What do ‘levels’ mean in assessing adults’ numeracy skills?

Levels provide a comparative measure of adults’ skills.

Across the regions of the UK, this measure is yet to be standardised. In England, the Adult Literacy, Language and Numeracy sector uses a five-level system to categorise adult skills. Starting at the bottom, these are Entry Level 1 to 3, Level 1 and Level 2. Wales has taken a similar approach to measuring basic adult skill levels. Scotland and Northern Ireland have, on the other hand, chosen to use international levels as the basis of measuring adult skills (for more details see the description below).

The chart below presents the measures of adult skills together with school and vocational levels used by different parts of the UK:

From this, it can be seen that, for example, adults at Entry Level 3 have the skills equivalent to the standard expected of children in the last two years of primary school, i.e. aged 9-11.

For the National Standards for adult numeracy the skills and understanding expected at each level are described thus:

Entry Level 1:
Understanding information given by numbers and symbols in simple graphical, numerical and written materials. For example, recognising and selecting coins, or 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 graphical, numerical and written material. For example, calculating costs and change, or adding and subtracting two-digit whole numbers. Adults below Entry Level 2 may not be able to use a cash point to withdraw cash.

Entry Level 3:

Understanding information given by numbers, symbols, diagrams and charts for different purposes and graphical, numerical and written material in different ways. For example, dividing two digits by one digit and interpreting remainders, or comparing weights using standard units. Adults with skills below Entry Level 3 may not be able to understand price labels on pre-packaged food or pay household bills.

Level 1:

Understanding straightforward mathematical information used for different purposes and being able to independently select relevant information from given graphical, numerical and written material. For example, doing simple percentages or converting units of measure. Adults with skills below Level 1 may not be able to check the pay and deductions on a wage slip.

Level 2:
Understanding mathematical information used for different purposes and can independently select and compare relevant information from a variety of graphical, numerical and written material. Adults with skills below Level 2 may not be able to compare products and services for the best buy, or work out a household budget.