The NEPS focuses on education throughout the life course and in parallel at different stages of education. This means that educational trajectories, processes and decisions are considered from early childhood education in kindergarten and school to vocational training, university studies and even after leaving the education system. In order to be able to provide data for all these phases as promptly as possible, the starting cohorts, as the samples drawn in the NEPS are called, are conceptually interlinked (→ Multicohort Sequence design). The first starting cohort (SC6 | Adults) was launched in 2009, and the most recent starting cohort (SC8 | Grade 5) in 2022.
The panel participants are surveyed over a longer period of time, usually annually, and tested regularly. The data obtained in this way are processed and made available to the scientific community as scientific use files (SUF) 18 months after the end of the fieldwork for the respective survey (→ data offering). For some of the starting cohorts, this close-meshed monitoring has since changed to a more wide-meshed mode with a survey every five years that focuses on long-term educational outcomes.