What do adult numeracy 'levels' mean?

A comparison between adult skills levels 

Adult skills levels are not yet standardised across the UK. In England and Wales, the adult numeracy levels, along with literacy and language, are measured with 5 different catagories, with Entry Level 1 at the bottom (equivalent to the standard expected for ages 5 to 7) and Level 2 (GCSE A*-C) at the top. Scotland and Northern Ireland use a system similar to international levels to measure adult skills.

The chart below compares adult skills, together with school and vocational levels used in different parts of the UK and internationally:

The National Numeracy Challenge Online was designed to support adults working below Level 2 improve their numeracy skills. 

Find out more about the Challenge


National standards expected at each level are described as follows:

Entry Level 1:
Understanding information given by numbers and symbols in simple graphic, numerical and written forms. This includes:

  • recognising and selecting coins
  • ordering and comparing numbers up to 10
Adults below Entry Level 1 may not be able to select floor numbers in lifts.

Entry Level 2:
Understanding information given by numbers, symbols, simple diagrams and charts in graphic, numerical and written form. This includes:

  • calculating costs and change
  • adding and subtracting two-digit numbers
Adults below Entry Level 2 may not be able to use a cash machine.

Entry Level 3:
Understanding information given by numbers, symbols, diagrams and charts for different purposes expressed in graphic, numerical and written forms in different ways. This includes:

  • dividing two digits by one digit and understanding remainders
  • comparing weights using standard units. 
Adults with skills below Entry Level 3 may not be able to understand price labels or pay household bills.

Level 1:
Understanding straightforward mathematical information used for different purposes and being able to independently select relevant information expressed in graphic, numerical and written forms. This includes:

  • doing simple percentages
  • converting units of measure
Adults with skills below Level 1 may not be able to understand their pay slips.

Level 2:
Understanding mathematical information used for different purposes and can independently select and compare relevant information from a variety of graphic, numerical and written forms.

Adults with skills below Level 2 may not be able to compare the cost of products and services, or work out a household budget.