Framework for PIRLS 2021

Assessment frameworks are developed to identify what should be assessed and how it should be assessed.  Thus, the PIRLS framework defines reading literacy, describes the purposes for reading and the processes for comprehension that are assessed by the PIRLS and ePIRLS test materials.

PIRLS 2021 defines reading literacy as “the ability to understand and use those written language forms required by society and/or valued by the individual. Readers can construct meaning from texts in a variety of forms. They read to learn, to participate in communities of readers in school and everyday life, and for enjoyment.”

Reading purposes relate to why pupils read – usually to acquire information or for literary experience.  Therefore, half of the PIRLS test content is based on literary-type texts and half on informational-type texts.

Processes of comprehension relate to how readers construct meaning from what they read.  The PIRLS framework outlines four main processes:

  • Focus on and retrieve explicitly stated information.
  • Make straightforward inferences.
  • Interpret and integrate ideas and information.
  • Evaluate and critique content and textual elements.

Each of the four processes is assessed by a number of questions in the test booklets.

The ePIRLS assessment, first administered as an add-on in 2016, is integrated with PIRLS for countries administering the assessment digitally in 2021. ePIRLS is designed to assess pupils’ ability to use the Internet in a school context. It focuses on the informational reading purpose, but requires all of the reading comprehension skills and strategies assessed by PIRLS. ePIRLS uses a simulated online platform that requires readers to navigate a non-linear, hyperlinked reading environment, inferring the probable usefulness of different pathways and integrating the information found across a network of texts.

The PIRLS framework also establishes the national and home contexts to be covered in the PIRLS 2021 Encyclopedia, and outlines what should be included in the questionnaires to be completed by pupils, parents, teachers, and school principals.  The full framework can be accessed here: