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National Educational Panel Study (NEPS): Starting Cohort 4—Grade 9 (SC4)

Research Question

The lower secondary level plays a connecting role between elementary school and the general or vocational upper secondary level (or directly entering the job market). Nevertheless, important questions have not been answered clearly and conclusively yet due to the lack of appropriate data. This pertains, for example, to the chosen type of school, to switches to another type of school, or to grade repetition, but also to the central issue of educational paths through lower secondary level and the transition to upper secondary level.
In general, the plan is to follow up students within the school track in which they were sampled until they leave this school or the general school system. Data are collected about the educational paths of students attending mainstream schools as well as students attending special schools. After leaving school, these students continue to be questioned and tested individually outside their educational institution. The testing and questioning of individuals requiring special education is a challenge because only rudimentary experiences with such measures have been made so far.

Key research questions in this study include the development of students' competencies, the conditions and prerequisites of educational processes, and possible individual consequences, such as career choice, labor market returns, or simply personal satisfaction.

Test Language

German, Turkish, Russian

Test Period

Panel entry fall 2010; at least one survey per year

Test Area


Target Persons

Grade 9 students attending mainstream schools and Grade 9 students attending special schools

Context Persons

Parents, class teachers, German and mathematics teachers of the selected students and the principals of the selected schools

Population / Sample

Schools of general education

(1) Stratified cluster sampling with the following selection stages:
1. Random sampling of mainstream schools at lower secondary level. We distinguish between five types of schools (type of school leading to upper secondary education and Abitur [Gymnasium], intermediate secondary school [Realschule], school for basic secondary education (Haupt- or Mittelschule), comprehensive schools [Gesamtschule], and schools several tracks of secondary education [Schule mit mehreren Bildungsgängen]). These school types serve as stratums from where schools are drawn proportional to their number of classes. Through different sampling rates within the five stratums an oversampling of those schools is implemented whose students mainly change into vocational training.
2. Random selection of Grade 9 classes at the selected schools. Two Grade 9 classes, if available, are selected.
3. All students of the selected classes are invited to participate in the study.

(2) Cluster sampling with the following selection stages:
1. Selection of special schools by size-proportional random selection.
2. Selection of all students in Grade 9 within selected schools (= full sample survey of Grade 9).

Sample Size

Approx. 13,500 students attending mainstream schools and approx. 1,500 students attending special schools are participating in the tests and PAPI. This information refers to the first wave of the panel.

Survey Procedure and Instruments

(1) Written questionnaires for students, teachers, and school principals (PAPI) and computer-assisted telephone interview of parents (CATI): The survey instrument includes questions about the conditions, prerequisites, and benefits of education, as well as questions on support from parents, family background, school atmosphere, learning strategies, afternoon activities, vocational training, and, if applicable, also about migration history and linguistic context. The teachers' and school management questionnaires at the participating mainstream and special schools collect, for example, data on class size, composition, and school equipment, but also questions about teaching in general. One further issue concerns training offered to support students at the start of their careers, such as training for job interviews.

(2) Competence tests for students (PAPI): Competence tests cover several domains: language (spelling, reading, and listening comprehension in German, knowledge of first language and English for students with migration background), mathematics, sciences, and metacompetencies (ICT literacy and cognitive problem-solving ability).

(3) Computer-assisted telephone interview (CATI) or computer-assisted telephone interview (CAPI) of school leavers who have left mainstream or special schools after Grade 9.

Link to the Detailed Description of the Study

Persistent Identifier

DOI: 10.5157/NEPS:SC4:4.0.0
DOI: 10.5157/NEPS:SC4:1.1.0
DOI: 10.5157/NEPS:SC4:1.0.0

Data Accessible via Research Data Centre

To the Study Documentation at the Research Data Center LIfBi:

Information about the user conditions can be found here:


Dr. Daniel Fuß
Operational Manager
Phone: +49 951 / 863 - 35 11
Email: fdz[at]


The aim is to establish a diverse community of data users with different backgrounds, rather than a restricted group of experienced analysts. All researchers interested in working with the data must be accommodated to ensure not only equal research opportunities but also high-quality analyses. The training courses introduce the research design of the NEPS, the structure of data sets, terms and conditions of data usage, issues of privacy and data protection, and so on.
Day 1: obligatory for first time participants (basic program)
Day 2: for interested data users (optional)

More information and the current program is available here:

Related Data

National Educational Panel Study (NEPS): Starting Cohort 1—Early Childhood (SC1)
National Educational Panel Study (NEPS): Starting Cohort 2—Kindergarten (SC2)
National Educational Panel Study (NEPS): Starting Cohort 3—Grade 5 (SC3)
National Educational Panel Study (NEPS): Starting Cohort 5—First-Year Students (SC5)
National Educational Panel Study (NEPS): Starting Cohort 6—Adults (SC6)

Additional studies:
National Educational Panel Study (NEPS): Organizational Reform Study in Thuringia (TH)
National Educational Panel Study (NEPS): G8 Reform Study in Baden-Wuerttemberg (BW)

Research Area(s)