Foundation Skills Assessment Tool Frequently Asked Questions


About the Foundation Skills Assessment Tool

What is the Foundation Skills Assessment Tool?

The Foundation Skills Assessment Tool (FSAT) is an interactive online tool designed to identify and measure an individual's foundation skill levels. This includes English language, literacy and numeracy skills as well as employability skills.

It uses the theoretical underpinnings of the Australian Core Skills Framework (language, literacy and numeracy) and the Core Skills for Work Developmental Framework (employability skills).

What are foundation skills?

The National Foundation Skills Strategy for Adults defines foundation skills as the combination of:

  •  English language, literacy and numeracy (LLN) - listening, speaking, reading, writing, digital literacy and use of mathematical ideas; and
  •  employability skills, such as collaboration, problem solving, self-management, learning and information and communication technology (ICT) skills required for participation in modern workplaces and contemporary life.

Foundation skills development includes both skills acquisition and the critical application of these skills in multiple environments for multiple purposes.

Foundation skills are fundamental to participation in the workplace, the community and in adult education and training.

More information on foundation skills is available here.

Who can use FSAT?

FSAT can be used by trainers and educators such as Registered Training Organisations and senior secondary school (for year 11 and 12 students studying vocationally oriented programs), enabling them to assess their client's foundation skill levels, and identify skills and knowledge where additional development may be beneficial. This, in turn, will assist students and job seekers, by targeting the areas where individuals may require additional support.

FSAT will also enable training providers to benchmark the language, literacy and numeracy (LLN) levels of their students, so they can measure the effectiveness of their programs through pre and post assessment.

What qualifications do I need to administer FSAT assessments?

To ensure that Foundation Skills Assessment Tool (FSAT) assessment results genuinely reflect the test taker's skill levels and that these results are interpreted correctly, it is important that those involved in FSAT's use, delivery, assessment and interpretation have the appropriate knowledge, skills and understandings required for the roles they undertake.

The FSAT qualifications fact sheet provides recommendations regarding the knowledge, skills and understandings required to administer the language, literacy and numeracy (LLN) components of FSAT, which align with the Australian Core Skills Framework (ACSF).

Improvements in this version of FSAT

Computer adaptive algorithms and reporting

This version of FSAT has computer adaptive features alongside automatic and immediate scoring and report generation available for all online assessed cores skills.

Without the availability of psychometric analysis, the current FSAT was built using a combination of the available empirical data on a limited number of items, feedback received from the previous trials and ACER's professional judgement to create a working version of the automatically scored components of FSAT. ACER's computer adaptive construct for FSAT utilises a comprehensive branching structure, designed to cater for different skill levels of learners and target the appropriate levels of question difficulty more appropriately. This schema and the functionality including the reporting aspects of FSAT will need to be revised and checked following on from the above psychometric analysis and revised mapping of all the questions against the appropriate levels and stages of the frameworks.

Benefits of participating in this phase of development

Why participate in this phase of FSAT development?

By participating, you will be helping to ensure that a fully validated, final and free version of FSAT is available as quickly as possible.

By using this version of FSAT, you will be helping to ensure that ACER can collect sufficient empirical evidence to validate the final content of the online assessments. Only after this is complete, will the Department of Education and Training be able to make a full and final version of FSAT available for use.

What learner reports will I be able to obtain through my participation?

For all the online components of FSAT (Learning, Reading, Receptive Listening and Numeracy from the ACSF and all nine skill areas of CSFW), the reports of any learner sitting an assessment will be available immediately to the RTO or organisation to access and use. This is different to the previous FSAT trials where the reports had to be generated manually by ACER and sent back to each individual RTO.

For all the offline components of FSAT (Writing, Interactive Listening and Speaking), the available sets of prompts and marking guides are all available online and can be used fully now by RTOs or organisations to assess these core skills validly and reliably. These skill areas are not dependent on further psychometric analysis and validation.

How can feedback be provided?

As FSAT is yet to be fully validated, feedback from all users (organisations and learners) on any issues is welcomed and encouraged. Feedback should be emailed to:

Recommended use of the 2016 version of the Foundation Skills Assessment Tool (FSAT)

What more is needed to validate FSAT?

Following previous trials to develop FSAT, the contracted development organisation, the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) requires further learners to sit the assessments in order to gain empirical evidence to validate the final content of the online assessments in order to guarantee that the results reported will be necessarily a valid, reliable and fair assessments of a learner's foundation skills.

The Department of Education and Training (the department) has supported and endorsed, with ACER's support, that the FSAT be released and made available for free, live use during a further validation process for such contexts and purposes for which there is a reasonable level of confidence in the use of the un-validated tool.

Following is a summary of the recommended use of the Foundation Skills Assessment Tool (FSAT) that was released for further free use in September 2016.

When to use FSAT and when NOT to use FSAT

This 2016 release of FSAT and any results generated for the online skills assessed should be considered indicative only and not be considered fully valid and reliable until a full psychometric analysis is done on data from a large number of assessments following the ongoing use and implementation of this version of FSAT.

The content of the existing FSAT has undergone a range of quality assurance processes to help validate the outcomes and the mappings against the two frameworks (the Australian Core Skills Framework – ACSF, and the Core Skills for Work Developmental Framework - CSfW) and as such the released version of FSAT can be used to assess against the framework content provided users are aware of its shortfalls.

The FSAT will be suitable for users, including registered training organisations (RTOs), who use it for assessment purposes such as providing an indication of learner or jobseeker skills against the ACSF and CSfW for purposes of support and development.

The FSAT is not yet suitable for purposes such as establishing eligibility for funding from Australian Government programs.


How will the information collected be used?

When submitting personal information to ACER via the Foundation Skills Assessment Tool (FSAT) website, Test Users will be asked to accept that this information will be used by and disclosed to ACER for the purposes of assessing a Test User's foundational skills competence and for reporting purposes to a user's relevant vocational or educational institution (the Purpose).

ACER, in pursuing the Purpose, may collect a Test User's sensitive information such as cultural background.

Should a Test User decide not to provide such personal information, that Test User may not be able to undertake the FSAT assessment or ACER may not be able to provide the Test User or the Test User's relevant vocational or educational institution with the results of the user's participation in that assessment.

How will my personal information be used and protected?

ACER may disclose a Test User's personal information (including sensitive information) to:

  1. ACER contractors which may assist ACER in pursuing the Purpose from time to time;
  2. a Test User's relevant vocational, training or educational institution; and
  3. where ACER is required to do so by law, to government agencies, or individuals appointed by government, responsible for investigating and resolving disputes or complaints connected with the FSAT.

A Test User's personal information will not be disclosed overseas to anyone other than that Test User (if the Test User is an overseas Test User).

Any Personal Information a Test User provides is private, confidential and will be treated according to any applicable law. ACER is bound to comply with the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) and its privacy policy.

The policy sets out a Test User's rights and processes to:

  •  complain about a breach of privacy:
  •  access and have amended your personal information held by ACER.

Should a User have any queries, please contact ACER's Manager of Legal and Commercial Services, Rhonda Farkota, ACER, 19 Prospect Hill Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124,

Other issues

Does FSAT meet web accessibility requirements?

The FSAT accessibility fact sheet provides information on FSAT in relation to web accessibility requirements. It also provides some general guidance on potential strategies to assist users who are encountering accessibility difficulties, as well as responses to a number of 'frequently asked questions'.

When will the final validated tool be available for use?

The Department of Education and Training appreciates that many stakeholders are keen to utilise the final, validated version of FSAT, and is working to make the final validated tool available as soon as possible. However, the exact timeframe will depend on how quickly sufficient learners sit the assessments, providing the empirical evidence to validate the final content of the online assessments.

The Department of Education and Training will keep stakeholders updated through this website with any further information on when the final validated version of FSAT will be available.

Is there a cost for using FSAT?

FSAT is available for free use.

What user resources are available?

Organisations that have successfully completed the registration process for FSAT have access to a range of resources whenever they are logged in. We strongly recommend that organisational users familiarise themselves with all of these resources. The resources include:

  •  FSAT Administration Manual
  •  ACSF in FSAT
  •  CSfW in FSAT
  •  A range of manuals covering each type of assessment