Download About PIRLS 2016 (pdf)

About PIRLS 2016


PIRLS (Progress in International Reading Literacy Study) was inaugurated in 2001 as a follow-up to IEA’s 1991 Reading Literacy Study. Conducted every five years, PIRLS assesses the reading achievement of young students in their fourth year of schooling—an important transition point in their development as readers. Typically, by this time in their schooling, students have learned how to read and are now reading to learn. PIRLS is designed to complement IEA’s TIMSS assessment of mathematics and science at the fourth grade.

TIMSS and PIRLS are directed by IEA’s TIMSS & PIRLS International Study Center at Boston College in close cooperation with IEA Amsterdam, IEA Hamburg, and Statistics Canada. IEA is an independent international cooperative of national research institutions and government agencies that pioneered international assessments of student achievement in the 1960s to gain a deeper understanding of policy effects across countries’ different systems. IEA has been conducting international assessments of reading literacy and the factors associated with proficient reading comprehension in countries around the world for about 60 years.

PIRLS 2016

PIRLS 2016 is the fourth assessment in the current trend series, following PIRLS 2001, 2006, and 2011. There were 61 participants in PIRLS 2016, including 50 countries and 11 benchmarking entities (e.g., regions of countries as well as additional grades or language groups from the participating countries) that were assessed to provide comparative data to inform policy. For countries that have participated in a previous assessment since 2001, the PIRLS 2016 results provide an opportunity to evaluate progress in reading achievement across four time points: 2001, 2006, 2011, and 2016.

The PIRLS 2016 assessment is based on the PIRLS 2016 Assessment Framework developed collaboratively with the participating countries. The framework is organized around two overarching purposes for reading–for literary experience and to acquire and use information. Four reading comprehension processes are integrated across the purposes: focus on and retrieve explicitly stated information, make straightforward inferences, interpret and integrate ideas and information, and evaluate and critique content and textual elements.

Nationally representative samples of approximately 4,000 students from 150 to 200 schools participated in PIRLS 2016. About 319,000 students, 310,000 parents, 16,000 teachers, and 12,000 schools participated in total.

All of the countries, institutions, and agencies involved in successive PIRLS assessments have worked collaboratively to improve PIRLS and build the most comprehensive and innovative measure of reading comprehension available for comparing achievement globally across countries. Depending on its educational development and students’ reading level, a country can choose to participate in PIRLS Literacy (which includes some less difficult passages and items) and have its results reported on the PIRLS achievement scale and directly comparable to PIRLS. Both the PIRLS and PIRLS Literacy assessments are based on 12 passages (6 literary and 6 informational) and approximately 180 items.

As its most innovative development, PIRLS 2016 saw the debut of ePIRLS—a computer-based assessment of online reading. Designed to be responsive to the information age, ePIRLS provides important data about how well students are developing 21st century online reading skills. The ePIRLS results are presented in conjunction with the PIRLS 2016 results in ePIRLS 2016 International Results in Online Informational Reading.

The goal of PIRLS is to provide the best policy-relevant information about how to improve teaching and learning and to help young students become accomplished and self-sufficient readers. PIRLS always has included school, teacher, and student questionnaires as well as the Learning to Read Survey completed by students’ parents or caregivers. The PIRLS 2016 questionnaire results provide a wealth of information about the home, school, and classroom contexts in which students learn to read.

As a qualitative companion to the quantitative reports produced to summarize the international achievement and questionnaire results, each PIRLS assessment has been accompanied by an encyclopedia comprising chapters written by each participating country or benchmarking entity describing its reading curriculum and instruction. The chapters are published together with the results of the PIRLS Curriculum Questionnaire completed by each participant to provide comparative information across countries. With contributions from the 61 participants, the PIRLS 2016 Encyclopedia provides a comprehensive view of reading education around the world.

Quality Assurance

PIRLS 2016 made every effort to attend to the quality and comparability of the data through careful planning and documentation, cooperation among participating countries, standardized procedures, and rigorous attention to quality control throughout. The assessments were administered to nationally representative and well-documented probability samples of students in each country. Staff from Statistics Canada and IEA Hamburg worked with National Research Coordinators on all phases of sampling activities to ensure compliance with sampling and participation requirements, with good success even taking into account the few exceptions annotated in the data exhibits. IEA Amsterdam worked with the TIMSS & PIRLS International Study Center to manage an extensive series of verification checks to ensure the comparability across countries of translations of the PIRLS passages, items, and questionnaires, and to conduct an international quality assurance program of school visits to monitor and report on the administration of the assessment. IEA Hamburg worked closely with National Research Coordinators to organize data collection operations and to check all data for accuracy and consistency within and across countries.

PIRLS 2016 Results

The international results for PIRLS 2016 are reported on this website and the results for ePIRLS 2016 also can be accessed from here.

The PIRLS 2016 International Results in Reading includes 10 chapters or sections providing overviews in the form of infographics and numerous exhibits summarizing student achievement distributions, performance at the PIRLS International Benchmarks, achievement trends over time, and achievement in relation to students’ home, school, and classroom educational contexts for learning to read. The exhibits can be downloaded and printed from the Download Center.

The website includes links to:

  • PIRLS 2016 Assessment Framework, 2nd Edition describes in some detail the overarching reading purposes and the reading comprehension processes to be assessed as well as the framework describing the types of learning situations and factors that were to be investigated via the questionnaire data. There also is an overview of the assessment design.
  • PIRLS 2016 Encyclopedia: Educational Policy and Curriculum in Reading describes national contexts for reading instruction and learning. It contains data about educational structure and organization in the participating PIRLS countries together with a chapter written by each participant summarizing the countries’ reading curricula in the primary grades, instructional approaches, teacher education requirements, and the types of examinations and assessments employed.
  • PIRLS 2016 International Database is available to all individuals interested in analyzing the data collected as part of PIRLS 2016. The database includes student reading achievement data as well as the student, parent, teacher, school, and curricular background data for the PIRLS countries and benchmarking entities.
  • Context Questionnaires provide complete text of the PIRLS 2016 questionnaires completed by students and their parents, teachers, and school principals, as well as the Curriculum Questionnaire completed by National Research Coordinators to provide information on the national and community contexts for learning.