New Zealand