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NCDS – Age 37 – Basic Literacy and Numeracy Skills

The 1958 National Child Development Study (NCDS) assessed their cohort members (CMs) during the study’s age 37 sweep using the Basic Literacy and Numeracy Skills measure.

Details on this measure (devised by the Adult Literacy and Basic Skills Unit and the National Foundation for Educational Research), as well as details on the data collected from the CMs, are outlined in the table below.

Domain:Adult basic literacy and numeracy
Measures:(Functional) literacy and numeracy assessment. The assessment covered four levels for communication skills and the three levels for numeracy as defined by the Adult Literacy and Basic Skills Unit's (ALBSU) Basic Skills Standards. These emphasise 'functional' performance, i.e. the ability to apply basic skills in everyday life situations (Advisory Council for Adult and Continuing Education, 1982).
Administrative method:Interviewer; face to face; pen and paper/show cards
Procedure:There were eight literacy and nine numeracy tasks for study members to complete. The majority of tasks had two or three sub‐questions. Each literacy and numeracy assessment item comprised a visual stimulus presented to the cohort member on a ‘showcard’ about which they were asked a number of questions. If three questions in a row were incorrect for the literacy test the CM moved onto the numeracy questions.
Duration: 30 minutes for both tests.
Link to questionnaire: (opens in new tab)
Scoring:A score of 1 was assigned to correct answers and the individual scores aggregated to produce for each cohort member an overall numeracy and literacy score. The aggregate scores were then grouped into a fourfold classification of 'very low', 'low', 'average' and 'good' for both numeracy and literacy abilities. See ‘NCDS37yearSampleSurveyGuide.pdf’ (accompanying data download) for syntax for literacy and numeracy scores (pp. 156-158).
Age of participant (months):No age data available
Item-level variable(s):nss1426 - nss1456 (literacy tasks 1 - 8 incl. sub-questions)
nss1470 - nss1535 (numeracy tasks 10 - 18 incl. sub-questions)
Total score/derived variable(s):litscor1 (literacy composite test scores 0 - 8)
litscor2 (literacy composite test scores long version)
numscor1 (numeracy composite test scores 0 - 9)
numscor2 (numeracy composite test scores long version)
litscor3, numscor3, litscor4 numscor4 (composite test scores rescaled)
litgrp1 litgrp2 litgrp2a numgrp1 numgrp2 numgrp2a (categorical)
Descriptives:Literacy composite (Raw score)Numeracy composite (raw score)
Range0 - 80 – 9
(click image to enlarge)
(click image to enlarge)
Other sweep and/or cohort:BCS70 – Age 21 – Literacy and Numeracy Assessments (BCS devised to be comparable with NCDS)
BCS70 – Age 34 – Basic Skills (Literacy and Numeracy Assessments) (different set of questions covering literacy and numeracy)
Source:The assessments were created based on development work undertaken on behalf of the Agency by National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER).
Technical resources:Dodgeon, B., & Shepherd, P. (n.d.). National Child Development Study Thirty Seven-Year Sample Survey Guide to data available at the UK Data Archive. London: Centre for Longitudinal Studies. Available at: (opens in new tab)
Reference examples:Bynner, J., & Parsons, S. (1997). It doesn't get any better: the impact of poor basic skills on the lives of 37 year olds. A summary. London: The Basic Skills Agency.
McIntosh, S., & Vignoles, A. (2001). Measuring and assessing the impact of basic skills on labour market outcomes. Oxford Economic Papers, 53(3), 453-481.
Vignoles, A., De Coulon, A., & Marcenaro-Gutierrez, O. (2011). The value of basic skills in the British labour market. Oxford Economic Papers, 63(1), 27-48.

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This page is part of CLOSER’s ‘A guide to the cognitive measures in five British birth cohort studies’.