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AI’s Progress in Maths and Reading

Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) are ushering in a large and rapid technological transformation. Understanding how AI capabilities relate to human skills and how they develop over time is crucial for understanding this process. In 2016, the OECD assessed AI capabilities with the OECD’s Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC).

The present report follows up the earlier study, collecting expert judgements in 2021 on whether computers can solve the PIAAC literacy and numeracy tests. It is part of a comprehensive ongoing project on assessing AI. This study shows that AI could potentially outperform large shares of the population on PIAAC – 90% of adults in literacy and 57-88% of adults in numeracy. AI’s literacy capabilities had improved considerably since the 2016 assessment. According to experts, AI will solve the entire literacy and numeracy tests by 2026.

These findings have important implications for employment and education. Large shares of the workforce use literacy and numeracy skills daily at work with a proficiency comparable or below that of computers. AI could affect the literacy- and numeracy-related tasks of these workers. In this context, education systems should strengthen the foundation skills of students and workers and teach them to work together with AI.


Both the pilot and this follow-up asked computer scientists to rate AI’s capacity to answer the questions on PIAAC’s literacy and numeracy tests. AI’s likely performance on the tests was determined by looking at
the majority expert opinion on each question. The use of standardised education tests enables the
comparison to human capabilities, allows tracking AI progress across time and provides understandable
AI measures. However, experts did not always agree in their evaluations. The study aimed at improving
the methodology for eliciting expert knowledge on AI with standardised tests to address this challenge.