International Assessment :PIRLS

 International Assessment :PIRLS

​(Progress in International Reading Literacy Study)

PIRLS are tests prepared by IEA to assess students in the fourth grade in terms of the concepts and issues they learned in reading, and to compare the results with the results of other countries participating in the tests.

Main Objectives:

  • Collecting comprehensive data about 4th grade students’ reading, comprehension, and analytical skills
  • Identifying the elements that promote the acquisition of knowledge, such as: curricula, educational practices, the role of the family, etc.
  • Comparing students’ reading literacy skills in educational systems with different cultural, economic, and social backgrounds
  • Identifying the best practices to improve education by comparing the results of international tests with the results in countries with advanced educational systems and policies, which promotes higher levels of achievement among students

Supervising Entity:

On an international scale, the tests are supervised by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA). In Saudi Arabia however, they are supervised by the National Center for Assessment (NCA), an ETEC affiliate.



Target Segments:

Fourth grade 


Arabic and English


Participating countries collaborate to develop the overall framework and content of the tests under the supervision of IEA. Each country is responsible for translating and adapting test content and instruments to its locale, as well as administering the tests to a representative sample of schools. These instruments are:

1. Question booklets (reading and writing skills)

2. Surveys:

  • School surveys (to be completed by school leaders or their representatives)
  • Reading teachers​
  • Students
  • Parents or legal guardians

PIRLS in Saudi Arabia:

Saudi Arabia participated in the 2011 and 2016 cycles of PIRLS. Field tests for the next cycle will commence during the first quarter of 2020.

Preparing for the test:

Target schools participating in the study should prepare their students in reading and writing skills and train them on the mechanics of the test using classroom activities. Schools can also access the questions released by the supervising entity via:​ 

Translated versions of released questions can be accessed by searching the web for “أسئلة تدريبية أو نماذج الاختبارات الدولية PIRLS”. NCA has also created administrative and training guides that will be sent to sampled schools to help them prepare and train their students.


Students are not required to pre-register for the test. Target schools are nominated by the supervising entity with no interference from participating countries. The Center coordinates between the Ministry of Education and nominated schools to ensure their suitability for the study and their readiness for the agreed upon implementation schedule.

Saudi Arabia takes part in PIRLS because it helps to assess the achievement of elementary stage students in reading and writing. It also examines the similarities and differences between Saudi Arabia’s educational system and the educational systems of other participating countries to enhance teaching and learning in the Kingdom. Further, the results of such tests fulfill one of the goals of Saudi Vision 2030.

Participating countries are responsible for administering international tests, but the supervising entity is responsible for scoring and analyzing results. At the end of each cycle, several reports are issued concerning achievement levels in reading and writing. Some of these reports are published, while others are sent to individual countries to help them improve their teaching and learning processes in line with international benchmarking. It is worth noting that the principle aim of these tests is to assess the educational systems of participating countries rather than evaluating participating students or schools.​​​
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