BCS70 – Age 21 – Literacy and Numeracy Assessments

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The 1970 British Cohort Study (BCS70) assessed their cohort members (CMs) during the study’s age 21 sweep using the Literacy and Numeracy Assessments’ measure.

Details on this measure and 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 ALBSU's Basic Skills Standards. These emphasise 'functional' performance, i.e. the ability to apply basic skills in everyday life situations (ACACE, 1982).
CHC:None.
Administrative method:Face to face interviewer; paper and showcards; pen and paper
Procedure: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. Questions were open response (OR) in format. Duration: 28 minutes for both tests
Link to questionnaire:https://cls.ucl.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/BCS70_21-year_Survey-Questionnaire.pdf (opens in new tab)
Scoring:Literacy: 25 items
16 used to derive score comparable with NCDS, 1 point for correct answer
scores grouped 0 – 9 = 1 "very poor", 10 – 11 = 2 "poor", 12 – 13 = 3 "average", 14 – 16 = 4 "good"
Numeracy: 16 items
scores grouped 0 – 6 = 1 "very poor", 7 – 8 = 2 "poor", 9 – 10 = 3 "average", 11 – 14 = 4 "good"
Item-level variable(s):Literacy:
vd1a - vd1b, vd2a1 - vd2b2, vd3a1 - vd3b3, vd4a1 - vd4a3, v4dc2, vd5 (16 items)
vd4b1 - vd4b4, 4dc1a - 4dc1e (additional 9 items)
Numeracy (14 items)
vd6a1 vd6a2 vd6b1 vd6b2 vd6b3 vd6b4 vd7a1 vd7a2 vd7b1 vd7b2 vd8a1 vd8a2 vd8a3 vd8b1 vd8b2 vd8b3 vd8c1 vd8c2 vd8c3 vd9a vd9b
Total score/derived variable(s):litscore (sum of 16 items)
lit4grp (categorical)
numscore (sum of 14 items)
num4grp (categorical)
Descriptives:litscore (raw score)numscore (raw score)
N1,133863
Range6 - 161 - 14
Mean13.429.81
SD1.912.62
Histogram(click image to enlarge)
(click image to enlarge)
Other sweep and/or cohort:BCS70 – Age 34 – Basic Skills (Literacy and Numeracy Assessments)
NCDS – Age 37 – Basic Literacy and Numeracy Skills (BCS devised to be comparable with NCDS)
Source:Assessments devised by consultants, Cambridge Training and Development Ltd designed to operationalise the ALBSU (Adult Literacy and Basic Skills Unit) for the BCS70.
Technical resources:Ekinsmyth, C., & Bynner, J. (1994). The basic skills of young adults. London: Basic Skills Agency
Reference examples:Bynner, J., & Steedman, J. (1995). Difficulties with basic skills: Findings from the 1970 British Cohort Study. London: Basic Skills Agency.
Parsons, S., & Bynner, J. (2005). Does numeracy matter more? London: National Research and Development Centre.

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