skip to main content skip to footer



Quality assessments, groundbreaking research and measurement, and user-driven educational solutions

Learn more about ETS Research & Development.


Global Assessment Center

The Global Assessment Center designs, develops and implements international large-scale comparative surveys of both adult and school-age populations. Surveys focus on:

  • core literacies such as reading, math/numeracy and science
  • innovative domains such as collaborative and adaptive problem-solving
  • innovative constructs such as financial literacy, collaborative problem-solving and problem-solving in technology-rich environments

Current projects

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD®) Survey of Adult Skills

ETS manages this major assessment for the OECD as part of the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC). This is the first large-scale, computer-delivered comparative assessment of adults in the world. It provides policymakers with a profile of adults' knowledge, skills and competencies in literacy, numeracy and problem-solving in technology-rich environments. PIAAC expands upon earlier literacy assessments and is the first multistage adaptive test used in large-scale comparative assessment.

We also work on Education and Skills Online — a new computer-delivered assessment linked to PIAAC. It provides individual results for persons who want to demonstrate readiness skills, and allows institutions, organizations and local governments to assess a population for training and research purposes.

Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA)

ETS manages and develops this global evaluation of education systems for the OECD. Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a multinational survey of 15-year-old students, currently administered in some 90 countries. The test, which transitioned from paper to computer in 2015, assesses what students know and their ability to apply their knowledge in real-life situations at an age when they begin to fully participate in society.

Research on global and large-scale assessment

Changing times, changing needs: enhancing the utility of international large-scale assessments. Large-scale Assessments in Education, volume 8, Article number: 10 (2020)

Mounting concerns about the levels and distributions of human capital, as well as how they are associated with outcomes for individuals and societies, have contributed to an increase in the number of national and international surveys. These surveys not only examine skills among school-age and adult populations, they also facilitate evaluation of the relationships among these skills and various background factors. The authors argue this can be done by utilizing a comprehensive, multidimensional framework that establishes a set of design criteria against which these assessments, present and future, can be evaluated.

Changing times, changing needs: enhancing the utility of international large scale assessments

PIAAC: a new design for a new era (PDF)Large-scale Assessments in Education 5(1): 11, 2017.

As the largest and most innovative international assessment of adults, PIAAC marks an infection point in the evolution of large-scale comparative assessments. PIAAC grew from the foundation laid by surveys that preceded it and introduced innovations that have shifted the way we conceive and implement large-scale assessments. As this paper suggests, these innovations broadened the relevance and utility of the survey along with the accuracy and validity of the data, strengthening the foundation upon which future surveys can continue to build.

A new design for a new era (PDF)

Large-Scale Assessments of Adult Literacy. Kirsch, I., Lennon, M. L., Yamamoto, K., & von Davier, M. (2017). Large-scale assessments of adult literacy, 285‒310. In R. E. Bennett & M. von Davier (Eds.), Advancing human assessment: The methodological, psychological and policy contributions of ETS.

This chapter of Advancing Human Assessment describes ETS’s work in large-scale adult literacy assessments. This work has been designed to meet policy needs, both in the United States and internationally, based on the growing awareness of literacy as human capital. The impact of these assessments has grown as policymakers and other stakeholders have increasingly come to understand the critical role that foundational skills play in allowing individuals to maintain and enhance their ability to meet changing work conditions and societal demands.

Findings from large-scale surveys have provided a wealth of information about how the distribution of skills is related to social and economic outcomes. Of equal importance, the surveys and associated research have contributed to large-scale assessment methodology, the development of innovative item types and delivery systems, and methods for reporting survey data that ensure its utility to a range of stakeholders and audiences.

 Advancing Human Assessment