Based on reading purposes and comprehension processes, the PIRLS 2021 framework provides the foundation for the PIRLS international assessments of students’ reading achievement in their fourth year of schooling.

  • PIRLS, now in its 20th year is well-established as the “de facto” worldwide standard for reading comprehension achievement at primary school level. PIRLS 2021 is transitioning to a digital format (but also will be offered in the traditional paper-and-pencil format).
  • PIRLS 2021 includes passages that range in difficulty, but the assessment design enables the results to be reported on the same achievement scale.
  • ePIRLS computer-based tasks extend PIRLS to assess how well students read, interpret, and critique online information in an environment that looks and feels like the internet.

As shown in Exhibit 1, the PIRLS framework focuses on the two overarching purposes for reading that account for most of the reading done by young students both in and out of school: for literary experience, and to acquire and use information. In addition, the PIRLS assessment integrates four broad-based comprehension processes within each of the two purposes for reading: focus on and retrieve explicitly stated information, make straightforward inferences, interpret and integrate ideas and information, and evaluate and critique content and textual elements. It should be acknowledged that the purposes for reading and the processes of comprehension do not function in isolation from one another or from the context in which students live and learn.

Exhibit 1: The PIRLS Reading Purposes and Comprehension Processes

Purposes for Reading
Literary Experience
Acquire and Use Information
Processes of Comprehension
Focus on and Retrieve Explicitly Stated Information
Make Straightforward Inferences
Interpret and Integrate Ideas and Information
Evaluate and Critique Content and Textual Elements