Pre-Training LLN assessment tools: which one?

It makes good sense to identify learners’ support needs

If the Standards for RTOs 2015 guide your training and assessment processes,  then you’ll recognise Clause 1.7 – Support learners


Foundation skills underpin ability to perform all workplace tasks. Regardless of the task – foundation skills are involved. It makes good sense to have a robust process to identify learners’ needs with a focus on foundation skills.

Some potential learners demonstrate this with relevant documentation, others through completion of one or more tasks that form part of the application or enrolment process.

If you are considering using a Pre-training assessment tool, this post presents 3 considerations to guide your decisions.

  1. Consider the foundation skills that matter most
  2. Consider learners’ characteristics
  3. Consider paper-based, or on-line tool

Step 1: Consider the foundation skills that matter most

Begin by checking the range and complexity of the foundation skills required to demonstrate task competency so that when you identify learners’ existing foundation skills you can make an informed decision about cohort and individual support strategies.

All workplace training requires graduates to perform a range of foundation skills. Clarify the foundation skills that matter most in your industry context now.

We suggest you refer to:

  •  industry employers and stakeholders
  • accredited training package, and Unit of  Competence
  • the performance descriptions in the Australian Core Skills Framework (ACSF), and the Core Skills for Work (CSfW).

What to think about

  • When will the assessment be administered – prior to, or upon commencement?
  • Does the Pre-training assessment cover the range of foundation skills you need to know about? What additional evidence may need to be gathered?
  • How are the learner’s foundation skills outcomes reported?
  • Does the report provide sufficient information to make informed decisions about the support learners may need?
  • For auditing, what documentary evidence is required?

Your goals:

  1. identify the range of foundation skills that matter most in your industry context.
  2. identify a Pre-training assessment tool that assesses and reports on the range of foundation skills that matter most in your industry context, if it doesn’t  how can they be assessed?

Step 2: Consider learners’ characteristics

Knowing the learners’ characteristics may influence the process and tool you select.

Generally, generic contexts are preferred. Familiarity with the content is important – for example content related to everyday life of an adult living in the community. Unfamiliar content can be a barrier to interpreting the instructions, tasks,  and resources. Barriers can skew the outcome,  and provide you and the learner with information that does not indicate learners’ competency.

Statistically, the ABS report that 1.3 million Australian households were without internet access at home in 2014–15 (14%). Even though most homes have a device connected to the internet, the download limit will vary. Accessing a pre-training assessment via a device may be a barrier for some learners.

What to think about:

  • Will the learners manage the language used in both the instructions to get started and the assessment tasks? Is plain English demonstrated in all texts learners must read?
  • How long will the process take to complete?
  • Are learners aware of available support and adjustments where meeting individual needs is necessary?
  • How are the assessment outcomes reported to the learners? Where is the information accessed?

Your goal is to, ask:

  • will the Pre-training assessment tool context be recognisable to most learners?
  • is the Pre-training assessment tool easily accessed by the learner cohort?
  • if necessary, can the learners access the Pre-training  assessment an alternative way?

Step 3 Consider: paper-based, or on-line tool?

What to think about

  • Given your annual applicant numbers, which assessment process (face-to-face, or on-line) can be efficiently, and reliably implemented?
  • What is the process to connect learners to the tool – who will be responsible for this?
  • Does the existing structure and processes allow time for team members to design, trial and validate a tool  (if developing your own)?
  • If using a fee for service on-line tool, how will the administration of participants passwords (or similar) be managed? What time is involved?

Design your own paper-based or on-line

This can be a complex process to get right. It requires sufficient knowledge of the foundation skills range and complexity to ensure the tasks, tools, instructions, stimuli, and assessor marking guides align with the intended foundation skills level, range and complexity. It’s very easy to be off-track.

There’s a lot at stake for both the learners, and you, if the tasks are not valid and the identified, or indicated foundation skills held NOW, are not reliable.

Helpful resources: existing paper-based tools, and validity and reliability advice

Existing paper-based tools

Precision Consultancy ACSF tools offers a range of generic and contextualised paper-based tools. Precision Consultancy was commissioned by the government to prepare a range of  tasks across the 5 Language Literacy and Numeracy core skills; each is validated by foundation skills specialists, and freely available.

The tools demonstrate instruction, task, text, and stimuli complexity from ACSF levels 1 – 4. Each task provides Assessor performance description criteria.

Your goal: to identify the foundation skills and knowledge the learners demonstrate NOW, especially the foundation skills that matter most in your training context.

If you use Precision Consultancy ACSF tools as the Pre-training assessment tool:

Your goal is

  •  to match the tasks with the range of foundation skills matter most in your training context (ie writing, numeracy, learning).
  • to consider the ACSF levels you will assess

If you use Precision Consultancy ACSF tools as a guide to prepare assessment tasks at specific ACSF levels.

Your goals are to ensure:

  • that tasks reflect the foundation skills that matter most
  • the tool is trialled, to check for foundation skills consistency
  • tasks are validated by a foundation skills expert
  • assessors have explicit foundation skills performance criteria

Validity and reliability advice

The Assessment of LLN testing tools for the VET student loans program. was prepared to guide to prepare a pre-training LLN tool for approval under the requirements for VET Fee Help (Now VET Student Loans).

This document comprehensively explains the importance of  validity and reliability with a pre-training assessment tool and provides advice about what’s necessary to achieve validity and reliability wit an ACSF focus.

Mostly on-line with some paper-based: ACER Foundation Skills Assessment Tool (FSAT)

It’s the first of its kind in Australia.

FSAT covers all 15 foundation skills across 5 levels of complexity – LLN (ACSF) and employability skills. (CSfW) It has been extensively validated by foundation skills experts (this is ongoing as it is in a thorough trial phase) – and it’s freely available.

For more information about the tool including how the different core skills are assessed:

At present FSAT cannot be used for VET Student Loan learners.

DET approved on-line tools

These Language Literacy and Numeracy (LLN) assessment tools were approved by DET for VET student loan program student entry requirements. Currently (14/5/18) there are 4 approved tools. Each can be used as a pre-training assessment tool for all students.

The tools must identify if learners’ reading and numeracy skills competency are at, above, or below ACSF Level 3. Some tools on the list include assessment of oral communication, writing and learning as well. Each requires  a service fee payment.


Your goal: identify the foundation skills and knowledge the learners demonstrate NOW, especially the foundation skills that matter most in your training context.


  • does the tool assess and report the foundation skills information I, or our trainers, need to know?
  • has more than one tool been trialled?
  • what are the implementation considerations for us? (see below)

Yes, there’s a lot to think about!

We encourage you to share your experiences

Any questions, contact us, or ask via this meeting place.

4 thoughts on “Pre-Training LLN assessment tools: which one?

  1. basdenleco September 22, 2017 / 3:51 pm

    Great article, very informative and full of pertinent helpful information.

    Liked by 1 person

    • llnandvetmeetingplace September 22, 2017 / 4:05 pm

      Thank you for your feedback. Chemene and I just back from the VELG National conference last week. We had a number of questions related to this. Many trainers now working out what to do. We invite you to share as much as you can.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ruth Walker September 24, 2017 / 6:48 am

    Great article Ann, a very useful step by step approach to finding or creating the right LLN assessment tool – thanks for all the links!
    I rarely see this done well, but I was heartened recently by an RTO that had put an amazing effort into assessing their training for FSK requirements (developed by an LLN expert), then implementing a process of assessing the learner (phone conversation and written assessment – conducted by LLN expert), then implementing solutions and support with the LLN trainer and VET trainer working together.
    Great outcomes, happy students, happy employers, great professional development for the trainers involved.

    Liked by 1 person

    • llnandvetmeetingplace September 24, 2017 / 1:25 pm

      Glad you have seen an effective foundation skills focused model from Pre-training assessment through to delivery. We are sure there are others. Thanks for sharing.

      Liked by 1 person

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